The Origins of Jewelry.

The Origins of Jewelry

Jewelry has been around for thousands of years, and the use of it has varied amongst the different cultures. Examining these pieces of jewelry can give us insight as to how these ancient cultures actually worked.

African Jewelry

The first signs of a culture using jewelry came from the homo sapiens living on the continent of Africa. Snail shell beads have been found dating back to over 75, 000 years ago at Blombos Cave (situated in side a limestone cliff in the country of South Africa). At the other end of Africa, at Enkapune Ya Moto in Kenya to be more exact, beads made from ostrich egg shells have been found that date back to more than 40,000 years ago.

Egyptian Jewelry

Egypt has given us the pyramids and the sphinx, so it is only natural that it should provide us with the first signs of established jewelry making…around 3,000 to 5, 000 years ago. Egyptians did have access to various materials that we currently make jewelry out of, such as gemstones, but they preferred to make their jewelry out of glass, which they could color to their specific tastes. For nearly every gemstone they could find, they were able to create a glass formation to mimic it. Egyptian jewelry as used as a template for various other cultures. For example, Egyptian designs were copied most commonly in the jewelry of the Phoenicians.

To the Ancient Egyptians, the color was very important, as different colors meant different things. The Book of the Dead provides us with further details on this matter. For example, the necklace of Isis that was to be placed upon the mummy’s neck needed to be red. This red color would satisfy Isis’s need for blood. Green jewelry symbolized new growth in the area of crops and fertility. This jewelry was made primarily in large workshops that were attached to various Egyptian temples and palaces.

The Jewelry of Mesopotamia

Approximately 4000 years ago we see signs of jewelry development and production in the cities of Sumer and Akkad in Ancient Mesopotamia. It tended to be made from metal leaf and was often set with a large number of brightly-colored stones, such as jasper, lapis, carnelian and agate. They also used various shapes in their jewelry designs, such as leafs, grapes, cones, and spirals. The Ancient Mesopotamians were also masters in the area of record keeping. Huge archives of detailed records relating to the creation and trading of jewelry have been unearthed in various archaeological sites throughout Mesopotamia.