Jewellery (British English) or jewelry (American English) consists
of small decorative items worn for personal adornment, such as
brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and
Jewellery may be attached to the body or the clothes, and
the term is restricted to durable ornaments, excluding flowers for
example. For many centuries metal, often combined with gemstones, has
been the normal material for jewellery, but other materials such as
shells and other plant materials may be used. It is one of the oldest
type of archaeological artefact – with 100,000-year-old beads made
Nassarius shells thought to be the oldest known jewellery. The
basic forms of jewellery vary between cultures but are often extremely
long-lived; in European cultures the most common forms of jewellery
listed above have persisted since ancient times, while other forms
such as adornments for the nose or ankle, important in other cultures,
are much less common.
Daria-i-Noor (meaning: Sea of Light)
Diamond from the collection
of the national jewels of
Iran at Central Bank of Islamic Republic of
Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials. Gemstones and
similar materials such as amber and coral, precious metals, beads, and
shells have been widely used, and enamel has often been important. In
most cultures jewellery can be understood as a status symbol, for its
material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols.
Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins
to toe rings, and even genital jewellery. The patterns of wearing
jewellery between the sexes, and by children and older people can vary
greatly between cultures, but adult women have been the most
consistent wearers of jewellery; in modern European culture the amount
worn by adult males is relatively low compared with other cultures and
other periods in European culture.
The word jewellery itself is derived from the word jewel, which was
anglicised from the Old French "jouel", and beyond that, to the
Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything. In British English, Indian
New Zealand English, Hiberno-English, Australian English, and
South African English
South African English it is spelled jewellery, while the spelling is
jewelry in American English. Both are used in Canadian English,
though jewelry prevails by a two to one margin. In French and a few
other European languages the equivalent term, joaillerie there, may
also cover decorated metalwork in precious metal such as objets d'art
and church items, not just objects worn on the person.
1 Form and function
2 Materials and methods
2.2 Other gemstones
3 Impact on society
Europe and the Middle East
4.2.4 Middle Ages
4.2.7 18th Century / Romanticism/ Renaissance
4.2.8 Art Nouveau
4.2.9 Art Deco
4.3.2 Indian subcontinent
4.4 North and South America
4.5 Native American
7 Body modification
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Form and function
Kenyan man wearing tribal beads
Humans have used jewellery for a number of different reasons:
functional, generally to fix clothing or hair in place
as a marker of social status and personal status, as with a wedding
as a signifier of some form of affiliation, whether ethnic, religious
to provide talismanic protection (in the form of amulets)
as an artistic display
as a carrier or symbol of personal meaning – such as love, mourning,
or even luck
Most cultures at some point have had a practice of keeping large
amounts of wealth stored in the form of jewellery. Numerous cultures
store wedding dowries in the form of jewellery or make jewellery as a
means to store or display coins. Alternatively, jewellery has been
used as a currency or trade good; an example being the use of slave
Many items of jewellery, such as brooches and buckles, originated as
purely functional items, but evolved into decorative items as their
functional requirement diminished.
Jewellery can also symbolise group membership (as in the case, of the
Christian crucifix or the Jewish Star of David) or status (as in the
case of chains of office, or the Western practice of married people
wearing wedding rings).
Wearing of amulets and devotional medals to provide protection or ward
off evil is common in some cultures. These may take the form of
symbols (such as the ankh), stones, plants, animals, body parts (such
as the Khamsa), or glyphs (such as stylised versions of the Throne
Verse in Islamic art).
Materials and methods
In creating jewellery, gemstones, coins, or other precious items are
often used, and they are typically set into precious metals. Alloys of
nearly every metal known have been encountered in jewellery. Bronze,
for example, was common in Roman times. Modern fine jewellery usually
includes gold, white gold, platinum, palladium, titanium, or silver.
Most contemporary gold jewellery is made of an alloy of gold, the
purity of which is stated in karats, indicated by a number followed by
the letter K. American gold jewellery must be of at least 10K purity
(41.7% pure gold), (though in the UK the number is 9K (37.5% pure
gold) and is typically found up to 18K (75% pure gold). Higher purity
levels are less common with alloys at 22 K (91.6% pure gold), and 24 K
(99.9% pure gold) being considered too soft for jewellery use in
America and Europe. These high purity alloys, however, are widely used
across Asia, the
Middle East and Africa. Platinum
alloys range from 900 (90% pure) to 950 (95.0% pure). The silver used
in jewellery is usually sterling silver, or 92.5% fine silver. In
costume jewellery, stainless steel findings are sometimes used.
Bead embroidery design.
Other commonly used materials include glass, such as fused-glass or
enamel; wood, often carved or turned; shells and other natural animal
substances such as bone and ivory; natural clay; polymer clay; Hemp
and other twines have been used as well to create jewellery that has
more of a natural feel. However, any inclusion of lead or lead solder
will give an English
Assay office (the building which gives English
jewellery its stamp of approval, the Hallmark) the right to destroy
the piece, however it is very rare for the assay office to do so.
Beads are frequently used in jewellery. These may be made of glass,
gemstones, metal, wood, shells, clay and polymer clay. Beaded
jewellery commonly encompasses necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts
and rings. Beads may be large or small; the smallest type of beads
used are known as seed beads, these are the beads used for the "woven"
style of beaded jewellery. Another use of seed beads is an embroidery
technique where seed beads are sewn onto fabric backings to create
broad collar neck pieces and beaded bracelets.
Bead embroidery, a
popular type of handwork during the Victorian era, is enjoying a
renaissance in modern jewellery making. Beading, or beadwork, is also
very popular in many African and indigenous North American cultures.
Silversmiths, goldsmiths, and lapidaries methods include forging,
casting, soldering or welding, cutting, carving and "cold-joining"
(using adhesives, staples and rivets to assemble parts).
Main article: Diamond
Diamonds were first mined in India. Pliny may have mentioned them,
although there is some debate as to the exact nature of the stone he
referred to as Adamas; In 2005, Australia, Botswana,
Canada ranked among the primary sources of gemstone diamond
production. There are negative consequences of the diamond trade
in certain areas. Diamonds mined during the recent civil wars in
Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and other nations have been
labelled as blood diamonds when they are mined in a war zone and sold
to finance an insurgency.
British crown jewels
British crown jewels contain the Cullinan Diamond, part of the
largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found (1905), at 3,106.75
carats (621.35 g).
Now popular in engagement rings, this usage dates back to the marriage
of Maximilian I to
Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
Main article: Gemstone
Many precious and semiprecious stones are used for jewellery. Among
Amber, an ancient organic gemstone, is composed of tree resin that has
hardened over time. The stone must be at least one million years old
to be classified as amber, and some amber can be up to 120 million
Amethyst has historically been the most prized gemstone in the quartz
family. It is treasured for its purple hue, which can range in tone
from light to dark.
Spanish emerald and gold pendant at Victoria and Albert Museum.
Emeralds are one of the three main precious gemstones (along with
rubies and sapphires) and are known for their fine green to bluish
green colour. They have been treasured throughout history, and some
historians report that the
Egyptians mined emerald as early as 3500
Jade is most commonly associated with the colour green but can come in
a number of other colours as well.
Jade is closely linked to Asian
culture, history, and tradition, and is sometimes referred to as the
stone of heaven.
Jasper is a gemstone of the chalcedony family that comes in a variety
of colours. Often, jasper will feature unique and interesting patterns
within the coloured stone. Picture jasper is a type of jasper known
for the colours (often beiges and browns) and swirls in the stone’s
Quartz refers to a family of crystalline gemstones of various colours
and sizes. Among the well-known types of quartz are rose quartz (which
has a delicate pink colour), and smoky quartz (which comes in a
variety of shades of translucent brown). A number of other gemstones,
Amethyst and Citrine, are also part of the quartz family.
Rutilated quartz is a popular type of quartz containing needle-like
Rubies are known for their intense red colour and are among the most
highly valued precious gemstones. Rubies have been treasured for
millennia. In Sanskrit, the word for ruby is ratnaraj, meaning king of
The most popular form of sapphire is blue sapphire, which is known for
its medium to deep blue colour and strong saturation. Fancy sapphires
of various colours are also available. In the United States, blue
sapphire tends to be the most popular and most affordable of the three
major precious gemstones (emerald, ruby, and sapphire).
Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth, and the world’s
largest turquoise producing region is the southwest United States.
Turquoise is prized for its attractive colour, most often an intense
medium blue or a greenish blue, and its ancient heritage.
used in a great variety of jewellery styles. It is perhaps most
closely associated with southwest and Native American jewellery, but
it is also used in many sleek, modern styles. Some turquoise contains
a matrix of dark brown markings, which provides an interesting
contrast to the gemstone’s bright blue colour.
Some gemstones (like pearls, coral, and amber) are classified as
organic, meaning that they are produced by living organisms. Others
are inorganic, meaning that they are generally composed of and arise
Some gems, for example, amethyst, have become less valued as methods
of extracting and importing them have progressed. Some man-made gems
can serve in place of natural gems, such as cubic zirconia, which can
be used in place of diamond.
An example of gold plated jewellery
For platinum, gold, and silver jewellery, there are many techniques to
create finishes. The most common are high-polish, satin/matte,
brushed, and hammered. High-polished jewellery is the most common and
gives the metal a highly reflective, shiny look. Satin, or matte
finish reduces the shine and reflection of the jewellery, and this is
commonly used to accentuate gemstones such as diamonds. Brushed
finishes give the jewellery a textured look and are created by
brushing a material (similar to sandpaper) against the metal, leaving
"brush strokes". Hammered finishes are typically created by using a
rounded steel hammer and hammering the jewellery to give it a wavy
Some jewellery is plated to give it a shiny, reflective look or to
achieve a desired colour.
Sterling silver jewellery may be plated with
a thin layer of 0.999 fine silver (a process known as flashing) or may
be plated with rhodium or gold.
Base metal costume jewellery may also
be plated with silver, gold, or rhodium for a more attractive finish.
Impact on society
Jewellery has been used to denote status. In ancient Rome, only
certain ranks could wear rings; later, sumptuary laws dictated who
could wear what type of jewellery. This was also based on rank of the
citizens of that time. Cultural dictates have also played a
significant role. For example, the wearing of earrings by Western men
was considered effeminate in the 19th century and early 20th century.
More recently, the display of body jewellery, such as piercings, has
become a mark of acceptance or seen as a badge of courage within some
groups but is completely rejected in others. Likewise, hip hop culture
has popularised the slang term bling-bling, which refers to
ostentatious display of jewellery by men or women.
Conversely, the jewellery industry in the early 20th century launched
a campaign to popularise wedding rings for men, which caught on, as
well as engagement rings for men, which did not, going so far as to
create a false history and claim that the practice had medieval roots.
By the mid-1940s, 85% of weddings in the U.S. featured a double-ring
ceremony, up from 15% in the 1920s. Religion has also played a
role in societies influence. Islam, for instance, considers the
wearing of gold by men as a social taboo, and many religions have
edicts against excessive display. In Christianity, the New
Testament gives injunctions against the wearing of gold, in the
writings of the apostles Paul and Peter. In Revelation 17, "the great
whore" or false religious system, is depicted as being "decked with
gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand."
(Rev. 17:4) For Muslims it is considered haraam for a man to wear
The history of jewellery is long and goes back many years, with many
different uses among different cultures. It has endured for thousands
of years and has provided various insights into how ancient cultures
The earliest known
Jewellery was actually created not by humans (Homo
Sapiens) but by Neanderthal living in Europe. Specifically, perforated
beads made from small sea shells have been found dating to 115,000
years ago in the Cueva de los Aviones, a cave along the southeast
coast of Spain. Later in Kenya, at Enkapune Ya Muto, beads made from
perforated ostrich egg shells have been dated to more than 40,000
years ago. In Russia, a stone bracelet and marble ring are attributed
to a similar age.
European early modern humans
European early modern humans had crude necklaces and
bracelets of bone, teeth, berries, and stone hung on pieces of string
or animal sinew, or pieces of carved bone used to secure clothing
together. In some cases, jewellery had shell or mother-of-pearl
pieces. A decorated engraved pendant (the
Star Carr Pendant) dating to
around 11,000 BC, and thought to be the oldest Mesolithic art in
Britain, was found at the site of
Star Carr in
North Yorkshire in
2015. In southern Russia, carved bracelets made of mammoth tusk
have been found. The
Venus of Hohle Fels
Venus of Hohle Fels features a perforation at the
top, showing that it was intended to be worn as a pendant.
Around seven-thousand years ago, the first sign of copper jewellery
was seen. In October 2012 the Museum of Ancient History in Lower
Austria revealed that they had found a grave of a female jewellery
worker – forcing archaeologists to take a fresh look at prehistoric
gender roles after it appeared to be that of a female fine metal
worker – a profession that was previously thought to have been
carried out exclusively by men.
Amulet pendant (1254 BC) made from gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise and
carnelian, 14 cm wide.
An Egyptian 18th dynasty pharaonic era princess' crown.
The first signs of established jewellery making in
Ancient Egypt was
around 3,000–5,000 years ago. The
Egyptians preferred the
luxury, rarity, and workability of gold over other metals. In
Predynastic Egypt jewellery soon began to symbolise political and
religious power in the community. Although it was worn by wealthy
Egyptians in life, it was also worn by them in death, with jewellery
commonly placed among grave goods.
In conjunction with gold jewellery,
Egyptians used coloured glass,
along with semi-precious gems. The colour of the jewellery had
significance. Green, for example, symbolised fertility. Lapis lazuli
and silver had to be imported from beyond the country’s borders.
Egyptian designs were most common in Phoenician jewellery. Also,
ancient Turkish designs found in Persian jewellery suggest that trade
Middle East and
Europe was not uncommon. Women wore
elaborate gold and silver pieces that were used in ceremonies.
Europe and the Middle East
Gold Hair Ornaments, Mesopotamian, circa 2000 BC (Isin-larsa
period). Decorated with granulation and cloisonné. Walters Art Museum
By approximately 5,000 years ago, jewellery-making had become a
significant craft in the cities of Mesopotamia. The most significant
archaeological evidence comes from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, where
hundreds of burials dating 2900–2300 BC were unearthed; tombs such
as that of
Puabi contained a multitude of artefacts in gold, silver,
and semi-precious stones, such as lapis lazuli crowns embellished with
gold figurines, close-fitting collar necklaces, and jewel-headed pins.
In Assyria, men and women both wore extensive amounts of jewellery,
including amulets, ankle bracelets, heavy multi-strand necklaces, and
Mesopotamia tended to be manufactured from thin metal
leaf and was set with large numbers of brightly coloured stones
(chiefly agate, lapis, carnelian, and jasper). Favoured shapes
included leaves, spirals, cones, and bunches of grapes. Jewellers
created works both for human use and for adorning statues and idols.
They employed a wide variety of sophisticated metalworking techniques,
such as cloisonné, engraving, fine granulation, and filigree.
Extensive and meticulously maintained records pertaining to the trade
and manufacture of jewellery have also been unearthed throughout
Mesopotamian archaeological sites. One record in the Mari royal
archives, for example, gives the composition of various items of
1 necklace of flat speckled chalcedony beads including: 34 flat
speckled chalcedony bead, [and] 35 gold fluted beads, in groups of
1 necklace of flat speckled chalcedony beads including: 39 flat
speckled chalcedony beads, [with] 41 fluted beads in a group that make
up the hanging device.
1 necklace with rounded lapis lazuli beads including: 28 rounded lapis
lazuli beads, [and] 29 fluted beads for its clasp.
Gold earring from Mycenae, 16th century BC.
The Greeks started using gold and gems in jewellery in 1600 BC,
although beads shaped as shells and animals were produced widely in
earlier times. Around 1500 BC, the main techniques of working gold in
Greece included casting, twisting bars, and making wire. Many of
these sophisticated techniques were popular in the Mycenaean period,
but unfortunately this skill was lost at the end of the
The forms and shapes of jewellery in ancient
Greece such as the
armring (13th century BC), brooch (10th century BC) and pins (7th
century BC), have varied widely since the
Bronze Age as well. Other
forms of jewellery include wreaths, earrings, necklace and bracelets.
A good example of the high quality that gold working techniques could
Greece is the ‘
Gold Olive Wreath’ (4th century BC),
which is modeled on the type of wreath given as a prize for winners in
athletic competitions like the Olympic Games.
Jewellery dating from
600 to 475 BC is not well represented in the archaeological record,
but after the Persian wars the quantity of jewellery again became more
plentiful. One particularly popular type of design at this time
was a bracelet decorated with snake and animal-heads Because these
bracelets used considerably more metal, many examples were made from
bronze. By 300 BC, the Greeks had mastered making coloured jewellery
and using amethysts, pearl, and emeralds. Also, the first signs of
cameos appeared, with the Greeks creating them from Indian Sardonyx, a
striped brown pink and cream agate stone. Greek jewellery was often
simpler than in other cultures, with simple designs and workmanship.
However, as time progressed, the designs grew in complexity and
different materials were soon used.
Pendant with naked woman, made from electrum, Rhodes, around 630–620
Greece was hardly worn and was mostly used for public
appearances or on special occasions. It was frequently given as a gift
and was predominantly worn by women to show their wealth, social
status, and beauty. The jewellery was often supposed to give the
wearer protection from the "Evil Eye" or endowed the owner with
supernatural powers, while others had a religious symbolism. Older
pieces of jewellery that have been found were dedicated to the Gods.
Ancient Greek jewellery from 300 BC.
They worked two styles of pieces: cast pieces and pieces hammered out
of sheet metal. Fewer pieces of cast jewellery have been recovered. It
was made by casting the metal onto two stone or clay moulds. The two
halves were then joined together, and wax, followed by molten metal,
was placed in the centre. This technique had been practised since the
Bronze Age. The more common form of jewellery was the hammered
sheet type. Sheets of metal would be hammered to thickness and then
soldered together. The inside of the two sheets would be filled with
wax or another liquid to preserve the metal work. Different
techniques, such as using a stamp or engraving, were then used to
create motifs on the jewellery. Jewels may then be added to hollows or
glass poured into special cavities on the surface. The Greeks took
much of their designs from outer origins, such as Asia, when Alexander
the Great conquered part of it. In earlier designs, other European
influences can also be detected. When Roman rule came to Greece, no
change in jewellery designs was detected. However, by 27 BC, Greek
designs were heavily influenced by the Roman culture. That is not to
say that indigenous design did not thrive. Numerous polychrome
butterfly pendants on silver foxtail chains, dating from the 1st
century, have been found near Olbia, with only one example ever found
These Hellenistic bracelets from the 1st century BC show the influence
of Eastern cultures. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
Hexagonal gold pendant with double solidus of Constantine the Great,
one of a set of four that date from 321 AD (British Museum)
Amethyst intaglio engraved gem, c. 212 AD; later regarded as of
Although jewellery work was abundantly diverse in earlier times,
especially among the barbarian tribes such as the Celts, when the
Romans conquered most of Europe, jewellery was changed as smaller
factions developed the Roman designs. The most common artefact of
early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing together.
The Romans used a diverse range of materials for their jewellery from
their extensive resources across the continent. Although they used
gold, they sometimes used bronze or bone, and in earlier times, glass
beads & pearl. As early as 2,000 years ago, they imported Sri
Lankan sapphires and Indian diamonds and used emeralds and amber in
their jewellery. In Roman-ruled England, fossilised wood called jet
England was often carved into pieces of jewellery. The
early Italians worked in crude gold and created clasps, necklaces,
earrings, and bracelets. They also produced larger pendants that could
be filled with perfume.
Like the Greeks, often the purpose of Roman jewellery was to ward off
the "Evil Eye" given by other people. Although women wore a vast array
of jewellery, men often only wore a finger ring. Although they were
expected to wear at least one ring, some Roman men wore a ring on
every finger, while others wore none. Roman men and women wore rings
with an engraved gem on it that was used with wax to seal documents, a
practice that continued into medieval times when kings and noblemen
used the same method. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the
jewellery designs were absorbed by neighbouring countries and
Merovingian fibulae, Bibliothèque nationale de France.
6th century bronze eagle-shaped Visigothic cloisonné fibula from
Guadalajara, Spain, using glass-paste fillings in imitation of
Europe continued to develop jewellery making skills. The
Merovingians in particular are noted for their jewellery,
which in terms of quality matched or exceeded that of the Byzantine
Empire. Clothing fasteners, amulets, and, to a lesser extent, signet
rings, are the most common artefacts known to us. A particularly
striking Celtic example is the Tara Brooch. The
Torc was common
Europe as a symbol of status and power. By the 8th century,
jewelled weaponry was common for men, while other jewellery (with the
exception of signet rings) seemed to become the domain of women. Grave
goods found in a 6th–7th century burial near
illustrative. A young girl was buried with: 2 silver fibulae, a
necklace (with coins), bracelet, gold earrings, a pair of hair-pins,
comb, and buckle. The
Celts specialised in continuous patterns and
designs, while Merovingian designs are best known for stylised animal
figures. They were not the only groups known for high quality
work. Note the Visigoth work shown here, and the numerous decorative
objects found at the Anglo-Saxon
Ship burial at
Sutton Hoo Suffolk,
England are a particularly well-known example. On the continent,
cloisonné and garnet were perhaps the quintessential method and
gemstone of the period.
Byzantine wedding ring.
The Eastern successor of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire,
continued many of the methods of the Romans, though religious themes
came to predominate. Unlike the Romans, the Franks, and the Celts,
Byzantium used light-weight gold leaf rather than solid gold,
and more emphasis was placed on stones and gems. As in the West,
Byzantine jewellery was worn by wealthier females, with male jewellery
apparently restricted to signet rings. Woman's jewellery had some
peculiarities like kolts that decorated headband. Like other
contemporary cultures, jewellery was commonly buried with its
Renaissance and exploration both had significant impacts on the
development of jewellery in Europe. By the 17th century, increasing
exploration and trade led to increased availability of a wide variety
of gemstones as well as exposure to the art of other cultures. Whereas
prior to this the working of gold and precious metal had been at the
forefront of jewellery, this period saw increasing dominance of
gemstones and their settings. An example of this is the Cheapside
Hoard, the stock of a jeweller hidden in
London during the
Commonwealth period and not found again until 1912. It contained
Colombian emerald, topaz, amazonite from Brazil, spinel, iolite, and
chrysoberyl from Sri Lanka, ruby from India, Afghan lapis lazuli,
Persian turquoise, Red Sea peridot, as well as Bohemian and Hungarian
opal, garnet, and amethyst. Large stones were frequently set in
box-bezels on enamelled rings. Notable among merchants of the
period was Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who brought the precursor stone of
Diamond to France in the 1660s.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned as Emperor of the French in 1804,
he revived the style and grandeur of jewellery and fashion in France.
Under Napoleon’s rule, jewellers introduced parures, suites of
matching jewellery, such as a diamond tiara, diamond earrings, diamond
rings, a diamond brooch, and a diamond necklace. Both of Napoleon’s
wives had beautiful sets such as these and wore them regularly.
Another fashion trend resurrected by Napoleon was the cameo. Soon
after his cameo decorated crown was seen, cameos were highly sought.
The period also saw the early stages of costume jewellery, with fish
scale covered glass beads in place of pearls or conch shell cameos
instead of stone cameos. New terms were coined to differentiate the
arts: jewellers who worked in cheaper materials were called
bijoutiers, while jewellers who worked with expensive materials were
called joailliers, a practice which continues to this day.
Mourning jewellery in the form of a jet brooch, 19th century.
Starting in the late 18th century,
Romanticism had a profound impact
on the development of western jewellery. Perhaps the most significant
influences were the public’s fascination with the treasures being
discovered through the birth of modern archaeology and a fascination
Renaissance art. Changing social conditions and the
onset of the
Industrial Revolution also led to growth of a middle
class that wanted and could afford jewellery. As a result, the use of
industrial processes, cheaper alloys, and stone substitutes led to the
development of paste or costume jewellery. Distinguished goldsmiths
continued to flourish, however, as wealthier patrons sought to ensure
that what they wore still stood apart from the jewellery of the
masses, not only through use of precious metals and stones but also
though superior artistic and technical work. One such artist was the
French goldsmith François-Désiré Froment-Meurice. A category unique
to this period and quite appropriate to the philosophy of romanticism
was mourning jewellery. It originated in England, where Queen Victoria
was often seen wearing jet jewellery after the death of Prince Albert,
and it allowed the wearer to continue wearing jewellery while
expressing a state of mourning at the death of a loved one.
In the United States, this period saw the founding in 1837 of Tiffany
& Co. by Charles Lewis Tiffany. Tiffany's put the United States on
the world map in terms of jewellery and gained fame creating dazzling
commissions for people such as the wife of Abraham Lincoln. Later, it
would gain popular notoriety as the setting of the film Breakfast at
Tiffany's. In France, Pierre Cartier founded
Cartier SA in 1847, while
1884 saw the founding of
Bulgari in Italy. The modern production
studio had been born and was a step away from the former dominance of
individual craftsmen and patronage.
This period also saw the first major collaboration between East and
West. Collaboration in
Pforzheim between German and Japanese artists
Shakudō plaques set into
Filigree frames being created by the
Stoeffler firm in 1885). Perhaps the grand finalé – and an
appropriate transition to the following period – were the masterful
creations of the Russian artist Peter Carl Fabergé, working for the
Imperial Russian court, whose Fabergé eggs and jewellery pieces are
still considered as the epitome of the goldsmith’s art.
18th Century / Romanticism/ Renaissance
Many whimsical fashions were introduced in the extravagant eighteenth
century. Cameos that were used in connection with jewellery were the
attractive trinkets along with many of the small objects such as
brooches, ear-rings and scarf-pins. Some of the necklets were made of
several pieces joined with the gold chains were in and bracelets were
also made sometimes to match the necklet and the brooch. At the end of
the Century the jewellery with cut steel intermixed with large
crystals was introduced by an Englishman, Matthew Boulton of
In the 1890s, jewellers began to explore the potential of the growing
Art Nouveau style and the closely related German Jugendstil, British
(and to some extent American) Arts and Crafts Movement, Catalan
Modernisme, Austro-Hungarian Sezession, Italian "Liberty", etc.
Art Nouveau jewellery encompassed many distinct features including a
focus on the female form and an emphasis on colour, most commonly
rendered through the use of enamelling techniques including
basse-taille, champleve, cloisonné, and plique-à-jour. Motifs
included orchids, irises, pansies, vines, swans, peacocks, snakes,
dragonflies, mythological creatures, and the female silhouette.
René Lalique, working for the Paris shop of Samuel Bing, was
recognised by contemporaries as a leading figure in this trend. The
Darmstadt Artists' Colony
Darmstadt Artists' Colony and
Wiener Werkstätte provided perhaps the
most significant input to the trend, while in Denmark Georg Jensen,
though best known for his Silverware, also contributed significant
pieces. In England, Liberty & Co. and the British arts &
crafts movement of
Charles Robert Ashbee
Charles Robert Ashbee contributed slightly more
linear but still characteristic designs. The new style moved the focus
of the jeweller's art from the setting of stones to the artistic
design of the piece itself. Lalique's dragonfly design is one of the
best examples of this. Enamels played a large role in technique, while
sinuous organic lines are the most recognisable design feature.
The end of
World War I
World War I once again changed public attitudes, and a more
sober style developed.
Growing political tensions, the after-effects of the war, and a
reaction against the perceived decadence of the turn of the 20th
century led to simpler forms, combined with more effective
manufacturing for mass production of high-quality jewellery. Covering
the period of the 1920s and 1930s, the style has become popularly
known as Art Deco.
Walter Gropius and the German
with their philosophy of "no barriers between artists and craftsmen"
led to some interesting and stylistically simplified forms. Modern
materials were also introduced: plastics and aluminium were first used
in jewellery, and of note are the chromed pendants of Russian-born
Bauhaus master Naum Slutzky. Technical mastery became as valued as the
material itself. In the West, this period saw the reinvention of
granulation by the German Elizabeth Treskow, although development of
the re-invention has continued into the 1990s. It is based on the
Royal earrings, India, 1st Century BC.
Bhupinder Singh of Patiala
Bhupinder Singh of Patiala wearing Patiala
contained 2,930 diamonds, including as its centrepiece, the world's
seventh largest diamond, the "De Beers", that had a 428 carat pre-cut
weigh, and weighed 234.65 carats in its final setting. The piece also
contained seven other diamonds ranging from 18 to 73 carats, and a
number of Burmese rubies
In Asia, the
Indian subcontinent has the longest continuous legacy of
jewellery making anywhere, with a history of over
5,000 years. One of the first to start jewellery making were the
peoples of the Indus Valley Civilization, in what is now predominately
Pakistan and part of northern and western India. Early
jewellery making in
China started around the same period, but it
became widespread with the spread of
Buddhism around 2,000 years ago.
The Chinese used silver in their jewellery more than gold. Blue
kingfisher feathers were tied onto early Chinese jewellery and later,
blue gems and glass were incorporated into designs. However, jade was
preferred over any other stone. The Chinese revered jade because of
the human-like qualities they assigned to it, such as its hardness,
durability, and beauty. The first jade pieces were very simple, but
as time progressed, more complex designs evolved.
Jade rings from
between the 4th and 7th centuries BC show evidence of having been
worked with a compound milling machine, hundreds of years before the
first mention of such equipment in the west.
Jade coiled serpent,
Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD)
Jewellery from Ming Dynasty Tombs, (1368–1644)
In China, the most uncommon piece of jewellery is the earring, which
was worn neither by men nor women. Amulets were
common, often with a Chinese symbol or dragon. Dragons, Chinese
symbols, and phoenixes were frequently depicted on jewellery designs.
The Chinese often placed their jewellery in their graves. Most Chinese
graves found by archaeologists contain decorative jewellery.
Two-Tiered Enamel Earrings, late 18th-early 19th century. Qajar
Dynasty. Brooklyn Museum.
Indian subcontinent (encompassing India,
Pakistan and other
countries of South Asia) has a long jewellery history, which went
through various changes through cultural influence and politics for
more than 5,000–8,000 years. Because
India had an abundant supply of
precious metals and gems, it prospered financially through export and
exchange with other countries. While European traditions were heavily
influenced by waxing and waning empires,
India enjoyed a continuous
development of art forms for some 5,000 years. One of the first to
start jewellery making were the peoples of the Indus Valley
Civilization (encompassing present-day
Pakistan and north and
northwest India). By 1500 BC, the peoples of the Indus Valley were
creating gold earrings and necklaces, bead necklaces, and metallic
bangles. Before 2100 BC, prior to the period when metals were widely
used, the largest jewellery trade in the Indus Valley region was the
bead trade. Beads in the Indus Valley were made using simple
techniques. First, a bead maker would need a rough stone, which would
be bought from an eastern stone trader. The stone would then be placed
into a hot oven where it would be heated until it turned deep red, a
colour highly prized by people of the Indus Valley. The red stone
would then be chipped to the right size and a hole bored through it
with primitive drills. The beads were then polished. Some beads were
also painted with designs. This art form was often passed down through
the family. Children of bead makers often learned how to work beads
from a young age. Persian style also played a big role in India’s
jewellery. Each stone had its own characteristics related to Hinduism.
Jewellery in the Indus Valley was worn predominantly by females, who
wore numerous clay or shell bracelets on their wrists. They were often
shaped like doughnuts and painted black. Over time, clay bangles were
discarded for more durable ones. In present-day India, bangles are
made out of metal or glass. Other pieces that women frequently
wore were thin bands of gold that would be worn on the forehead,
earrings, primitive brooches, chokers, and gold rings. Although women
wore jewellery the most, some men in the Indus Valley wore beads.
Small beads were often crafted to be placed in men and women’s hair.
The beads were about one millimetre long.
A female skeleton (presently on display at the National Museum, New
Delhi, India) wears a carlinean bangle (bracelet) on her left hand.
Kada is a special kind of bracelet and is widely popular in Indian
culture. They symbolizes animals like peacock, elephant, etc.
According to Hindu belief, gold and silver are considered as sacred
Gold is symbolic of the warm sun, while silver suggests the
cool moon. Both are the quintessential metals of Indian jewellery.
Pure gold does not oxidise or corrode with time, which is why Hindu
tradition associates gold with immortality.
Gold imagery occurs
frequently in ancient Indian literature. In the Vedic Hindu belief of
cosmological creation, the source of physical and spiritual human life
originated in and evolved from a golden womb (hiranyagarbha) or egg
(hiranyanda), a metaphor of the sun, whose light rises from the
Gold Nose Ring, India, 19th century
Jewellery had great status with India’s royalty; it was so powerful
that they established laws, limiting wearing of jewellery to royalty.
Only royalty and a few others to whom they granted permission could
wear gold ornaments on their feet. This would normally be considered
breaking the appreciation of the sacred metals. Even though the
majority of the Indian population wore jewellery, Maharajas and people
related to royalty had a deeper connection with jewellery. The
Maharaja's role was so important that the Hindu philosophers
identified him as central to the smooth working of the world. He was
considered as a divine being, a deity in human form, whose duty was to
uphold and protect dharma, the moral order of the universe.
Navaratna (nine gems)is a powerful jewel frequently worn by a Maharaja
(Emperor). It is an amulet, which comprises diamond, pearl, ruby,
sapphire, emerald, topaz, cat’s eye, coral, and hyacinth (red
zircon). Each of these stones is associated with a celestial deity,
represented the totality of the Hindu universe when all nine gems are
together. The diamond is the most powerful gem among the nine stones.
There were various cuts for the gemstone. Indian Kings bought
gemstones privately from the sellers.
Maharaja and other royal family
members value gem as Hindu God. They exchanged gems with people to
whom they were very close, especially the royal family members and
other intimate allies. "Only the emperor himself, his intimate
relations, and select members of his entourage were permitted to wear
royal turban ornament. As the empire matured, differing styles of
ornament acquired the generic name of sarpech, from sar or sir,
meaning head, and pech, meaning fastener."
India was the first country to mine diamonds, with some mines dating
back to 296 BC.
India traded the diamonds, realising their valuable
qualities. Historically, diamonds have been given to retain or regain
a lover’s or ruler’s lost favour, as symbols of tribute, or as an
expression of fidelity in exchange for concessions and protection.
Mughal emperors and Kings used the diamonds as a means of assuring
their immortality by having their names and wordly titles inscribed
upon them. Moreover, it has played and continues to play a pivotal
role in Indian social, political, economic, and religious event, as it
often has done elsewhere. In Indian history, diamonds have been used
to acquire military equipment, finance wars, foment revolutions, and
tempt defections. They have contributed to the abdication or the
decapitation of potentates. They have been used to murder a
representative of the dominating power by lacing his food with crushed
diamond. Indian diamonds have been used as security to finance large
loans needed to buttress politically or economically tottering
regimes. Victorious military heroes have been honoured by rewards of
diamonds and also have been used as ransom payment for release from
imprisonment or abduction. Today, many of the jewellery designs
and traditions are used, and jewellery is commonplace in Indian
ceremonies and weddings.
North and South America
Jewellery played a major role in the fate of the
Americas when the
Spanish established an empire to seize South American gold. Jewellery
making developed in the
Americas 5,000 years ago in Central and South
America. Large amounts of gold was easily accessible, and the Aztecs,
Mixtecs, Mayans, and numerous Andean cultures, such as the Mochica of
Peru, created beautiful pieces of jewellery.
With the Mochica culture, goldwork flourished. The pieces are no
longer simple metalwork, but are now masterful examples of jewellery
making. Pieces are sophisticated in their design, and feature inlays
of turquoise, mother of pearl, spondylus shell, and amethyst. The nose
and ear ornaments, chest plates, small containers and whistles are
considered masterpieces of ancient Peruvian culture.
Moche ear ornaments. 1–800 AD.
Larco Museum Collection, Lima-Peru
Among the Aztecs, only nobility wore gold jewellery, as it showed
their rank, power, and wealth.
Gold jewellery was most common in the
Aztec Empire and was often decorated with feathers from
and others. In general, the more jewellery an
Aztec noble wore, the
higher his status or prestige. The Emperor and his High Priests, for
example, would be nearly completely covered in jewellery when making
public appearances. Although gold was the most common and a popular
material used in
Aztec jewellery, jade, turquoise, and certain
feathers were considered more valuable. In addition to adornment
and status, the Aztecs also used jewellery in sacrifices to appease
the gods. Priests also used gem-encrusted daggers to perform animal
and human sacrifices.
Another ancient American civilization with expertise in jewellery
making were the Maya. At the peak of their civilization, the Maya were
making jewellery from jade, gold, silver, bronze, and copper. Maya
designs were similar to those of the Aztecs, with lavish headdresses
and jewellery. The Maya also traded in precious gems. However, in
earlier times, the Maya had little access to metal, so they made the
majority of their jewellery out of bone or stone. Merchants and
nobility were the only few that wore expensive jewellery in the Maya
region, much the same as with the Aztecs.
In North America, Native Americans used shells, wood, turquoise, and
soapstone, almost unavailable in South and Central America. The
turquoise was used in necklaces and to be placed in earrings. Native
Americans with access to oyster shells, often located in only one
location in America, traded the shells with other tribes, showing the
great importance of the body adornment trade in Northern America.
Main article: Native American jewelry
Bai-De-Schluch-A-Ichin or Be-Ich-Schluck-Ich-In-Et-Tzuzzigi (Slender
Metal Beater," Navajo silversmith, photo by George Ben
Native American jewellery is the personal adornment, often in the
forms of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, pins, brooches,
labrets, and more, made by the Indigenous peoples of the United
States. Native American jewellery reflects the cultural diversity and
history of its makers.
Native American tribes continue to develop
distinct aesthetics rooted in their personal artistic visions and
cultural traditions. Artists create jewellery for adornment,
ceremonies, and trade. Lois Sherr Dubin writes, "[i]n the absence of
written languages, adornment became an important element of Indian
[Native American] communication, conveying many levels of
information." Later, jewellery and personal adornment "...signaled
resistance to assimilation. It remains a major statement of tribal and
Metalsmiths, beaders, carvers, and lapidaries combine a variety of
metals, hardwoods, precious and semi-precious gemstones, beadwork,
quillwork, teeth, bones, hide, vegetal fibres, and other materials to
create jewellery. Contemporary Native American jewellery ranges from
hand-quarried and processed stones and shells to computer-fabricated
steel and titanium jewellery.
Jewellery in the Pacific
Jewellery making in the
Pacific started later than in other areas
because of recent human settlement. Early
Pacific jewellery was made
of bone, wood, and other natural materials, and thus has not survived.
Pacific jewellery is worn above the waist, with headdresses,
necklaces, hair pins, and arm and waist belts being the most common
Jewellery in the Pacific, with the exception of Australia, is worn to
be a symbol of either fertility or power. Elaborate headdresses are
worn by many
Pacific cultures and some, such as the inhabitants of
Papua New Guinea, wear certain headdresses once they have killed an
enemy. Tribesman may wear boar bones through their noses.
Island jewellery is still very much primal because of the lack of
communication with outside cultures. Some areas of Borneo and Papua
New Guinea are yet to be explored by Western nations. However, the
island nations that were flooded with Western missionaries have had
drastic changes made to their jewellery designs. Missionaries saw any
type of tribal jewellery as a sign of the wearer's devotion to
paganism. Thus many tribal designs were lost forever in the mass
conversion to Christianity.
A modern opal bracelet
Australia is now the number one supplier of opals in the world. Opals
had already been mined in
South America for many years
prior, but in the late 19th century, the Australian opal market became
predominant. Australian opals are only mined in a few select places
around the country, making it one of the most profitable stones in the
New Zealand Māori traditionally had a strong culture of personal
adornment, most famously the hei-tiki. Hei-tikis are traditionally
carved by hand from bone, nephrite, or bowenite.
Nowadays a wide range of such traditionally inspired items such as
bone carved pendants based on traditional fishhooks hei matau and
other greenstone jewellery are popular with young New Zealanders of
all backgrounds – for whom they relate to a generalized sense of New
Zealand identity. These trends have contributed towards a worldwide
interest in traditional
Māori culture and arts.
Other than jewellery created through Māori influence, modern
New Zealand is multicultural and varied.
Contemporary jewellery design
Most modern commercial jewellery continues traditional forms and
styles, but designers such as
Georg Jensen have widened the concept of
wearable art. The advent of new materials, such as plastics, Precious
Clay (PMC), and colouring techniques, has led to increased
variety in styles. Other advances, such as the development of improved
pearl harvesting by people such as
Mikimoto Kōkichi and the
development of improved quality artificial gemstones such as
moissanite (a diamond simulant), has placed jewellery within the
economic grasp of a much larger segment of the population.
The "jewellery as art" movement was spearheaded by artisans such as
Robert Lee Morris and continued by designers such as Gill Forsbrook in
the UK. Influence from other cultural forms is also evident. One
example of this is bling-bling style jewellery, popularised by hip-hop
and rap artists in the early 21st century, e.g. grills, a type of
jewellery worn over the teeth.
The late 20th century saw the blending of European design with
oriental techniques such as Mokume-gane. The following are innovations
in the decades straddling the year 2000: "Mokume-gane, hydraulic die
forming, anti-clastic raising, fold-forming, reactive metal anodising,
shell forms, PMC, photoetching, and [use of] CAD/CAM."
3D printing as a production technique gains more and more
importance. With a great variety of services offering this production
method, jewellery design becomes accessible to a growing number of
creatives. An important advantage of using 3d printing are the
relatively low costs for prototypes, small batch series or unique and
personalized designs. Shapes that are hard or impossible to create by
hand can often be realized by 3D printing. Popular materials to print
include Polyamide, steel and wax (latter for further processing).
Every printable material has its very own constraints that have to be
considered while designing the piece of jewellery using 3D Modelling
Artisan jewellery continues to grow as both a hobby and a profession.
With more than 17 United States periodicals about beading alone,
resources, accessibility, and a low initial cost of entry continues to
expand production of hand-made adornments. Some fine examples of
artisan jewellery can be seen at
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York City. The increase in numbers of students choosing to study
jewellery design and production in
Australia has grown in the past 20
Australia now has a thriving contemporary jewellery
community. Many of these jewellers have embraced modern materials and
techniques, as well as incorporating traditional workmanship.
More expansive use of metal to adorn the wearer, where the piece is
larger and more elaborate than what would normally be considered
jewellery, has come to be referred to by designers and fashion writers
Freemasons attach jewels to their detachable collars when in Lodge to
signify a Brothers Office held with the Lodge. For example, the square
represents the Master of the Lodge and the dove represents the Deacon.
Masonic collar jewels
A Padaung girl in Northern Thailand.
Jewellery used in body modification can be simple and plain or
dramatic and extreme. The use of simple silver studs, rings, and
earrings predominates. Common jewellery pieces such as, earrings are a
form of body modification, as they are accommodated by creating a
small hole in the ear.
Padaung women in
Myanmar place large golden rings around their necks.
From as early as five years old, girls are introduced to their first
neck ring. Over the years, more rings are added. In addition to the
twenty-plus pounds of rings on her neck, a woman will also wear just
as many rings on her calves. At their extent, some necks modified like
this can reach 10–15 in (25–38 cm) long. The practice
has health impacts and has in recent years declined from cultural norm
to tourist curiosity. Tribes related to the Paduang, as well as
other cultures throughout the world, use jewellery to stretch their
earlobes or enlarge ear piercings. In the Americas, labrets have been
worn since before first contact by
First Nations peoples of
the northwest coast. Lip plates are worn by the African Mursi and
Sara people, as well as some South American peoples.
In the late twentieth century, the influence of modern primitivism led
to many of these practices being incorporated into western
subcultures. Many of these practices rely on a combination of body
modification and decorative objects, thus keeping the distinction
between these two types of decoration blurred.
In many cultures, jewellery is used as a temporary body modifier; in
some cases, with hooks or other objects being placed into the
recipient's skin. Although this procedure is often carried out by
tribal or semi-tribal groups, often acting under a trance during
religious ceremonies, this practice has seeped into western culture.
Many extreme-jewellery shops now cater to people wanting large hooks
or spikes set into their skin. Most often, these hooks are used in
conjunction with pulleys to hoist the recipient into the air. This
practice is said to give an erotic feeling to the person and some
couples have even performed their marriage ceremony whilst being
suspended by hooks.
According to a 2007 KPMG study, the largest jewellery market is
the United States with a market share of 30.8%, Japan, India, China,
Middle East each with 8–9%, and Italy with 5%. The authors
of the study predict a dramatic change in market shares by 2015, where
the market share of the United States will have dropped to around 25%,
India will increase theirs to over 13%. The Middle East
will remain more or less constant at 9%, whereas Europe's and Japan's
marketshare will be halved and become less than 4% for Japan, and less
than 3% for the biggest individual European countries, Italy and the
Gemology and Jewelry portal
List of jewellery types
Live insect jewelry
Bronze and brass ornamental work
List of topics characterized as pseudoscience (healing jewelry)
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emergence of Homo sapiens. First of all, there were symbolic items,
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Wikisource has original works on the topic: Jewellery
The dictionary definition of jewellery at Wiktionary
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