Have you wondered how the tradition of wearing jewelry came to be?
Today, we will be diving into the rich history of jewelry that has shaped the lives of our ancestors across different eras and cultures.
1. Symbolic Purposes of Jewelry
Since the dawn of time, humans have had a curious fascination with jewelry.
The word jewelry derives from the Latin form of the word “jocale”, which meant “plaything”.
In many ancient cultures, jewelry was worn as ornaments or decorations.
Bracelets, necklaces, anklets and crowns were made from various materials, from uniquely-shaped stones, colourful pebbles, to animal parts like bones, teeth and feather.
Archaeologists excavated a 25,000 year-old necklace made out of fishbones in a cave in Monaco.
The lack of any other information on the origin and purpose of this necklace means that we can only speculate.
Did a village chief own this necklace? Was it an offering to a god? Was it a gift for a loved one?
While we may never know the true purpose for the necklace, it gives us a peek into the way of life of ancient civilizations.
Although we won’t ever find out what the necklace was used for, it gives us a peek into the way of life of ancient civilizations.
Symbolic Purposes of Jewelry
Aside from wearing jewelry for mere decorative purposes, different cultures have had historically different functions for them:
- Ward Off Evil Spirits: Some ancient civilizations believed jewelry possess supernatural and magical properties. Amulets and talismans were worn to ward off evil spirits or illnesses.
- Currency: Historically, jewelry would also be considered a form of currency to facilitate trade. Dowries were also often paid out in jewelry.
- Trophy for Hunters: For civilizations that relied on hunting to survive, hunters would adorn themselves with horns, claws, and teeth of animals of the game they hunted. This was believed to act as a good luck charm, ensuring their next hunt be fruitful.
- Human Connections: Jewelry was also used in slave trade to identify human connections. Slave owners would make slaves wear special beads and bracelets to indicate who they were owned by.
Jewelry Around the World
Jewelry has always been an integral part of a society. Here are some unique methods of wearing jewelry from ancient civilizations:
The Romans used brooches to pin the flowing pieces of clothes together.
They embellished their brooch with beads, metal material, glass and pearls.
Gold was important to the Egyptians as the bright color symbolized the sun.
Thus it was an exclusive ornament for the pharaoh and always placed on crowns.
The Egyptian’s fascination with its’ rarity, durability and workability increased the allure of the precious metal.
A unique trait of Greek jewelry is that the material used are ones we are familiar with today, such as gold, silver and bronze.
While a lot of their jewelry was influenced by the East, as a result of Alexander’s conquest, the Greek’s eventually developed their own style based on their own beliefs.
Jewelry was believed to hold spiritual meanings and often used to dress statues or act as offerings to gods.
Shapes like leaves and spirals were familiar part of their daily life and were often incorporated in their jewelry.
Jewelry As We Know It Today
The evolution of jewelry shaped the way we wear jewelry today.
No longer is jewelry worn solely by the rich and the noble.
Today, they are commonly used as forms of expression.
Another unique point to contemporary jewelry wear is to allude to religious motifs such as the crucifix or the star of David.
Commitments between two people are also illustrated with the usage of wedding bands.
Items that once only held functional purposes, like belts and brooches, soon became decorative accessories as the functionality diminished.
By following the progression of jewelry through the centuries from ancient civilizations, we can gain a glimpse of how jewelry has evolved to the ones we are familiar with at jewelry stores.
Are you ready to add some affordable unique jewelry to your collection? Take a look at some of our favourite earrings.