History of Jewelry: Ancient & Modern Fashion

Jewelry has been a part of human culture since ancient times. From the early days of primitive adornment to the intricate and luxurious pieces of today, jewelry has been used to express personal style, signify status, commemorate special occasions, and communicate feelings. 

Throughout history, jewelry has been crafted from a variety of materials, including precious metals and gemstones, as well as natural elements like shells and bones. From traditional gold and silver to more modern materials like platinum, titanium, and stainless steel, there is a story behind every piece of jewelry.

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How Did People Start Making Jewelry?

The first pieces of jewelry were created out of necessity rather than decoration. Although we generally associate precious metals and gemstones with jewelry, it wasn’t always that way. 

Before even recorded history existed, humans used jewelry as a means of personal adornment. Shells and animal teeth were often used to create necklaces, while small stones and bones were used to make pendants, rings, and bracelets. Jewelry made from shells, bones, stones, and wood served as functional pieces, such as tools, currency, and protective amulets. 

Those of our ancestors that primarily used foraging and gathering as a means of survival tended to use shells and pebbles. Those that lived in hunting societies would use animal claws and teeth to create their art.

The earliest examples of ancient art reveal that our ancestors would carve fairly complex patterns. These would eventually evolve into drawings, engravings, and carvings of animal shapes.

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Why Did People Start Wearing Jewelry?

People have always had a desire for personal adornments. Regardless of age, gender, religion, race, or creed, people have felt the need to decorate themselves with jewelry. 

In ancient times, jewelry was used to signify rank and status among different societies. It was also used as a mark of identity, with different pieces representing different tribes or social classes. In some cultures, jewelry was also used to ward off negative energy and bring luck, protection, and good fortune. 

Jewelry is also often used as a form of self-expression and to communicate one’s individual style. From simple, classic pieces to bold, intricate designs, jewelry is a way to convey one’s personality and let others know who they are. Jewelry also serves an aesthetic purpose, with pieces made of precious metals, stones, and other materials to enhance one’s physical appearance.

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Jewelry in Fashion

Different jewelry types would come into style and out of style as fashion changed. Jewelry trends had to closely follow fashion trends of the time until fairly recently in the twentieth century.

The fashion trends of the day determined which pieces of jewelry would become fashionable and popular. Jewelers had to account for different lengths of sleeves, necklines, and even the fabric the clothes would be made from when creating a piece of jewelry. Spending time on an elaborate necklace wouldn’t make much sense if you had to wear something like a ruff around your neck.

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Why Are There so Few Authentic Pieces Left?

Unfortunately, unless the person was buried with their jewelry or it was passed down from generation to generation as a treasured family heirloom, many of these pieces have not survived. 

The older pieces are made from organic materials such as bone or shells and have turned to dust a long time ago. Although jewelry made out of precious metals and gemstones would not decay as organic materials do, much of the material would be dismantled and melted down to be repurposed. 

Fortunately, thanks to the remaining artwork, statues, and sculptures, we were able to gain some insight into how the ancient world wore their jewelry.

What is the Oldest Piece of Jewelry That has Been Discovered?

In 2014, inside the Bizmoune Cave, located in Southwest Morocco near the city of Essaouira, archaeologists were surprised to uncover a set of 33 shell beads that were used as jewelry. These beads were dated to be approximately 150,000 years old according to uranian-series dating.

Archaeologists know that this was used as jewelry due to the uniform holes that were made into the sides of the shells. There was also evidence of repetitive wear from a tool used to make the holes. Also, we know these hung on a rope or twine because of the wear patterns on the shells.

It is believed that these were either hung from the clothing or worn as earrings or a necklace. Experts believe that these may have been used to indicate status to others. 

Even 150,000 years ago, our ancestors were just as concerned with our appearance as we are. Jewelry and fashion truly are timeless.

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How Has Jewelry Use Changed Over the Years?

Jewelry has been used by humans for thousands of years, and evidence of its use has been found in many cultures around the world. As technology advanced, so did jewelry making. The early man began using metals such as copper, silver, and gold to create jewelry, and soon gemstones such as diamonds and pearls were also being used.

The use of jewelry has changed over the centuries. In Ancient Egypt, jewelry was used to signify social status and as a form of protection against evil spirits. However, during the Middle Ages, jewelry was worn to signify membership in certain religious or political organizations. 

During the Renaissance, jewelry was a popular form of adornment, and in the Victorian era, it was used to express love and commitment.

Today, jewelry is still used as a form of expression. It can be used to signify a person’s style, to celebrate important milestones, or as a symbol of love and commitment.