May 18, 2011

The culture of jewelry- A prehistoric fashion still fashionable

Just about all archaeological digs in inhabited areas find some sort of jewelry. The earliest known jewelry was seashells, still quite common today in various forms. Rings, pendants, animal teeth, bracelets and beads are found in most settled areas. This was the fashion of the Stone Age and later, and the jewelry of each era tells us a lot about the technology and economics, as well as the fashions of the times.

The Stone Age
The earliest jewelry has been dated back as far as 75,000 years ago, from a cave in Africa where beads were carbon dated. It’s quite possible that the technology is much older, because these beads were themselves obviously the result of an existing style using piercing technology and strings, comparatively difficult technology for truly primitive cultures.

The Bronze Age
The Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age, about 10,000 years ago. The start of the art of jewelry as we now know it began with working metals. The early Bronze Age developed existing Late Stone Age jewelry technology into recognizable forms quite early. Working metal created the opportunity for much more complex designs, and some truly fascinating ideas. The Bronze Age cultures were technically much more advanced, and they produced jewelry which even now is causing controversy, like the “ring money” recently discovered in the UK, which was worn like a ring.

The Bronze Age was also the start of commerce as we now know it, and it was the beginning of the true trade of jewelry in a mass market. Most Bronze Age cultures are credited with advanced jewelry designs and there was a clear distinction between the ornaments worn by the social elites and the rest of these societies.

The Iron Age
The development of metals technology produced a boom in mining, and much larger quantities of precious metals for the jewelers of the time. Gold in gigantic amounts found its way on to the ancient world markets, to be consumed by jewelers catering to rich clients. Iron Age glitz and glamour was characterized by high value jewelry, and apparently a lot of it, being worn. New forms of metal ornaments, notably brooches and clasps, appeared at this time.

Gemstones and semi precious stones were also more abundant, particularly in the East, and there are reports from ancient historians of the use of turquoise and other stones on a large scale in palaces and elsewhere, indicating that the availability of these materials had drastically increased. Trade was also international, providing range and scope for the spread of new ideas and designs, amplifying the market for jewels around the ancient world.

Jewelry, past, present and future
The modern age, for the last couple of thousand years, has built on these original technologies. Diamond and gem cutting is now a true art form, and gold and other metals form the heart of a truly global jewelry culture. It’s interesting to think that a few seashells could lead to today’s
diamond rings and incredible million dollar necklaces.

Modern jewelry both echoes and evolves the ancient designs. People do learn from history. It’s really a question of what they do with what they learn.
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2012 London Olympics said...

Very Informative article, I wish they could preserve the ancient designs :)

MisterXWebz said...

Wow jewelry... i love it ....

LivingShed said...

i agree with you about this :)

Vinkay said...

thanks for this tip