Focus is on Jewels... "Did YOU Know?"



Thanks for stopping by! I'd like to share with you a bit of information that I've found fascinating about jewelry. Jewelry has been in our existence since "Ancient Times" and most of the knowledge we have about it has been found in grave sites - jewelry having been buried with the dead or actually hidden for various reasons such as war. We don't have a clear overall picture of all the various types of jewelry for every era, however, we have been able to watch the evolution of styles transform from generation to generation over thousands of years.

You can imagine what the simplest jewelry was made from - NATURE provided the seeds, the shells and even berries. Also consider bones and teeth of animals. Ahhh...so here we have BEADS! Beads STILL remain the most common of all artifacts found at the archeological excavations of the earliest settlements. Progression to working with metals didn't arrive until 20,000 years LATER! Of course, Gold was the main metal used for jewelry in the ancient world. Why? Because it was just as it is now if you think about it...it's shiny and doesn't tarnish like silver, it's hard to find making it more desirable. Gold is much easier to work with than copper or brass and it has the ability to withstand fire. In Ancient times gold was found in Egypt, Arabia, Spain, Ireland and the Balkans. The first gold was panned from river beds sinking to the bottom of the pan and caught up in submerged sheepskin.

Gold used in early jewelry was not often 24 carat as long believed, but it naturally contained some silver and copper which resulted in a much paler colored metal. The early gold jewelry was made from thin sheets of gold, hammered out between layers of leather or papyrus. The techniques used are still used today...such as repousse', therefore the metal is hammered from the back using punches. I myself learned this technique in a silversmithing class. Some of the earliest Metalworking techniques were simple designs such as ribbons, discs and leaf shapes that were cut from sheet gold...and they implemented such stones as lapis lazuli, cornelian and agate...now we're talking about 2500 BC here! I find it fascinating that we still want to adorn ourselves with these same stones and and how we gravitate back towards the earliest designs for our jewelry of today. However, I can't imagine a woman today wearing a garter all made of carved tones beads as did Queen Pu-abi. No way!

I believe my fascination with Egypt goes hand in hand with jewelry, as it was at the very crux of their earliest civilization that jewelry played a very important role. Jewelry was a very important part of Egyptian every day life...for you can picture their white robes and white linen attire...IT NEEDED SOMETHING! Adornment! Color! We also know from our history classes in school that the Egyptians were heavy into funerals and rituals and burying the dead with their personal jewelry awaiting the afterlife. Well, it's because of that aspect of their culture that we've obtained the knowledge that we have about them. Even the poorest of the people were buried with a personal item of jewelry that they had worn while they were alive. The sad part is that there have been generations of grave robbers and most of what was left has been melted down or long gone for various reasons.

The most common symbol we all know was the Scarab beetles for many generations have had their 'Egyptian Revivalist' comeback with these designs implemented in their jewelry. There has always been this fascination with the beetle which by the way, did you KNOW it symbolized the Sun and Creation? Well, you know now, right?

Bracelets were usually worn in pairs and sometimes had an 'armlet' bracelet on the upper arm. I picture the snake bracelet as the most common. In the beginning they were just simple bangles...but guess what? 2000 BC the clasp was made! Also common were rings that were used as seals...being easily worn on the finger, the ring made the seal easily available when needed. These were usually scarab rings which were carved of stone and engraved with a hieroglyphic signature on the underside. Oh and let's not forget EARRINGS! Though they appeared later on in history, around 1600 BC and only worn by women, two hundred years later, men were wearing them too. Did you know that King Tutankhamun wore elaborate earrings in the form of DUCKS? Well, you do now.

OK, before I close this chapter of Did YOU Know...I need to add that by 322 BC pearls were used in jewelry as were Garnets, Emerald and Amethysts. It was this Hellenistic period spanning from 330 to 27 BC that gave us sophisticated gem engraving, stone carvings and therefore Intaglios, where the design is recessed into the surface - and Cameos, which were carved in relief. Cameos were originated at this time and Cornelian or Sardonyx was the material most often used. As we go down history lane here, I'll leave on this note: Some of the finest jewelry from the ancient world was created by the Etruscans who had settled in Tuscany in northern Italy by the late 8th Century BC. They had mastered granulation - the heating of the gold filings and powered charcoal to a melting point and attaching this to another gold surface. And know that it wasn't until the 1930's that WE actually discovered how they did this technique which such precision without distortion.