A Little Piece Of Jewellery History.
The history of jewellery is fascinating. It's amazing how these little (or sometimes not so) shiny objects have affected the human race and even our evolution.
Since the first days of the human race, we have wanted to adorn ourselves with objects and trinkets to show our status, social standing and wealth, but also to show our individuality and our natural love of beauty. Our ancient ancestors are known to have worn simple necklaces and bracelets made from bone, teeth, berries and stones threaded on string or animal sinew.
The oldest known Beads ever found are made from Nassarius shells (The common mud snail) and have been dated back to over 100,000 years, although there is debate that they could actually be older still (source science daily.com)
Archaeologists have uncovered some of the world's earliest shell ornaments. Image Credit University of Oxford
Other Snail shell beads have been found in Africa dating back 75,000 years, discovered in the ancient Blombos Cave. Yet more beads, made from the shells of ostrich eggs, have been found in Kenya and date back more than 40,000 years. so it just goes to show that 'beading' isn't just a modern day fascination.
Even though Silver has been used in jewellery making for over 6000 years it was Egypt and Mesopotamia that were the first two major ancient civilizations that started the organized production of jewellery. In fact there's evidence that Emeralds were being mined by the Egyptians as early as 3500 BC.
Dating back to 2900-2300 BC the Mesopotamian tombs at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, in modern day southern Iraq, were overloaded with gorgeous gold, silver and semi-precious stone-studded jewellery including amazing lapis lazuli, gold crowns, collars and pins.
Part of Queen Pu Abi's head dress from the royal tombs of Ur Sumerian ancient Mesopotamia
The combined accomplishments of these empires in the advancement of metallurgy and gem collecting has played an important role for the development of jewellery in every civilisation that has come after them.
Today, India is world renowned for the manufacture and production of fine jewellery & gemstones but the Indian nations have been making fine jewellery for more than 5000 years, started off by the obsession for jewellery by the Indus Valley civilisation in modern day Pakistan. They weren't the only civilisation to ignore the less is more rule though, In ancient Assyria, men and women wore absolutely huge amounts of jewellery including amulets, ankle bracelets and massive multi-strand necklaces.
Jewellery production in China started around the same time, but it didn’t really become widespread until Buddhism started to gain popularity about 2000 years ago. The ancient Chinese loved silver much more than gold, using the metal to craft beautiful pieces studded with blue kingfisher feathers and various blue gemstones. But their main obsession was with jade, which they loved for its human qualities, hardness, durability and beauty. Jade is also sometimes referred to as the stone of heaven and still today fine pieces can fetch enormous sums of money.