Ancient Jewelry - Early History of Jewelry

Jewelry Quartz

Ever since the dawn of time, people of all cultures strived to showcase themselves with jewelry that signified their status, social or official rank, religious or political affiliation and of course for personal adornment. Even as far as Stone Age, our ancestors find a way to create many types of jewels made from organic and inorganic materials such as hair, feathers, leather, bones, wood, shells, minerals and later precious metals and gemstones. Their ingenuity grew with each passing age, and advancements in technology and gathering of available resources enabled creation of some of the most iconic and beautiful jewelry designs. Today we look back at those ancient times and remember them not only for their accomplishments, but as a moment when entire industry of metallurgy and gemstone processing became formed and the lesions they learned became basis of many modern processes.

First pieces of jewelry started being made during the same time when our African ancestors started differentiating themselves by wearing clothes and creating tools. Simple decorative pieces made from animal skins and hairs did not survive the tooth of time, but the oldest surviving prehistoric piece of jewelry (decorative sea shells) from over 110.000 years ago give solid proof that modern human race used jewelry even before they exited Africa and spread across entire world.

Even though many civilizations produced their own versions of simple decorative items during those prehistoric times, sudden rise of technology in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia proved to be instrumental moment in which jewelry finally started gaining shape of modern items that are in use today. Ability to forge bronze and copper some 7 thousand years ago into many shapes finally enabled the creation of highly detailed jewelry that carried designs of animals, something that could never be done before. Arrival of the gold few thousand years later introduced even more varied designs, and Egyptians quickly used softness of gold to create some timeless pieces of jewelry that were saved to this day in deeply buried Pharaoh burial chambers.

Innovations that were introduced by Egyptian and Mesopotamian metalworkers soon spread across the world, and many other civilizations improved upon their foundations. In the far east, metalworkers of resource rich India started producing incredible jewelry designs made from precious metals and gems over 5000 years ago, which later on influenced spreading of jewelry in China around 2000 years ago.