Jewellery

Throughout the centuries and from culture to culture, the materials considered rare and beautiful have ranged from shells, bones, pebbles, tusks, claws, and wood to so-called precious metals, precious and semiprecious stones, pearls, corals, enamels, vitreous pastes, and ceramics.


Egyptian jewelry
Egyptian jewelry

image source: http://www.polyvore.com/gallery_for_cleopatra_jewelry_museum/thing?id=129508024

What is a piece of jewellery?

Jewellery or jewellery consists of small decorative items worn for personal adornments, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Jewellery may be attached to the body or the clothes, and the term is restricted to durable ornaments, excluding flowers for example.


The word jewellery itself is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicized from the Old French “jouel”, and beyond that, to the Latin word “jocale”, meaning plaything.

info sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewellery

What are jewels used for?

Humans have used jewellery for several different reasons:

  • functional, generally to fix clothing or hair in place, or to tell the time (in the case of watches)
  • as a marker of social status and personal status, as with a wedding ring
  • as a signifier of some form of affiliation, whether ethnic, religious or social
  • to provide talismanic protection (in the form of amulets)
  • as an artistic display
  • as a carrier or symbol of personal meaning – such as love, mourning, or even luck

Most cultures at some point have had a practice of keeping large amounts of wealth stored in the form of jewellery. Numerous cultures store wedding dowries in the form of jewellery or make jewellery as a means to store or display coins. Alternatively, jewellery has been used as a currency or trade good; an example being the use of slave beads.

Many items of jewellery, such as brooches and buckles, originated as purely functional items but evolved into decorative items as their functional requirement diminished.

Jewellery can also symbolise group membership (as in the case, of the Christian crucifix or the Jewish Star of David) or status (as in the case of chains of office, or the Western practise of married people wearing wedding rings).

Wearing amulets and devotional medals to provide protection or ward off evil is common in some cultures. These may take the form of symbols (such as the ankh), stones, plants, animals, body parts (such as the Khamsa), or glyphs (such as stylised versions of the Throne Verse in Islamic art).

info sources:     https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Jewellery#Form_and_function

 In Mali and other countries of the sahel region, there is also a history of metal bracelets used in the slave trade as well as metal bracelets that were exchanged as a form of currency
In Mali and other countries of the sahel region, there is also a history of metal bracelets used in the slave trade as well as metal bracelets that were exchanged as a form of currency

image source: http://www.farafina-tigne.com/beads/bracelet.html

Which materials are used to make jewels?

The first materials, used to make personal adornment objects,  were taken from the animal and vegetable world. The material taken from the animal world, in a natural or processed form, constituted the actual adornment, whereas vegetable fibres served as its support. A great variety of shells and pieces of shell were used during the prehistoric age and are still used in some island and coastal cultures to make necklaces, bracelets, pendants, and headdresses. In the inland regions, the first materials used for personal adornment came from mammoths’ tusks, the horns of reindeer and other animals, and, later on, amber and lignite.

All materials used over the centuries for the manufacture of jewellery have undergone to some extent mechanical, physical, or chemical treatment to transform their raw shapes into shapes that, in addition to being functional, also satisfy certain aesthetic concepts.

info sources: https://www.britannica.com/art/jewelry

ivory jewels of mammuth
ivory jewels of mammuth

image source: http://eluxemagazine.com/magazine/mammoth-ivory/

what are the three most precious materials?

Of gold’s properties, when it was first discovered (probably in Mesopotamia before 3000 BCE), it was the metal’s malleability that was a new phenomenon: the only beeswax, when heated to a certain temperature, could be compared to it. Gold’s molecules move and change position by the stresses to which it is submitted, so that when it is beaten it gains in the surface area what it loses in thickness. In modern jewellery, gold can take on a variety of hues when it is alloyed with other metals: water green, white, grey, red, and blue.

After gold, silver is the metal most widely used in jewellery and the most malleable. Although known during the Copper Age, silver made only rare appearances in jewellery before the Classical Age. In general, silver was, and still is, used in jewellery for economic reasons or to obtain chromatic effects. It was often used in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, however, as support in settings for diamonds and other transparent precious stones, to encourage the reflection of light.

Another rare metal, whose use in jewellery is fairly recent, is platinum. From the 19th century, this metal was used ever more frequently in jewellery because of its white brilliance and malleability, as well as its resistance to acids and its high melting point.

Modern jewellery, such as that designed by early 20th-century artists, introduced nonprecious metals such as steel.

info sources: https://www.britannica.com/art/jewelry

how were the jewels produced in ancient times?

The basic components of jewellery have always consisted of sheet metalmetal cast in a mold, and wire (more or less heavy or fine). These components take on the desired shape using techniques carried out with the help of tools.

Examination of the most ancient pieces of jewellery shows that one of the techniques used most widely in decorating metal sheets for jewellery was embossing (relief work). Throughout the centuries embossing techniques have remained substantially unchanged, although in modern times mechanization has made possible mass production of decorative parts of jewellery, with great savings of time and labour but with a corresponding lack of art.

In repoussé, the relief is pressed (in a negative mold) or hammered out from the reverse side of the gold sheet and then finished off on the right side with a hammer or engraving tool. For half-modelled or completely round reliefs, the gold leaf was pressed onto wooden or bronze models. Completely round objects were made in two pieces and then welded together.

Another technique is engraving, which involves impressing designs into the metal with a sharp tool.

Decorative openwork designs can be created by piercing the gold leaf. In the Roman period, this technique was called opus interassile.

Engraved Wide Antique Wedding Band Ring,18k Gold 1900
Engraved Wide Antique Wedding Band Ring,18k Gold 1900

image source: https://www.victoriasterlingjewelry.com/products/beautifully-engraved-wide-antique-wedding-band-ring-size-7-65-us-fully-hallmarked

Granulation is a decorative technique in which small or minute gold balls (with diameters ranging from 1/60 to 1/180 of an inch) are used to form silhouettes on smooth or embossed metal.

Casting from precious metals has always been rare. When the relief was to be visible only from one side, the metal was poured into the cast and, when hardened, touched up with a graver. When the relief was to be fully modelled, the cire perdue (lost-wax) process, involving casting from a wax mold, was used.

A filigree is a form of decoration made exclusively from fine gold or silver wire welded onto the surface of an object made of the same metal or done in openwork (without a background). The decoration carried out is designed first on a model with a flat or curved surface identical to that on which the completed filigree is to be welded or to the unsupported shape that it must assume. It can be made from smooth wire or a ropelike plait or a series of small hemispheres. A more complicated type of filigree consists of metal wire made in the shape of beads called granulated filigree.
After having been prepared separately, the different parts that make up a piece of jewellery are put together. In primitive jewellery, it was done mechanically, by inserting beaten pins, bending and beating the parts to be fastened together, or binding them with gold wire or tapeWelding is a technique belonging to a more highly developed stage of ancient gold working (end of the 3rd-millennium BCE).

info sources: https://www.britannica.com/art/jewelry

Vintage Czech glass jewel with antiqued brass filigree
Vintage Czech glass jewel with antiqued brass filigree

image source: https://www.etsy.com/ie/listing/179153875/lady-bug-necklace-insect-necklace-red?ref=related-6

Info sources: https://www.britannica.com/art/jewelry

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewellery

https://www.gemsociety.org/article/myth-magic-and-the-sorcerers-stone/

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