THE HISTORY OF JEWELLERY MAKING
Ancient Jewellery Making:
In ancient times Jewellery was very important. It would indicate a person’s rank, wealth and authority within a group and to a lesser degree beauty. Today, it is a different story; jewellery is recognized more for value and beauty than to separate people into rank or classes of people.
In ancient tribes a warrior who was able to hunt and kill a lion or bear would oftentimes keep a tooth as a souvenir to add to his necklace of sinew and teeth, proving to the rest of his tribe that he had ranked as a valuable provider and warrior. Over the years such a tribe member could gain the trust and rank from the tribe because of the many teeth they had around their necks. As time progressed, this necklace would become his proof of who the best candidate for chief could be.
Heads of tribes would receive a portion of every hunt or conquest as well as a tribute from any person living in their territory. This made the tribe-heads incredibly wealthy compared to the average citizens and would afford them the wealth to be able to trade for gold, silver or jewels and even crude Jewellery that they could use to show their tribe how much higher they rank than the rest of citizens.
Besides teeth of the various dangerous cat-family like lion, leopard, and bears being used, ivory from the tusks of elephants and the infamous hippopotamus were also used for early jewellery. Besides these, feathers, beads of clay, beads of stone, ostrich eggshells and the oldest surviving piece of Jewellery today, being a necklace made of beads from Nassarius shells, some dating this necklace as old as 100,000 years old. The second and third oldest pieces of Jewellery are made of ostrich shell beads from Africa and a stone-bracelet and marble ring from Russia, all more than 10,000 years old.
Around 5,000BC copper was being melted down to be used and used for jewellery but was soon replaced by the softer, non-corroding and more valuable gold. By 1,000-3,000BC Egypt preferred the shine and workability of gold in their jewellery. In Egypt, this gold Jewellery was used to adorn those who had political power or religious positions while still alive. When these powerful men and women died, their Jewellery would be buried with them.
Where gold had previously only been hammered into gold-leaf or hammered into shape, by this time, it seems that melting, casting, twisting and making gold wire and gold-leaf were now already a highly sophisticated art form, bordering on a form of science.
Today, thousands of years later, we still use many ancient elements in our modern Jewellery, but the tools and methods we use are modern variations of what has already been practised for thousands of years.