The History of Jewellery

The humble beginnings of the art of adornment.

In order to know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve come from. As humans, it is part of our nature to be curious, to want more. It is part of our nature to try, and then again try harder seeking better results. Have you ever wondered how did we reach where we are today? This glamorous life… between lavish clothes, comfortable transport, and stylish jewellery – did you ever stop to think, where did it all originate? What were our ancestors thinking?

Almost instinctively, we revert our thoughts back to the cavemen age and wonder – what made them feel the need to cover their bodies? How did it evolve? Ultimately, they needed to protect themselves from the weather and its various conditions. To achieve that, they had to use either tree leaves or animal skin. Yet as man’s life got more complicated and political, eventually, getting “dressed” was no longer about shielding and protecting our bodies from the cold; rather, it transitioned into a need or want, for much more. The population of humans started to grow until it became a civilization with a system, and someone unknown was curious enough to invent the art of weaving fabric. It is said that weaving of fabric had initially started by ancient Egyptians, who were skilled in weaving linen. The Chinese followed suit specialising in weaving silk.

Now that these new fabrics had been woven and made readily available for making clothing, something more was needed, some sort of apparatus to hold this fabric together. Enter the brooch. The brooch – which, back then would have been more comparable to a pin – was born out of necessity, as a means to keep the wrapped fabric from falling off its subject – and this, ladies and gentlemen, is where the art of adornment was born.

Our ancient ancestors began wearing clothing adorned by jewellery in their own simple ways, which was of course, much different to what we know and love about jewellery today.

The art of adornment dates back far beyond our years, when our late ancestors wore the most unlikely accessories – if you will. Everything from seashells to animal bone and teeth fashioned into beads were uncovered in places such as Morocco, Algeria, South Africa, France and Czech Republic dating between 110.000 to 28.000 BC and assumed to be worn as amulets. Amulets were believed to ward off evil, danger and disease, they were considered to carry a magical power to protect the wearer and also worn for decoration.

Moving on from bones and seashells, the first discovered use of gold was linked to the Thracian civilization that produced the oldest known objects made from gold around 4400 BC. It wasn’t until around 5000- 30 BC that copper was used – which started a new era in jewellery production in Egypt where they quickly started producing glazed steatite beads and countless jewellery designs based on scarab beetles, scrolls, winged birds, tigers, and antelopes. During this time the most popular stones were carnelian, feldspar, amethyst, chalcedony, lapis lazuli and turquoise. This is the time in which we see a turn in the production and style of jewellery.

From humble beginings, to longings for lavishisness, the art of adornment has come a very long way. But one simple sentiment has remained true throughout all of time, and that is that the art of adornment is fulfilling a need. At once it was a need for keeping clothing in place, another to stow away a secret, and today to freeze moments and memories in time – to tell our stories, and pass them on to the future generations of our families.