Humans have been accessorising with jewellery for as long as history was, well, history. The use of jewellery is even thought to predate historical records, with not humans but European Neanderthals being responsible for its use in early cultures.
According to The International Gem Society (IGS), the earliest jewellery pieces date back to approximately 25,000 years ago. With this, jewellery has a very long and fascinating history, points of which we’re about to explore right here.
The first jewellery pieces were designed for function
Whilst in more recent times, jewellery has been used as mere accessories and embellishments, during the primitive years of man, jewellery pieces had a more functional purpose. Instead of being crafted from gemstones and precious metals, early jewellery was made from animal teeth, bone, shells, stones and carved wood.
Jewellery was instead used to fix clothing and tools into place. It wasn’t until much later that jewellery pieces became linked to spirituality or used as elitist symbols of aesthetic value.
Ancient Egyptians brought precious metals into the mix
When we think of Ancient Egypt, pharaohs adorned with exotic jewellery and headpieces automatically spring to mind. It was during this period when jewellery took on a very different purpose in both everyday wear and the afterlife as Give Me History details:
“Both men and women in ancient Egypt proved themselves to be great admirers of jewellery. They adorned themselves with a profusion of trinkets in their everyday lives and their burials. Jewellery indicated status and wealth while offering protection against evil and curses. This protection was extended to the dead as well as the living and was believed to usher in prosperity during the present and the afterlife.”
Gemstone jewellery also has its roots in Ancient Egypt, with specialist carvers called lapidists using tools to craft pieces from soft and hard gems. To this day, Egyptian jewellery is known and loved for its use of colourful gemstones, with precious and semi-precious gems like jasper, lapis lazuli, quartz and turquoise just some of the stones favoured by Ancient Egyptians.
The Dark Ages saw a comeback for gemstone jewellery
Whilst the Middle Ages was known for its oppressive series of events, the era saw a comeback for gemstone jewellery pieces. The use of gemstones was strongly affiliated with superstition. Gems were thought to have significant power for treating illnesses and protecting individuals from evil spirits.
Gemstone jewellery was also revered in the Church, one of only a few sources of wealth in the whole of Europe during this period. Countless ornate pieces were commissioned by the Church, with the goldsmiths charged with creating these intricate designs honing their craft with enamelwork, decorative metal work and Gothic-inspired artistry.
Jewellery pieces became even more intricate during Victorian Times
Fashion jewellery came into its own during Victorian Times, with Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in the mid-19th century sparking a series of trends that the upper class were desperate to emulate.
The era brought a mixture of styles back into fashion, with everything from Classical, Gothic and Greco-Roman to Orientalism, Rococo and Romanticism influencing the designs of these lavish jewellery pieces.The turn of the century and the Arts and Crafts movement saw Art Nouveau pieces using pearl, amethyst and aquamarine stones in favour. This trend slowly evolved into the Art Deco designs that remain iconic today. With unique pieces that tell stories of what Dainty London is all about, you can find contemporary jewellery with timeless appeal right here.