Jewelry Making

Written by Sarah Provost
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Jewelry making is one of the most ancient of arts. Prehistoric people wore necklaces made of bones and animal teeth. Other primitive peoples decorated themselves with shells and feathers.

Gold, Silver and Gemstones

Jewelry made of gold and silver was first made in ancient Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. The Egyptians also used gemstones in their jewelry, such as amethyst, turquoise and lapis lazuli. In medieval times, brooches, rings and torques (massive solid necklaces) were made of all kinds of metals, and a person's wealth and social rank was expressed by what metals were worn.

Faceted stones began to appear in the 14th century. That began the movement toward stones becoming more important than their settings. During the Renaissance and Elizabethan eras, pearls became the jewel of choice, and were used in the first earrings. While much jewelry was still symbolic, such as chains of state, it was during these periods that it began to revert back to pure decoration. In fact, this era is often called "the jeweled age." When Henry the VIII died, for instance, he had 234 rings and 324 brooches, in addition to his necklaces and chains of office.

Today, jewelry remains symbolic in items such as religious pendants or wedding rings. We still make judgments about social class based on the type and quality of a person's jewelry. But with the advent of mass-produced costume jewelry, we also have the freedom to wear jewelry just for fun and fashion.

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