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Article: Jewellery


Functions and Significance of Jewellery

  • Jewellery can serve functional purposes, such as fixing clothing or hair in place.
  • It can act as a marker of social and personal status, like a wedding ring.
  • Jewellery can signify affiliation with a particular group, whether ethnic, religious, or social.
  • Some wear jewellery for talismanic protection, using amulets.
  • Jewellery can be an artistic display or a symbol of personal meaning, representing love, mourning, milestones, or luck.
  • Cultural significance and variations: Different cultures have their own traditions and preferences when it comes to jewellery. Jewellery can symbolize group membership, as seen in religious symbols like the Christian crucifix or the Jewish Star of David. Wearing amulets and devotional medals for protection or warding off evil is common in certain cultures. Some cultures store large amounts of wealth in the form of jewellery or use it as currency or trade goods. The spelling of 'jewellery' versus 'jewelry' varies among English-speaking countries, with 'jewellery' being more common in British English.
  • Impact on Society: Jewelry has been used to denote status throughout history. Cultural dictates have influenced the acceptance of certain jewelry styles. Hip hop culture popularized the term 'bling-bling' for ostentatious display. The jewelry industry popularized wedding rings for men in the 20th century. Some religions have specific rules or traditions surrounding jewelry.

Materials and Techniques

  • Gemstones, coins, and other precious items are commonly used in jewellery and set into precious metals.
  • Platinum alloys, ranging from 90% to 95% purity, are often used.
  • Sterling silver, or 92.5% fine silver, is commonly used in jewellery.
  • Glass, wood, shells, bone, ivory, natural clay, polymer clay, and twines like hemp can also be used.
  • Beads made of various materials, such as glass, gemstones, metal, wood, shells, clay, and polymer clay, are frequently used in jewellery.
  • Metal Finishes: High-polish finish gives jewelry a reflective, shiny look. Satin/matte finish reduces shine and is used to accentuate gemstones. Brushed finish creates a textured look with brush strokes. Hammered finish provides a wavy texture using a rounded steel hammer. Plating is used to give jewelry a shiny, reflective look or desired color.
  • Techniques Used in Greek Jewellery Making: Two styles of jewellery making were common in Greece: cast pieces and hammered sheet type. Cast jewellery was made by pouring molten metal into stone or clay moulds. Hammered sheet type involved hammering metal sheets to thickness and soldering them together. Motifs were created using techniques like stamping or engraving. Jewels or glass could be added to the jewellery for decoration.


  • Diamonds: Diamonds were first mined in India, and there is debate about the stone referred to as 'Adamas' by Pliny. Australia, Botswana, Russia, and Canada are among the primary sources of gemstone diamond production. The diamond trade in certain areas, especially those affected by civil wars, has been associated with negative consequences. The British crown jewels contain the Cullinan Diamond, the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found. Diamond solitaire engagement rings became popular after the marriage of Maximilian I to Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
  • Other gemstones: Amber, an ancient organic gemstone, is composed of hardened tree resin and can be up to 120 million years old. Amethyst has historically been highly prized and is considered a valuable gemstone. Jade, jasper, ruby, sapphire, and turquoise are also commonly used gemstones in jewellery. Precious and semiprecious stones are used for their aesthetic appeal and symbolic meanings. Gemstones can vary in color, hardness, and rarity, contributing to their value in jewellery.
  • Types of Gemstones: Tanzanite is a treasured gemstone known for its purple hue. Emeralds are precious gemstones treasured for their green to bluish-green color. Jade is closely linked to Asian culture and comes in various colors. Jasper is a chalcedony gemstone with unique patterns and colors. Quartz is a family of gemstones, including rose quartz and smoky quartz.

Historical and Cultural Significance

  • History: Jewelry has a long history and provides insights into ancient cultures. The earliest known jewelry was created by Neanderthals. European early modern humans had crude jewelry made from bone, teeth, and stone. Copper jewelry appeared around seven thousand years ago. Archaeological discoveries shed light on prehistoric gender roles in jewelry making.
  • Ancient Egyptian Jewelry: Jewelry making in Ancient Egypt dates back 3,000-5,000 years ago. Egyptians preferred gold for its luxury, rarity, and workability. Jewelry symbolized political and religious power in the community. Colored glass and semi-precious gems were used alongside gold. Egyptian designs influenced Phoenician and Persian jewelry.
  • Berber Jewelry in North Africa: Traditional jewelry worn by rural women in the Maghreb region. Silver was the primary material used in Berber jewelry. Elaborate brooches, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings were made. The khmissa, a hand-shaped amulet, was believed to protect against the Evil Eye. Jewelry played a significant role in the ethnic identity of Berber people.
  • Ancient Gold Jewelry in Bulgaria: Oldest gold jewelry discovered in Varna Necropolis, Bulgaria. Dating from 4,600-4,200 BC, it is considered the oldest in the world. Other prehistoric Bulgarian finds include golden treasures and beads. Varna gold treasure is the largest and most diverse. Bulgaria has a rich history of gold jewelry craftsmanship.
  • Mesopotamian Jewelry: Jewelry-making was a significant craft in Mesopotamia around 5,000 years ago. Royal Cemetery of Ur yielded numerous gold, silver, and semi-precious stone artifacts. Jewels adorned statues, idols, and both men and women. Jew

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