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History of Jewellery: From sea-shells, stones and bones to shiny diamond and gold

Human civilization has had a vast and varied history, but there have been a few factors that have been common across all people. The use and evolution of jewellery is perhaps one of the most visible and interesting factor across different civilizations around the globe.

While the exact origin of jewellery is yet to be traced, archaeological finds suggest that humans started wearing adornments much before they started clothing themselves. Almost every ancient civilization that has been discovered so far has had some or the other form jewellery  that has been unique to them. As humans have evolved and developed, so have their jewellery pieces as well as methods and styles of wearing their jewellery.

Interesting Trivia: The forms and types of jewellery have evolved and grown over the thousands of years. Yet, some of the earliest forms of jewellery – shells strung on tree bark rope or twine are still around and popular today as fashion and beach jewellery.

While the earliest forms of jewellery were nothing more than stones, sea-shells or animal bones strung together on plant twine, jewellery from then until now, has been a mark of status, stature and wealth in every culture. It is believed that jewellery was first worn nearly 100,000 years ago. Simple necklaces or charms made of sea-shells strung on bark rope or twine have been found buried with the remains of people from long lost civilizations. These finds have also been a proof that man’s love for jewellery started long before he understood the importance of wearing clothes.

As mankind progressed and civilizations moved inland from the sea coasts, minerals and metals were found. This also led to major changes in the kind and manner in which jewellery adorned the bodies of humans. The range of different ornaments being worn also increased. As men learnt how to work with metal, the simple trinkets and charms made of shells were replaced by varied adornments such as rings, necklaces, earrings, nose rings, bracelets, and other jewellery.

The use of jewellery also went through many changes. In some cultures, it became a form of currency, in others, an expression for artistic talents. When religion was found, specific ornaments became a symbol for certain religions.

The Birth of Modern Jewellery

Egypt and India are both credited with giving birth to modern jewellery. However, the art of metal working was first developed in Egypt. It was also the Egyptians that realized the value of gold, silver and other precious stones and started storing them as a form of wealth. Almost every Egyptian pharaoh that was buried had huge treasure hoards buried with him in the pyramid. Similarly, there have been innumerable stories of unspeakable treasures in the form of gold, silver and other ornaments being found from ancient Indian forts, temples, and palaces.

Once diamonds were discovered around 3000 years ago in India, these shiny rocks soon became major adornments for the wealthy. Over the course of time, the art and styles of jewellery kept undergoing changes. More and more types of jewellery items such as headgears in the form of crowns, bands and bracelets for the upper arms, as well as waist bands, and many other articles were introduced. After the Egyptians, it was the Romans and Greeks that took the jewellery tradition forward by bringing in further intricacy into their ornaments. Both these cultures utilized jewellery as an important form of trade and business.

Then of course came the period when the true value of gemstones, including diamonds, was recognized, and precious jewellery took a permanent turn for the better. Studded diamonds and gem stones jewellery pieces in gold, silver and platinum were created, and are very much in demand and use even today.

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