A Brief History of Jewellery


What is it about jewellery that allures us so we just can’t stay away from it? Read on, and all will become as clear as mud…

Pendants, bracelets, tiaras, chokers, bangles, necklaces, anklets, lockets, nose studs, belly rings, brooches, earrings… Jewellery comes in all shapes and sizes, from hairpins to toe rings, and can be as tacky or terrific as you want it to be.

Deep in our primal consciousness lies the urge to decorate ourselves with things of beauty and value. What is it about jewellery that allures us so we just can’t stay away from it? Read on, and all will become as clear as mud…

Jewellery is about authority and affection

Of course, beautification is the sole reason. But it’s also status. Take the ring of the Pope or the crown of a King – these ornaments speak of power and authority. But jewellery is also worn to convey companionship or the affection between two people. These days, we get things like friendship rings, but more importantly, engagement rings and wedding bands, which represent the love between a couple and their intention to spend the rest of their lives together.

Jewellery was invented 40,000 years ago

If you thought it was only the folks of today who were ‘blinged up’ to the max with glitzy jewellery, you might be surprised to hear our ancestors were even more into their ‘bling’ 40,000 years ago! Jewellery, in its most basic form, has been used since the dawn of man, and was even invented before written language or spoken word!

However, jewellery wasn’t always about diamonds, rubies, or silver and gold. No siree. Jewellery was made from things like bone, animal teeth, shell, wood, berries, feathers and carved stone – materials that probably wouldn’t bode well with today’s high-profile celebs like Cameron Diaz or Nicole Kidman. And it’s highly unlikely you’d see the likes of David Beckham wandering through the shrubs hunting for nuts or berries, then stringing them together by a piece of twine or animal sinew as a gift for Victoria.

Jewellery was made for function rather than fashion

Nowadays, jewellery is normally a way of adorning oneself, but back in the day, it was created for function rather than fashion. Folks used it for storage or to pin clothes together. As time went by, people believed jewellery held magical powers and that it would bring them good luck. Eventually, it became used for decorative and spiritual purposes, as a symbol of status, and as a way to fight off evil or illness. Many people were even buried with it!

Recently, some ancient Mollusk shells were found in a South African cave. They’d been pierced to be strung into beads and are thought to date back to the Middle Stone Age, some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago. The jewellery history is more deep-rooted than you first thought.

So it’s clear jewellery has become part of human culture, and doesn’t just revolve around adornment. It’s also about love, religion, wealth, kudos and authority. The jewellery we wear today is steeped in a long history with the influence of an entire world of cultures. So whenever you hang coloured beads around your neck or pop in a pair of glamorous earrings, imagine your ancestors smiling down upon you!