Jewelry also Jewelery and Jewellery, is a personal ornament, such as a necklace, ring, or bracelet, made from gemstones, precious metals or other substances. Jewelery is made out of almost every material known and has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings and many more types of jewelery.
The word jewelry is derived from the word jewel, which was Anglicized from the Old French jouel around the thirteenth century and traces back to the Latin word jocale, meaning plaything. Whether used as currency, protection, or fashion, jewelry is one of the oldest forms of body adornment, the most ancient example found being the 100,000 year old Nassarius shell beads found on Mount Carmel, in Israel.
The most common reasons for wearing jewelry throughout various regions of the world are as currency, display of wealth or status, for strictly functional reasons (clasps, pins, and buckles), as symbolism (to show membership), or for protection (in the form of amulets and magical wards),
Jewelry is universally appreciated for its rarity, beauty, and monetary value. However, in modern times jewelry has been prized as something more than just that of decoration - it has had value as an art form which can be interpreted as an expression of man's inner nature. In this case it is often more valued for design and creativity than for its materialistic purpose. With the rise of Modern art and the development of synthetic materials there has also been an increased market for costume jewelry which is made from less-valuable materials and is mass produced. New variations include wire sculpture (wrap) jewelery which can be made of anything from base metal wire with rock tumbled stone to precious metals and precious gemstones. Other examples of jewelry as art can be seen in museum displays, and paintings. Even the renowned Fabergé eggs created by Peter Carl Fabergé are often more regarded for their place in art and history than for their value as jewelry.
Although during earlier times jewelry was created for practical uses, such as storage of wealth and pinning clothes together, in recent times it has been used almost exclusively for decoration. The first pieces of jewelry were made from natural materials, such as bone, animal teeth, shell, wood, and carved stone. Jewelry was often made for people of high importance to show their status and, in many cases, they were buried with it.
Most cultures have at some point had a practice of keeping large amounts of wealth stored in the form of jewelery. Numerous cultures have provided wedding dowries in the form of jewelery, or create jewelery as a means to store or display coins. Alternatively, jewelery has been used as a currency or trade good; an example being the use of slave beads. Many items of jewelry, such as brooches and buckles originated as purely functional items, but evolved into decorative items as their functional requirement diminished.
Jewelry can also be symbolic of group membership, as in the case of the Christian crucifix or Jewish Star of David, or of status, as in the case of chains of office, or the Western practice of married people wearing a wedding ring.
Wearing of amulets and devotional medals to provide protection or ward off evil is common in some cultures; these may take the form of symbols (such as the ankh), stones, plants, animals, body parts (such as the Khamsa), or glyphs (such as stylized versions of the Throne Verse in Islamic art).
Although artistic display has clearly been a function of jewelry from the very beginning, the other roles described above tended to take primacy. It was only in the late nineteenth century, with the work of such masters as Peter Carl Fabergé and glass designer, René Lalique, that art began to take primacy over function and wealth. This trend has continued into modern times, expanded upon by artists such the jewelry designer and sculptor Robert Lee Morris.
In making jewelry, gemstones, coins, or other precious items are often used, and they are typically set into precious metals. Modern fine jewelry usually includes gold, white gold, platinum, palladium, or silver. Most American and European gold jewelry is made of an alloy of gold, the purity of which is stated in karats.Other commonly used materials include glass, such as fused-glass or enamel; wood, often carved or turned; shells and other natural animal substances such as bone and ivory; natural clay; polymer clay; and even plastics.
Beads are frequently used in jewelry. These may be made of glass, gemstones, metal, wood, shells, clay and polymer clay. Beaded jewelry commonly encompasses necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and belts. Beads may be large or small - the smallest type of beads used are known as seed beads. These are the beads used for the "woven" style of beaded jewelry. Another use for seed beads is an embroidery technique where seed beads are sewn onto fabric backings to create broad collar neck pieces and beaded bracelets. Bead embroidery, a popular type of handiwork during the Victorian era is enjoying a renaissance in modern jewelry making.
Advanced glass and glass beadmaking techniques by Murano and Venetian glass masters developed crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (goldstone), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk-glass (lattimo) and imitation gemstones made of glass. As early as the thirteenth century, Murano glass and Murano beads were popular.
Silversmith, goldsmith, and Lapidary methods include forging, casting, soldering or welding, cutting, carving, and "cold-joining" (using adhesives, staples, and rivets to assemble parts).American gold jewelery must be of at least 10K purity (41.7 percent pure gold), (though in England the number is 9K (37.5 percent pure gold) and is typically found up to 18K (75 percent pure gold). Higher purity levels are less common with alloys at 22 K (91.6 percent pure gold), and 24 K (99.9 percent pure gold) being considered too soft for jewelery use in America and Europe. These high purity alloys, however, are widely used across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Platinum alloys range from 900 (90 percent pure) to 950 (95.0 percent pure).
For platinum, gold, and silver jewelery there are many different techniques to create different finishes. The most common however are: high-polish, satin/matte, brushed, and hammered. High-polished jewelery is by far the most common and gives the metal the highly-reflective and shiny look. Satin, or matte finish reduces the shine and reflection of the jewelery and is commonly used to accentuate gemstones such as diamonds. Brushed finishes give the jewelery a textured look, and are created by brushing a material (similar to sandpaper) against the metal, leaving 'brush strokes'. Hammered finishes are typically created by using a soft, rounded hammer and hammering the jewelery to give it a wavy texture.
Diamonds, long considered the most prized of gemstones, were first mined in India. The British crown jewels contain the Cullinan Diamond, part of the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found (1905), at 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g). Now popular in engagement rings, this usage dates back to the marriage of Maximilian I to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The Hope Diamond, a large (45.52 carat), deep blue diamond, is currently housed in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Although diamonds are considered the most prized of all gemstones, many other precious stones are used for jewelery. Some gems, for example, amethyst, have become less valued as methods of extracting and importing them have progressed. Some man-made gems can serve in place of natural gems, an example is the cubic zirconia, often used in place of the diamond in jewelry.
The history of jewelry is a long one, with many different uses among different cultures. It has endured for thousands of years and has provided various insights into how ancient cultures lived.
The first signs of jewelry came from the Cro-Magnons, ancestors of Homo sapiens, around 40,000 years ago. The Cro-Magnons originally migrated from the Middle East to settle in Europe and replace the Neanderthals as the dominant species. The jewelry pieces they made were crude necklaces and bracelets of bone, teeth and stone hung on pieces of string or animal sinew, or pieces of carved bone used to secure clothing together. In some cases, jewelry had shell or mother-of-pearl pieces. In southern Russia, carved bracelets made of mammoth tusk have been found. Most commonly, these have been found as grave-goods. Around 7,000 years ago, the first sign of copper jewelry was seen.
Although jewelry work was abundantly diverse in earlier times, especially among the barbarian tribes such as the Celts, when the Romans conquered most of Europe, jewelry usage was transformed as smaller factions developed the Roman designs. The most common artifact of early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing together. The Romans used a diverse range of materials for their jewelry from their extensive resources across the continent. Although they used gold, they sometimes used bronze or bone and in earlier times, glass beads and pearl. As early as 2,000 years ago, they imported Sri Lankan sapphires and Indian diamonds and used emeralds and amber in their jewelry. In Roman-ruled England, fossilized wood called jet from Northern England was often carved into pieces of jewelry. The early Italians worked in crude gold and created clasps, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. They also produced larger pendants which could be filled with perfume.
Like the Greeks, often the purpose of Roman jewelry was to ward off the Evil Eye given by other people. Although women wore a vast array of jewelry, men often they only wore a finger ring. Although they were expected to wear at least one ring, some Roman men wore a ring on every finger, while others wore none. Roman men and women wore signet rings that featured a carved stone that was used with wax to seal documents, an act that continued into medieval times when kings and noblemen used the same method. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the jewelry designs were absorbed by neighboring countries and tribes.
Post-Roman Europe continued to develop jewelry making skills; the Celts and Merovingians in particular are noted for their jewelry, which in terms of quality matched or exceeded that of Byzantium. Clothing fasteners, amulets, and to a lesser extent signet rings are the most common artifacts known to us; a particularly striking Celtic example is the Tara Brooch. The Torc was common throughout Europe as a symbol of status and power. By the eighth century, jeweled weaponry was common for men, while other jewelry (with the exception of signet rings) seemed to become the domain of women. Grave goods found in a sixth-seventh century burial near Chalon-sur-Saône are illustrative; a young girl was buried with: two silver fibulae, a necklace (with coins), bracelet, gold earrings, a pair of hair-pins, comb, and a buckle. The Celts specialized in continuous patterns and designs; while Merovingian designs are best known for stylized animal figures. They were not the only groups known for high quality work; the Visigoth and the numerous decorative objects found at the Anglo-Saxon Ship burial at Sutton Hoo Suffolk, England, are particularly well-known examples. On the continent, cloisonné and garnet were perhaps the quintessential method and gemstone of the period.
The Eastern successor of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, continued many of the methods of the Romans, though religious themes came to predominate. Unlike the Romans, the Franks, and the Celts, however; Byzantium used light-weight gold leaf rather than solid gold, and more emphasis was placed on stones and gems. As in the West, Byzantine jewelry was worn by wealthier females, with male jewelry apparently restricted to signet rings. Like other contemporary cultures, jewelry was commonly buried with its owner.
The Renaissance and exploration both had significant impacts on the development of jewelry in Europe. By the seventeenth century, increasing exploration and trade lead to increased availability of a wide variety of gemstones as well as exposure to the art of other cultures. Whereas prior to this the working of gold and precious metal had been at the forefront of jewelry, this period saw increasing dominance of gemstones and their settings. A fascinating example of this is the Cheapside Hoard, the stock of a jeweler hidden in London, England during the Commonwealth period and not found again until 1912. It contained Colombian emerald, topaz, amazonite from Brazil, spinel, iolite, and chrysoberyl from Sri Lanka, ruby from India, Afghani lapis lazuli, Persian turquoise, Red Sea peridot, as well as Bohemian and Hungarian opal, garnet, and amethyst. Large stones were frequently set in box-bezels on enameled rings. Notable among merchants of the period was Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who in the 1660s brought the precursor stone of the Hope Diamond to France.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned as Emperor of the French in 1804, he revived the style and grandeur of jewelry and fashion in France. Under Napoleon’s rule, jewelers introduced parures, suites of matching jewelry, such as a diamond tiara, diamond earrings, diamond rings, a diamond brooch and a diamond necklace. Both of Napoleon’s wives had beautiful sets such as these and wore them regularly. Another fashion trend resurrected by Napoleon was the cameo. Soon after his cameo-decorated crown was seen, cameos were highly sought after. The period also saw the early stages of costume jewelry, with fish scale covered glass beads in place of pearls or conch shell cameos instead of stone cameos. New terms were coined to differentiate the arts: jewelers who worked in cheaper materials were called bijoutiers, while jewelers who worked with expensive materials were called joailliers; a practice that continues to this day.
Starting in the late eighteenth century, Romanticism had a profound impact on the development of western jewelry. Perhaps the most significant influences were the public’s fascination with the treasures being discovered through the birth of modern archaeology, and the fascination with Medieval and Renaissance art. Changing social conditions and the onset of the industrial revolution also led to growth of a middle class that not only wanted, but could afford jewelry. As a result, the use of industrial processes, cheaper alloys, and stone substitutes, lead to the development of "paste" or costume jewelry. Distinguished goldsmiths continued to flourish, however, as wealthier patrons sought to ensure that what they wore still stood apart from the jewelry of the masses, not only through use of precious metals and stones but also though superior artistic and technical work; one such artist was the French goldsmith Françoise Désire Fromment Meurice. A category unique to this period and quite appropriate to the philosophy of romanticism was mourning jewelry. It originated in England, where Queen Victoria was often seen wearing black jet jewelry for many years after the death of Prince Albert; it allowed the wearer to continue wearing jewelry while expressing a state of mourning at the death of a loved one.
In the United States, this period saw the founding in 1837 of Tiffany & Co. by Charles Lewis Tiffany. Tiffany's put the United States on the world map in terms of jewelry, and gained fame by creating dazzling commissions for people such as the wife of Abraham Lincoln; later it would gain popular notoriety as the setting of the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. In France, Pierre Cartier founded Cartier SA in 1847, while 1884 saw the founding of Bulgari in Italy. The modern production studio had been born; a step away from the former dominance of individual craftsmen and patronage.
This period also saw the first major collaboration between East and West; collaboration in Pforzheim between German and Japanese artists lead to Shakudo plaques set into Filigree frames being created by the Stoeffler firm in 1885). Perhaps the pinnacle – and an appropriate transition to the following period – were the masterful creations of the Russian artist Peter Carl Fabergé, working for the Imperial Russian court, whose Fabergé eggs and jewelry pieces are still regarded as the epitome of the goldsmith’s art.
In the 1890s, jewelers began to explore the potentials of the growing Art Nouveau style. Very closely related were the German Jugendstil, British (and to some extent American) Arts and Crafts Movement. René Lalique, working for the Paris shop of Samuel Bing, was recognized by contemporaries as a leading figure in this trend. The Darmstadt Artists' Colony and Wiener Werkstaette provided perhaps the most significant German input towards this trend, while in Denmark Georg Jensen, though best known for his Silverware, also contributed significant pieces. In England, Liberty & Co and the British arts and crafts movement of Charles Robert Ashbee contributed slightly more linear but still characteristic designs. The new style changed the focus of the jeweler's art from the setting of stones to the artistic design of the piece itself; Lalique's famous dragonfly design is one of the best examples of this. Enamels played a large role in the technique, while sinuous organic lines are the most recognizable design feature. The end of World War I once again changed public attitudes when a more sober style began to take precedence.
Growing political tensions, the after-effects of the war, and a general reaction against the perceived decadence of the turn of the century (fin de siecle) led to simpler forms, combined with more effective manufacturing for the mass production of high-quality jewelry. Covering the period of the 1920s and 1930s, the style has become popularly known as Art Deco. Walter Gropius and the German Bauhaus movement, with their philosophy of "no barriers between artists and craftsmen" led to some interesting and stylistically simplified forms. Modern materials were also introduced: plastics and aluminum were first used in jewelry, and of note are the chromed pendants of Russian-born Bauhaus master Naum Slutzky. Technical mastery became as valued as the material itself; in the west, this period saw the reinvention of granulation by the German Elizabeth Treskow (although development of the re-invention has continued into the 1990s).
Modern jewelry has never been as diverse as it is in the present day. The modern jewelry movement began in the late 1940s at the end of World War II with a renewed interest in artistic and leisurely pursuits. The movement is most noted with works by Georg Jensen and other jewelry designers who advanced the concept of "wearable art." The advent of new materials, such as plastics, Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and different coloring techniques, has led to increased variety in styles. Other advances, such as the development of improved pearl harvesting by people such as Kokichi Mikimoto and the development of improved quality artificial gemstones such as moissanite (a diamond simulant), has placed jewelry within the economic grasp of a much larger segment of the population. The "jewelry as art" movement, spearheaded by artisans such as Robert Lee Morris and continued by designers such as Anoush Waddington in Great Britain, has kept jewelry on the leading edge of artistic design. Influence from other cultural forms is also evident; one example of this is bling-bling style jewelry, popularized by hip hop and rap artists in the early twenty-first century. With the world's designs more accessible to jewelers, designers have blended aspects from many different cultures and from many different time periods.
The late twentieth century saw the blending of European design with oriental techniques such as Mokume-gane. The following are noted as the primary innovations in the decades around the year 2000: "Mokume-gane, hydraulic die forming, anti-clastic raising, fold-forming, reactive metal anodizing, shell forms, PMC, photoetching, and CAD/CAM."
Artisan jewelry continues to grow as both a hobby and a profession. With more than seventeen U.S. periodicals about beading alone, resources, accessibility and a low initial cost continues to expand production of hand-made adornments. Popular because of its uniqueness, artisan jewelry can be found in just about any price range. Some fine examples of artisan jewelry can be seen at The Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Throughout history and into present day jewelery has been used to denote status. In ancient Rome, for instance, only certain ranks could wear rings. Later, sumptuary laws dictated who could wear what type of jewelery; again based on rank. Cultural dictates have also played a significant role; for example, the wearing of earrings by Western men was considered "effeminate" in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More recently, the display of body jewelery, such as piercings, has become a mark of acceptance or seen as a badge of courage within some groups, but is completely rejected in others. Likewise, the hip-hop culture has popularized the slang term bling, which refers to the ostentatious display of jewelery by men or women.
In the early twentieth century the jewelery industry launched a campaign to popularize wedding rings for men—which caught on—as well as engagement rings for men - which did not. By the mid 1940s, 85 percent of weddings in the U.S. featured a double-ring ceremony, up from 15 percent in the 1920s. Religion has also played a role: Islam, for instance, considers the wearing of gold by men as a social taboo, and many religions have edicts against excessive display. 
It can be difficult to determine where jewelry leaves off and body modification takes over, because they are different sub-categories of body art. For the most part, jewelry used in body modification is plain; the use of simple silver studs, rings and earrings predominates. In fact, common jewelry pieces such as earrings, are themselves a form of body modification, as they are accommodated by creating a small hole pierced in the human earlobe.
Padaung women in Myanmar place large golden rings around their necks. From as early as five years of age, girls are introduced to their first neck ring. Over the years, more rings are added. In addition to the 20-plus pounds of rings on her neck, a woman will also wear just as many rings on her calves too. Some necks modified like this can reach a length of ten to fifteen inches. This practice has obvious health ramifications, however, and has in recent years declined from use as a cultural norm to mere tourist curiosity. Tribes related to the Paduang, as well as other cultures throughout the world, use jewelry to stretch their earlobes, or enlarge ear piercings. In the Americas, labrets have been worn since before first contact by Innu and First Nations peoples of the northwest coast. Lip plates are worn by the African Mursi and Sara people, as well as some South American peoples.
In the late twentieth century, the influence of modern primitivism led to many of these practices being incorporated into western subcultures. Many of these practices rely on a combination of body modification and decorative objects; thus keeping the distinction between these two types of decoration blurred. As with other forms of jewelry, the crossing of cultural boundaries is one of the more significant features of the artform in the early twenty-first century.
In many cultures, jewelry is used as a temporary body modifier, with in some cases, hooks or even objects as large as bike bars being placed into the recipient's skin. Although this procedure is often carried out by tribal or semi-tribal groups, often acting under a trance during religious ceremonies, this practice has seeped into western culture. Many extreme-jewelry shops now cater to people wanting large hooks or spikes set into their skin. Most often, these hooks are used in conjunction with pulleys to hoist the recipient into the air. This practice is said to give an erotic feeling to the person and some couples have even performed their marriage ceremony whist being suspended by hooks.
All links retrieved May 5, 2018.
New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:
The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia: