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Jewelry is often associated with treasure—gold, gemstones, valuable materials—and is considered to be objects of intrinsic beauty, though the early beginnings were very different. In prehistoric times, long before humans worked metals, jewelry was made of non-precious materials. Burials of 30,000 b.c.e. in Europe show that at the time people used local materials available to them, such as shells and pebbles, and, in hunting societies, also animal teeth and claws, to make jewelry. Existing examples reveal that pieces were engraved with intricate geometric patterns and, later, zoomorphic images. Thus, jewelry was an early form of decorative art. The study of some primitive cultures gives evidence that organic materials, which have since disintegrated, would have also undoubtedly been utilized in the past. It was not until a later stage of human development that people chose precious and possibly scarce materials from far-away for jewelry.

Jewelry is as old as humankind. Whether coming from a primitive culture or modern civilization of the West or East, and regardless of material and style, humans of both genders and all age groups have the need for self-adornment. The significance of jewelry transcends time limits and geographic boundaries; similarities in the use of jewelry for personal adornment become apparent in the study of various cultures.

In prehistoric times, as well as in contemporary cultures, jewelry is not only ornamentation for the body, but also a means of communication. Hierarchy, prestige, and power are expressed through jewelry, which can affirm the status of an individual in society. What initially appears to be an ornament can mark allegiance to a society or individual. Men and women can impress each other through jewelry. Yet possibly the most powerful qualities attributed to jewelry are the amuletic and talismanic functions of warding off evil or giving luck. These properties go back to the origins of jewelry and continue well into the nineteenth century. Even in contemporary cultures people carry good-luck charms. Jewelry also played an important role in protecting against the dangers of life, and was given in burials for the afterlife of the deceased. In addition, jewelry was also worn as a sign of personal affection and fidelity, and marked special occasions in life, such as coming of age, association to a religion through communion or confirmation, nubility, marital status, and motherhood. Jewels in their aesthetic expression are not only signs of wealth and taste, but also reflect—and communicate—the personal character and temperament of the wearer.

Throughout its history until about the mid-twentieth century, when jewelry experienced a radical change, it had been dependent on the fashions of the day, with the exception of finger rings. Varying necklines, sleeve lengths, hemlines, and fabrics determined the type of jewelry worn, while the choice of materials and symbolism determined its function and usage. The creativity of the goldsmith is boundless, as are the types and styles of wearable objects for the body.

If not passed on as a family heirloom or given for the person's afterlife and found in excavations of burials, many types of jewels that are known to have existed have not survived. Jewelry made of precious materials, regardless of century or culture, have been destined to be dismantled, the gemstones reused and the metals such as silver and gold melted down for bullion, either to become a financial resource or to be remodelled in a new fashion. Jewels with enamel have withstood this destiny, as it was too complicated and costly to remove the enamel, whereas golden chains with a considerable weight in metal were the first to be melted down. Few images of jewelry types and how they were worn survive from antiquity. Mummy masks and wall paintings of the ancient Egyptian era, ancient Greek statues of gods and vase painting, Etruscan tomb sculpture, Roman tombstones, and the informative mummy portraits of Fayum from the Roman period all give valuable evidence. In the Middle Ages, tomb effigies and even religious paintings of the Virgin Mary and saints illustrate jewelry of the time. More importantly, the development of portrait painting and the depiction of the individual from the fifteenth century onwards (supplemented after the mid-ninetenth century by photography) enables a comprehensive study of jewelry, and makes possible the reconstruction of many types that are no longer in existence.

In prehistoric times people chose materials from their immediate environment. A statuette dating back to 20,000 b.c.e., the so-called "Venus of Willendorf," shows a fertility statue wearing a bracelet, and burials give evidence of the use of necklaces made of snails and shells—both fertility symbols and a sign of motherhood. Men wore animal teeth and claws to signify their strength over the animal kingdom and their ability to hunt and, in turn, feed and protect their families. Such objects would possibly have marked their position within the community. In its early stages, jewelry was predominantly amuletic—its function was to guard its wearers in a life of hardships.

Until recently, and even to a limited extent in the early 2000s, among traditional peoples who managed to resist the impact of Western religion and culture, it is possible to discern elements of these more traditional attitudes toward personal adornment. Tattoos, makeup, and jewelry were in many cases, in such societies, not simply matters of personal adornment, but also conveyed specific messages about social and gender roles; they were used to ward off disease and other evils, and sometimes also to work magic against opponents; and as acts and signs of prayer and devotion to divinities. A widespread, if attenuated, example of the magical power of jewelry can be found throughout the Middle East and in parts of Africa, where the wearing of blue glass beads as a means of warding off the "evil eye" is very common.

In some societies, Western-style jewelry has still not completely effaced the wearing of more traditional forms of jewelry. The use of natural materials in jewelry in ways that probably preserve a very long continuous tradition of craftsmanship can be found, for example, among the highland peoples of New Guinea, where shell, bird-of-paradise feathers, boar tusks, and other animal products are commonly employed in personal adornment. Until the second half of the twentieth century these elements of jewelry were ubiquitous in the absence of alternative materials (for example, metal objects); in the early twenty-first century their continued use represents a choice among a wide range of possibilities.

In other contemporary non-Western societies, jewelry can still be seen as fulfilling another of its ancient functions, that is, it acts as a repository of wealth while also retaining its amuletic properties. Among pastoral nomadic peoples in the steppelands of Asia, throughout the Middle East, and in North Africa, women commonly wear very heavy silver jewelry, including headdress ornaments, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, belts, and frontlets, sometimes including actual silver coins (of many eras and many countries) worked into the jewelry. These coins also had an amuletic function, because their jingling sound was believed to ward off evil. Such jewelry not only displays the status of the family to which the woman belongs, but also acts as a highly portable form of wealth that can be converted to monetary use at any time it is needed. Likewise, in cities and agricultural regions of the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia, gold jewelry acts as a repository of wealth as well as being beautiful and prestigious. In many Indian communities, for example, the conspicuous wearing of gold jewelry by a bride is an essential element of a wedding ceremony.

Jewelry found in western Asia in the cradle of civilization from about 5000 to 2500 b.c.e. illustrates a society with a taste for refined and decorative jewelry, as well as a trade network in supplying rare materials for their goldsmiths and differing local traditions. The earliest examples were necklaces made of obsidian from Turkey and cowrie shells with red stain from the nearby coastal areas. The most splendid jewels found in the area were from the royal graves of the Sumerian city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, where the king and queen lay buried accompanied by their soldiers and attendants. Men wore beads to keep their headdress in place, whereas women's jewelry was more elaborate with dress pins, headdresses, and necklaces made of embossed and repouseé gold, probably from the areas currently known as Iran and Turkey. The motifs were stylized flowers and foliage, interspersed with beads in varying geometric shapes cut from lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan and carnelian from India. The designs are intricate with signs of inlay, filigree, and the use of alternating colors.

Like the Sumerians, the ancient Egyptians from 3100 b.c.e. till the Graeco-Roman period in the first century b.c.e. showed a preference for lapis lazuli and carnelian, and typically, in Egyptian jewelry, turquoise is added to this combination. The resources in the area were vast and the choice of materials for the Egyptian jewelry-maker amazing as they also included a variety of organic materials. Gold and many other metals were found in the surrounding areas as were agates, amethysts, garnets, jaspers, malachite, and steatite, to name but a few. Glazed faience, and glass imitations in substitution, were applied to achieve colorful compositions, forming a contrast to the rather plain clothing the Egyptians wore, which was essentially made of white linen. Pectorals and necklaces were the most popular of jewelry types, but bracelets and head ornaments of all sorts are characteristic for the culture. The motifs ranged from the animal world (including fish and lions), the magical scarab, sphinxes, the udjat eye, and deities, either signifying rank or serving an amuletic purpose. Other designs are of a more decorative nature with vivid color combinations achieved through varied bead shapes and stones. Pharaohs, princesses, peasants, and artisans alike wore jewelry in life and in death, many surviving types were in fact funerary objects. The jewelry-making techniques were most sophisticated, such as inlaying in cloisons and granulation, and we even have pictorial records of craftsmen from ancient Egypt demonstrating technical processes in their workshops.

In the eastern Mediterranean of about 2500 b.c.e. there was the Minoan culture in Crete, which was taken over by the Mycenaeans in about 1450 b.c.e. The jewelry of that period and area is characterized by an abundance of gold; their styles were greatly influenced by the jewelry of the Babylonians and Egyptians. The Phoenicians were traders who colonized the eastern and western Mediterranean from Syria to Spain, and their choice of jewelry was influenced by the ancient Egyptians. Near Eastern designs also had influence on the later Greeks, as seen in the Orientalizing style of the Archaic period (700–480 b.c.e.), and in Etruscan jewelry (seventh to fifth centuries b.c.e.). The Etruscans were known for their technical perfection in goldsmithing and most of all for their outstanding technique of granulation with almost pulverized granules of gold. By the seventh century b.c.e., however, forms and decorative elements in jewelry were dominated by Greek designs and symbols.

Greek goldsmiths of the classical to Hellenistic periods were renowned for their technical skills and fine craftsmanship mainly in gold—a reputation that would be retained in future centuries. Greece was not rich in gold resources until its empire was extended as far as Persia in the fourth century b.c.e. In the classical period, from the Crimea to as far west as Sicily, Greek men wore more jewelry in some areas than others. In certain places it was even considered to be effeminate. Jewelry were gifts presented at birth, birthdays, and weddings, or even as votive offerings to cult statues. Rings and hair wreaths adorned men, both men and women wore rings, and the main forms of adornment for women were necklaces, earrings, bracelets on their upper arms or thighs, and diadems or golden nets in their hair. Fibulae were widespread and not only a decorative feature, but functional in as much as they held the drapery of the chiton on the shoulder. As the iconography of Greek jewelry confirms, it was intended for women, mainly to attract the opposite sex. This may explain the numerous images of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, in gold, as three-dimensional figures suspended from necklaces or earrings, possibly given at the birth of a child. Eros, symbolic of desire, was equally popular and given as a token of love. Deities such as Athena or Dionysus or other figures from mythology referred to religious beliefs and the power of the deities during life. Bracelets worn in pairs on the upper arm or rings with elaborately coiling snakes functioned as amulets, calling on the sacred creatures of the underworld to protect against evil. Antelopes and goats would attract the opposite sex, whereas lions were worn as emblems of fertility and royal power. These decorative motifs were all rendered in a naturalistic manner in gold sheet metal with intricate filigree wires and granulation, as were the interspersed motifs from nature such as seeds, nuts, and different shapes of foliage. Enamels, garnets, emeralds, and glass pastes became fashionable during the Hellenistic period as beads or inlay to add color to the previously predominantly gold jewelry.

With the loss of Greek independence and the victory of the Romans over Macedonia in 168 b.c.e., Rome became a strong military and political power. The wealth of the new empire attracted many Greek craftsmen to come to the capital, where they were most successful. Essentially the Romans followed Greek styles until about the first century b.c.e., when the aesthetics of their jewelry began to change. The jewelry became unpretentious, the gold techniques less elaborate, the designs simplified, and more emphasis was laid on the choice of stones and the use of color—a new taste had developed, it was the beauty of the material to which one aspired. Regional differences are evident: jet was fashionable in Britain, where it was found in Whitby, and amber from the Baltic Sea was cut in Aquileia in Roman Italy. Emeralds from the newly discovered mines in Egypt—what was then recently acquired Roman territory—became fashionable and their abundance led to the natural hexagonal crystal

shapes being drilled, strung on thread, or connected with simple gold links to be worn as necklaces. Garnets were imported from the Middle East, and sapphires from Sri Lanka. Pearls were considered to be an expression of luxury and indulgence. Apart from the Romans showing a preference for gemstones, each has a special significance, described in the Historia naturalis by Pliny the Elder (23–79 b.c.e.). Specific gemstones were chosen for certain images, such as Bacchus on amethyst as a safeguard against drunkenness; the Sun god Sol is depicted on heliotrope; and Demeter, goddess of crops, on green jasper to symbolize growth and abundance.

Trade was flourishing in the vast empire with farreaching provinces, and jewelry was being produced in Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. Roman goldsmiths had guilds and rules existed about who could wear certain types of jewelry, but these soon diminished. During the Republic gold jewelry was reserved for the aristocracy, but by the first century c.e. its significance soon depreciated and by the second century gold was worn by those who could afford it. With adornment becoming socially acceptable for a wider public, even slaves were permitted to wear jewelry made of iron—it was mass produced, and thus plenty has survived from the Roman period. With a thriving economy by the second century, Roman jewelry became more elaborate, even heavy and gaudy—a sign of wealth and status—yet at the same time the iconography suggests the jewelry was full of symbolism and personal messages for the wearer. Deities became symbols of wealth and good fortune, the gorgon Medusa destroyed evil powers, the phallus was a popular good luck charm, and cupids with Venus or cupids riding on dolphins tokens of love. Images of clasped right hands or husband and wife facing each other alluded to the marriage

vows, and Latin inscriptions served as charms to protect life. Other types of jewelry such as the brooch were more decorative in character and, in fact, served a functional purpose of holding the drapery together.

By the fourth century the Roman Empire was in decline. With Christianity having been recognized by Constantine the Great, the iconography found in jewelry was relevant to the new religion, but often coded to protect the owner from being persecuted. The early Christians appear to have worn finger rings as a sign of their allegiance, and engraved on the bezels are symbols and ciphers of Christ the Saviour. In the fourth century the empire transferred to East Byzantium with its capital in Constantinople, which continued as an ecclesiastical and successful trading power until 1453 when the city fell to the Ottoman Turks. Greek goldsmiths were active there, and with their influence, despite the style being a continuation of late Roman jewelry with a love for gemstones and color, there was a greater emphasis on intricate gold-work with enamel or niello decoration. Except for bronze gilt or gold rings, the laws were strict about who could wear jewelry. Emeralds, pearls, and sapphires were reserved for the emperor, and all the splendor of their richly embroidered and bejeweled fabrics is documented in the mosaics of the churches in Ravenna, northern Italy, as are the elaborate necklaces, earrings, and brooches. Nevertheless, the iconography was religious and the cult of saints is confirmed by the use of pectoral crosses with their images and relic inserts.

Mutual artistic influence between the Byzantine world and the expanding world of Islam is evident from the mid-seventh century onward. Byzantine and Islamic influence can also be seen in the jewelry of the Germanic tribes that occupied much of Europe after the fall of the western Roman Empire. Germanic tribesmen acquired gold from Byzantium. The jewelry of these nomadic tribes tended to be restricted to basic types and was more functional in its application, but nonetheless the jewels were a statement of status. Men wore belts, buckles, and sword harnesses; both men and women needed clasps for their dress, and these are found in the form of disc brooches or fibulae. The tribes show distinctive styles in their goldsmiths' work, but even they had many common elements, such as sophistication in the applied goldsmithing techniques, the lavish engraving, the use of garnet inlays, and the intricacy of patterns, including stylized animal themes.

During the Middle Ages cities were enlarging, the merchant classes were gaining prominence and becoming a new economic force, and with the church losing power, society became more worldly. With the rise of the middle classes and increase in wealth, sumptuary laws became necessary to restrict who was allowed to wear jewelry. Fashions determined the types of jewelry worn: with the sleeves becoming wider and more lavish, bracelets were unnecessary; high collars did not allow for earrings; cape-like coats required brooches; and the high waistlines of women's dresses made fancy belts necessary. Rings with signets or love messages were very popular.

By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries an international style in jewelry had evolved. Shapes of stone settings, designs, and decorations showed astonishing similarities in England, France, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. This phenomenon presumably can be explained by the trade routes and import of gemstones from the Near and Far East. Paris was trend-setting in the manufacturing of jewelry, whereas the ports of Venice and Genoa were influential in trade. The inscriptions on jewelry were mostly in Latin or French, the international language of the courts. The pointed arches and tracery of Gothic architecture, naturalistic rendering of foliage in sculpture, and the colors of stained glass were mirrored in the jewelry designs of the time. Devotional and secular iconography were often interlocked, gemstones in cabochon were amuletic or reflected divinity, and the images of saints had protective and healing powers, as did the emerging use of the bones of saints in reliquary pendants. Flowers and animals decorate medieval jewels as a symbol of faith, and classical gems were given Christian interpretations. Medieval jewelry was largely heraldic, religious, or expressive of courtly love.

In Europe the transition to the Renaissance period differed according to country, beginning with Italy in the fifteenth century and spreading throughout Europe by the sixteenth century. Italy, with its discoveries of ancient monuments and sculpture, was all-important in the rebirth of the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, whereas in northern Europe Gothic styles continued much longer. With an explosion of economic trade, in particular wool and banking, many wealthy families in Italy became patrons of the arts. Goldsmiths became known as individuals by name. In the fifteenth century, Florence and the Burgundian Courts established trends in dress and jewelry; by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Spain became a major European power with colonies all over the world, leading to a dominant Spanish style in dress and jewelry. Religious wars raged in Europe and, often due to the circumstances, artisans traveled from one country to another—at the same time following the wealth of emerging courts in Europe. Jewelry again developed into an international style with less regional distinctions. Another factor that led to this phenomenon was the newly discovered art of printing. Artists made ornamental drawings that were printed and distributed throughout Europe, and even as far as the Spanish colonies, where jewelry was made in the style of the day for trade with Europe.

Men, in fact, showed more adornment than women. However, the function of jewels was display, as the abundance of portraits of that period document. The merchant classes were following fashions of the aristocracy, the materials used, though, were usually less precious. The heavy and dark velvets or brocades with gold embroidery were covered with jewelry, either sewn on the fabric as ornaments, or worn on the body. Pendants were fashionable for all genders, and the images were either religious or from classical mythology; exotic birds, flowers, or marine themes were also displayed as symbols of status and new wealth. Gemstones were in open settings when on the body, so that the amuletic qualities would be more effective. Heavy gold chains worn by both men and women on the breast or across the shoulder and cascading in multiple strands were undoubtedly a sign of social ranking. Men wore hat jewels, belts with sword harnesses, and jeweled buttons. The custom of wearing bracelets in pairs was revived from antiquity, as was the fashion for earrings. Decorative chains encompassed ladies' waists, often from which pomanders or pendants were suspended. Dress studs ornamented the already elaborate fabrics. To add to the display of color, Renaissance jewels often had polychrome enamels in combination with gemstones, such as rubies from Burma, emeralds from the New World, pearls off the coast of Venezuela, and diamonds from India. In contrast to the

cabochon cuts of the Middle Ages, during the Renaissance table cuts were common. With the renewal of classical traditions the art of cameo cutting was revived and northern Italy was an important source for this form of lapidary arts.

In the second half of the seventeenth century while Spain was in decline, France became the most important economic and cultural center. All luxury industries flourished in the France of Louis XIV. French silks from Lyon and dress fashions were exported and, with these, styles for jewelry. It was also a period when women were playing an increasingly significant role in society. For their dress, heavyweight brocades had been replaced by light silks in various pastel shades. The splendor and bright colors of the fabrics required a decrease of color in jewelry. Portraits of the period illustrate a passion for pearls, strung as necklaces or worn as pearl drops suspended from earrings, or from brooches worn on the breast, sleeve, or in the hair. Pearls were very valuable, and while pearls often were ostententiously displayed, it is likely

that most of them were fake; fake pearls are known to have been produced since about 1400. Diamonds were favored. French-style enamelled settings and decorations were equally subdued in their color scheme: opaque white enamel was outlined with black, and pale pink or turquoise enamel was applied as highlights of the decoration. A source for the naturalistic floral designs of enamel decorations was the study of botany, a new science. Jewelry had the tendency of being less figural and more decorative with bows and clusters of gemstones. However, the Thirty Years War that ravaged Europe between 1618 and 1648, as well as the plague, resulted in a new type of jewelry, memento mori. The wearer was reminded of his or her transience and mortality, and skull's heads and skeletons were featured in all types of jewelry, which lived on in mourning jewelry of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with funerary ornaments and weeping maidens as motifs.

Designs in jewelry were in general more playful by the eighteenth century and the grand elegant court style of Louis XV of France was to influence the whole of Europe, even as far as Russia. The compositions of the jewelry were more naturalistic, and thus asymmetrical; flower sprays and baskets were gem-studded, as were feathers, ribbons, and bows. Eighteenth-century jewelry moved from monochrome to polychrome; metal foils placed under the gemstones enhanced their color. Indian diamond mines had been exhausted, but with new mines found by the Portuguese in Brazil the fashion continued, and by 1720 the rose-cut diamond had been developed, allowing more light reflections. Other fashionable stones were agates, mossagate, and marcasite. Pearl strands with ornate clasps were worn like chokers; large stomachers were attached to the narrow bodices, and aigrettes to the hair; and shoe buckles were also bejewelled. With the Industrial Revolution in its beginnings towards the end of the eighteenth century, new materials for jewelry had been discovered, including cut steel. This hard metal was facetted to look like diamonds. The industrialist, Josiah Wedgewood (1730–1795), the founder of Wedgewood pottery, designed porcelain cameos to be inserted into jewelry. A special formula for making glass paste was named after Georges Frédéric Strass (1701–1773). After Marie Antoinette of France wore strass at court, it became socially acceptable to wear paste jewelry, which would have shimmered splendidly in candlelight.

In 1789 the French Revolution had dramatic effects not only in the politics and life of France, but also on Europe as a whole. Outside France the market was flooded by the jewels and gemstones of those who managed to escape, and prices fell radically. In France anybody owning jewels of aristocratic origin faced death by guillotine; only jewelry made of base metals was permitted, and this jewelry had political and patriotic inscriptions or symbols.

Luxury was revived in France with Napoleon when he proclaimed his empire in 1804. His wife Josephine was a trend-setter and wore Greek fashion, which was reflected in jewelry. Cameos, the Greek key pattern, laurel wreaths, and filigree work were reminiscent of antiquity. However the Napoleonic Wars led to quite a different and innovative type of jewelry known as Berlin iron, first developed when ladies gave their golden jewelry to finance the wars and received iron jewelry in return. The fashion spread from Germany to Austria and France; the style of this jewelry was antique or Gothic, typical of the nineteenth century with its eclectic styles.

The effects of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the middle class became particularly evident in Britain. The middle class imitated the jewelry of the aristocracy, but instead of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, gemstones such as amethyst, chrysoprase, tourmaline, turquoise, and many other colourful substitutes were applied. Seed pearls were labour intensive, but as an inexpensive material replaced opulent pearl jewelry. As in dress fashions, evening and day jewelry was differentiated, the full parure consisting of necklace, bracelets, brooch, and earrings was intended for the evening, whereas the demi-parure, a brooch with matching earrings, for daytime wear. Sentimental jewelry was extremely popular: gifts with love or messages of friendship, and souvenirs of hair of the beloved or deceased were integrated in jewels. The newly acquired wealth of the middle class enabled travel, and souvenir jewelry was invented soon after, such as pietra dura work from Florence, coral from Naples, micromosaics from Rome, and the archaeological styles from Egypt, Assyria, and the Celtic lands. Not only were archaeological and exotic cultures rein-terpreted, but so were the Middle Ages and Renaissance. By the second half of the nineteenth century the famous jewelry houses of today opened branches in the capital cities of Europe; jewelry became global.

The path to modernism in jewelry began around the turn of the twentieth century, during the belle époque when there was a mood for renewal and individually crafted luxury items. Paris with its exhibition of 1900 was predominant in the new aesthetic movement. The jewelry expressed emotions, and winged women were symbolic of emancipation; nature was metaphorically interpreted: themes such as birth, death, and rebirth were expressed through plants in varying stages of their life. René Lalique laid the foundation for artists' jewelry of the twentieth century and introduced novel material combinations, such as precious gold with non-precious glass. Diamonds were applied sparingly, plique-à-jour enamel allowed light to shine through, opals gave iridescence, and materials appeared to almost dematerialize. In contrast, silver with enamel and a few gemstones defined the Jugendstil in Germany and the Viennese Secession in Austria, both reducing nature to stylized geometric forms. Liberty of London chose Celtic inspirations, and Georg Jensen in Denmark a more sculptural rendering of nature. By 1910 platinum jewelry in the Louis XVI style with bows, tassels, and garlands enabled thin, almost invisible settings and linear designs. The costumes of the Ballets Russes in Paris were immensely inspirational for vivid color combinations in jewelry, such as emeralds with sapphires, turquoises, and coral.

Decisive innovations in jewelry were brutally interrupted by World War I. Many widows were obliged to gain employment to survive; dress and hair fashions became casual, and so did jewelry. In the golden twenties elegant lifestyle and lavish luxury prevailed again, mirrored in the jewels of the epoch. Diamonds and gemstones form stylized compositions in contrasting colors that are reminiscent of such art movements as Cubism, de Stijl and Futurism. The exoticism of Africa and Egypt attracted jewelers as well. Germany, struggling with political and economical concerns and following the artistic philosophies of the Bauhaus school of design, developed jewelry made of non-precious materials such as chrome-plated brass. Events such as the stock market crash on Wall Street in 1929 had a global economic effect in Europe, as did World War II, when materials for jewelry were scarce, but the desire for jewelry never ceased.

In the aftermath of the wars in the twentieth century, jewelry experienced a departure from its traditional values due to radical changes in society: housewives could no longer afford staff, and young people learned to be self-sufficient. Like fashion, jewelry designs followed the movements of youth culture. Women became more independent, and began buying their own jewelry rather than traditionally having it given to them by their husbands as had been traditional. Never before had jewelry been so diverse and so independent of dress fashions.

In the 1950s and 1960s the desire for luxury was epitomized by Hollywood with its make-believe world, mink stoles, and diamonds galore. During this time jewelers in Europe were experimenting with gold surfaces, designing unconventional settings, and, thus, transforming jewelry into a free art form. After the 1960s jewelry took an almost revolutionary turn with the freelance artist jewelers in their studios boldly setting out on the path of the fine arts—by the 1980s they broke existing boundaries of dimensions and materials and used materials from gold to rubber to paper.

More than any other time in its history, by the early twenty-first century, jewelry reflected the wearers' moods and feelings, favorite colors, taste, understanding of the arts, and last, but not least, their individuality.

See alsoBrooches and Pins; Earrings; Necklaces and Pendants; Rings .


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Bury, Shirley. Jewellery 1789–1910: The International Era. 2 vols. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors' Club, 1991.

Daniëls, Ger. Folk Jewelry of the World. New York: Rizzoli, 1989.

Dormer, Peter, and Ralph Turner. The New Jewelry: Trends and Traditions. Revised edition. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1994.

Lightbown, Ronald W. Mediaeval European Jewellery: With a Catalogue of the Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992.

Mack, John, ed. Ethnic Jewelry. New York: Abrams, 1988.

Phillips, Clare. Jewelry: From Antiquity to the Present. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Princely Magnificence: Court Jewels of the Renaissance, 1500–1630. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1980. An exhibition catalog.

Tait, Hugh, ed. Seven Thousand Years of Jewellery. London: British Museum Publications, 1986.

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Anna Beatriz Chadour-Sampson


views updated May 21 2018



NAICS: 33-9911 Jewelry (except Costume) Manufacturing and 33-9914 Costume Jewelry and Novelty Manufacturing

SIC: 3911 Jewelry, Precious Metal, and 3961 Costume Jewelry

NAICS-Based Product Codes: 33-9911, 33-99111 through 33-991117, and 33-99140 through 33-99140YWY


Jewelry is one of the oldest forms of personal embellishment and is a part of nearly all cultures. Jewelry use includes as a currency, as a functional object, as symbolism, and as an adornment.

Jewelry has been used as a form of currency. Early cultures in Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas maintained wealth in the form of jewelry stored on their person. Jewelry in the form of currency included slave beads and wedding dowries. Wedding dowries, for instance, may contain jewelry given to a female throughout her life from the time that she is a child through the time when she is to be married. The accumulated dowry is given to the man or his family after the wedding. In other cultures, women wear all the gold and jewelry they possess at all times to symbolize their worth.

Jewelry is also highly functional. Items like broaches, pins, hair combs, seal rings, and pill and snuff boxes on chains or rings have practical uses. Viking women wore functional brooches as part of their normal dress. Viking female dress did not change much for roughly 200 years. Women wore a conservative wool pinafore over a long pleated linen shift. The pinafore had shoulder straps fastened by a pair of brooches. The design of the brooches, just as of the clothes, was standardized.

Much jewelry is worn for symbolism. Symbolic jewelry signals the membership of a particular group, religious or secular. Religious examples include the crucifix or the Star of David worn around the neck. Classic symbolic jewelry includes birthstone, engagement, and wedding rings. Jewelry is especially adept at symbolizing those that belong to the upper and ruling classes. European royalty wore their richest jewels during the Medieval and Renaissance eras to demonstrate wealth, power, and lineage. One way to demonstrate lineage is with cameos and other portrait jewelry. While European royalty wore jewelry in everyday life, jewels were prominently worn in portraits painted by royal painters so that the beauty, power, and wealth of royalty could be seen by a greater audience and praised and remembered by generations to come.

In the 1920s costume jewelry became popular. It was sold along with an outfit, or costume, with which it was meant to be worn. This introduced inexpensive jewelry to the masses. Costume jewelry tends to imitate precious stones and metals at a fraction of the cost. Base metals, such as tin and lead, were used and made to look like precious metals such as gold. To imitate expensive stones, manufacturers used cut glass, enamel, and, later, acrylic and other hard plastics. This made it possible for consumers to buy jewelry on a whim and base the choice on aesthetics and design rather than the value of the materials alone.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, most jewelry is used for symbolism or adornment. For many consumers, time and money will be committed to purchasing rings symbolizing marital status. A common guideline is that a man should spend three months salary on a woman's diamond engagement ring.

Diamonds are graded according to four classifications, commonly called the Four Cs, for clarity, cut, color, and carat weight. Clarity is judged to be anywhere from flawless to very slight inclusions to imperfect. Cut influences diamond brilliance. Cuts with many facets reflect more light more brilliantly. Color varies anywhere from colorless to yellow, although diamonds have been known to have many colors. One of the rarest colors is pink. Carat weight denotes stone size. A larger carat weight results in a higher price.

Often consumers, mostly female, will purchase rings, earrings, and necklaces for adornment. With the advent of costume jewelry, the market offers a wide spectrum of choices. Rings, earrings, and necklaces are available in the marketplace for under $10 and for over $10,000.


In the United States in 2002, 1,962 establishments were primarily involved with the manufacture of jewelry and 655 establishments manufactured costume jewelry. Most jewelry makers were located in New York, California, and Rhode Island, while most costume jewelry makers were located in California and Rhode Island. In 2002 jewelry manufacturers shipped $5.5 billion worth of product. Costume jewelry manufacturers shipped $797 million worth of product in 2002, down 35 percent from $1.2 billion in 1997. Jewelry manufacturer shipments increased 19 percent during the same timeframe, from $4.6 billion in 1997 to $5.5 billion in 2002.

The costume jewelry industry is divided into three categories by the Census Bureau: non-precious metal jewelry (65%), other jewelry/costume novelties (16%), and costume jewelry not-specified-by kind (19%). Precious jewelry is categorized by the primary metal with which it is made. Jewelry made of gold and platinum accounted for nearly two thirds (63%) of the precious jewelry industry based on the value of manufacturers shipments in 2005. Jewelry made of silver accounted for 15 percent, and jewelry made of other metals and types accounted for 12 percent of 2005 shipments. The remaining 10 percent was made up of shipments of stamped metal coins and jewelry not-specified-by-kind.

Shipment data detailed enough to track changes in the trends for different types of jewelry are collected by the Census Bureau every five years in its economic census cycle. Using data for the two years 1997 and 2002, growth of 19 percent is seen for shipments of fine jewelry, from total industry shipments of $4.6 billion in 1997 to $5.5 billion in 2002. Jewelry made of gold and platinum grew 12 percent, from $3.2 to $3.5 billion. Most of the gold and platinum jewelry growth was for wedding rings. Most Americans will marry and many will re-marry. Manufacturers' shipments of gold and platinum wedding ring sets rose sharply between 1997 and 2002, from $419 million to $729 million, or 74 percent.

Jewelry made of silver grew 93 percent between 1997 and 2002, from $399 million to $767 million. Silver is valued for jewelry. It is comparatively scarce, brilliantly silver-white colored, malleable, and resists oxidation. Silver jewelry grew in popularity in part because it is more affordable than gold and platinum, for which it often substitutes. Most silver jewelry sports a numeric hallmark, which indicates metal content. For instance, sterling silver is defined as containing 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent of an alloy metal, usually copper to make it stronger. Sterling silver products therefore tend to sport a tiny hallmark number of 925 on the back or inside of the piece to denote its extremely high quality. Jewelry silver is defined as containing 80.0 percent silver and 20 percent copper. Silver jewelry products tend to therefore sport a small hallmark number of 800, or higher, to attest to its high percentage of the more valuable metal.

Jewelry made of other metals and types grew 43 percent between 1997 and 2002, from $452 million to $648 million. While the three major categories of jewelry each grew 12, 93, and 43 percent, respectively, notable was the doubling in value of shipments of silver jewelry and of wedding ring sets.


Tiffany & Co.

In 1837 Tiffany and Young started selling stationery and fancy goods on Broadway Avenue in New York, New York. Every item was sold at a non-negotiable selling price, a radical business model that made headlines in local newspapers. By the 1850s Tiffany silver designs captured the attention of people around the world and Charles Tiffany assumed control, renaming the company Tiffany & Co. Tiffany designs, such as the Tiffany diamond setting, are American standards. Tiffany contributed to the establishment of the 925 sterling silver standard. It has long attracted some of the world's foremost designers.

In 1867 Tiffany became the first American firm to win a medal for the excellence of its silverware at the Paris Exposition Universelle. Tiffany products have been purchased by museums across the world since the Boston Museum of Fine Arts first did so in 1873. In 1956 Parisian master jeweler Jean Schlumberger started designing for Tiffany, and in 1995 a retrospective of his work was on display at the Louvre museum in Paris, France. Other famous designers include Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso, and Frank Gehry. Frank Gehry, arguably the world's greatest living architect, designed six collections priced from $100 to $7,800.

Jewelry represents the majority of Tiffany sales at 82 percent, with silverware, watches, and other categories rounding out the balance. The United States represents the bulk of Tiffany sales, with 60 percent of sales in 2005. Japan is the next largest market for Tiffany at 20 percent. The Asia Pacific and European regions amount to 8 percent and 6 percent respectively. The flagship store in New York represented 10 percent of total company sales in 2005. In the 1987 initial public offering, Tiffany stock was offered at $23 per share. In September 2007 shares of Tiffany stock hovered around $50 per share.

De Beers Institute of Diamonds

Prolonged battles during the 1880s over the diamond fields on the southern portion of the African continent contributed to the formation of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited. The company was established in 1888 and listed in 1893 on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. De Beers grew both organically with energetic mine production levels and through aggressive acquisition tactics of other firms in the region. In its early years De Beers controlled 90 percent of worldwide production. In later years De Beers created the well-known "A Diamond is Forever" advertising campaign.

With a workforce of almost 23,000 employees and 10,000 contractors in 25 countries, De Beers in 2007 accounted for roughly 40 percent of worldwide diamond production and 45 percent of worldwide diamond distribution. More than 19,000 employees work in Africa. In 2005 De Beers posted a pre-tax profit of $1.07 billion.

Swarovski Group

Headquartered in Wattens, Austria, Swarovski had worldwide sales in 2005 of $2.14 billion with 17,000 employees. It had production facilities in 16 countries, including the United States. In 2005 it operated 565 Swarovski Own Shops.

In 1892 Daniel Swarovski perfected a design for a machine that cut crystal faster and with greater precision than the manual process of the time. Over time Swarovski business units grew to include Tyrolit (abrasive tools and cutting tools), Swarovski Optik (optical instruments), Swareflex (reflective and luminous road markings), and Signity (genuine and synthetic gemstones). Swarovski crystals for consumers are produced under two distinct labels. The Daniel Swarovski couture collection includes jewelry, accessories, and home accessories. Swarovski, the international brand, produces jewelry and accessories of cut crystal, gifts, and interior décor pieces made of elaborately faceted crystal.


Jewelry is generally categorized based on the material from which it is made: gold, platinum, or silver. Gemstones are typically embedded into or mounted upon the gold, platinum, or silver jewelry. By general consensus, precious gemstones are diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Everything else is considered semi-precious. This includes gemstones like amethyst, citrine, and garnet. Turquoise is considered semi-precious, as is onyx, aquamarine, and pearls. Synthetic gemstones and pearls are used in costume jewelry.

For fine jewelry, precious metals represent 32 percent of the cost of materials purchasing, while precious, semi-precious, and synthetic gemstones and pearls represent 22 percent. Two preferred materials for fine jewelry making are gold and diamonds. Gold and diamonds are the standard bearer for wedding ring sets. Both gold and diamonds are mined.

Gold Mining

Gold is found in its metallic form in various geological formations. Since it does not tarnish, it is easily identified. Gold is mined primarily in South Africa and Russia. Gold mining companies mine gold in one of two ways. Open-pit mining, also called cyanide heap leaching, requires blasting rock from the earth. The broken rock, or ore, is hauled to a processing facility where it is crushed. Crushed ore is sprayed with cyanide, which seeps through the pile to dissolve gold particles. The gold liquid is collected from the bottom of the heap and smelted, which removes remaining impurities by applying intense heat. Open-pit or cyanide heap leaching mining is cost effective. It is estimated that two-thirds of mined gold is obtained by open-pit mining. The remaining third is shaft-mined.

Shaft-mining is the traditional, and more costly, mining technique for gold. It is less invasive, more time consuming, and not widely used by modern gold miners. Shaft-mining requires life support (pumping in cool air, pumping out gasses and water), complex logistics, and high risk levels. Shafts are carved from rock to locate rich gold veins. Gold is extracted from the vein by digging, hammering, or small-scale blasting.

Gold is also mined in the United States; total 1989 production was 363 million ounces. Approximately 15 percent of U.S. gold comes from copper, lead, and zinc mines. Where these base metals are deposited, either in veins or as scattered mineral grains, minor amounts of gold are commonly deposited with them. When the predominant metal is mined, the gold is recovered as a byproduct. The largest single source of byproduct gold in the United States is the porphyry deposit at Bingham Canyon, Utah.

Diamond Mining

In the eighteenth century diamonds had been found only in India and Brazil and were very rare. In the mid-nineteenth century, diamond mining began in Africa extensively throughout the southern part of the continent. Although the rarity of diamonds diminished due to a greater amount of stones mined, diamonds retained value due to the tightly controlled selling and trading practices of DeBeers.

Diamonds are commonly mined by a method called pipe mining and are extracted from volcanic pipes. Approximately 250 tons of ore, or broken pieces of rock, must be mined in order to produce a one-carat gem-quality polished diamond. Once the rock that bears diamonds is located, it is transported to a processing facility where it is separated from the rock. Alluvial mining of diamonds is also possible but it is generally not as profitable for large mining companies. Alluvial mining involves extracting diamonds from riverbeds or ocean beaches. Once the diamond is separated from the surrounding mineral formation, it is cut and polished.

Cutting can reduce the size of a diamond by half. Diamonds are typically cut across the grain by a thin metal disc coated with diamond dust. Facets are ground individually. Facets are applied by a revolving mechanism made of iron and coated with oil and diamond dust. It is held against the revolving machine, or turntable, as it revolves at a high speed. A faceted diamond has an average of fifty-eight facets, depending on the cut. Facets are valued when they are clean, symmetrical, and sharp.

Less than half of mined diamonds are gem quality. Those that are not gem quality are often used for cutting tools and abrasives. World diamond production figures are presented in Figure 117, which depicts the proportion of mined diamonds used as gemstones and the proportion used in industrial applications. One example of an industrial application is Swarovski's Tyrolit business unit. It makes abrasive and cutting tools that involve diamond dust.


After gold and diamonds are mined, they are shipped to jewelry manufacturers throughout the world, including many of the 1,962 U.S. establishments that make fine jewelry. Manufacturers cast gold, platinum, and silver, and set diamonds and other stones into jewelry like rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches.

The retail distribution channel for finished jewelry is bifurcated into jewelry retailers and specialty jewelry retailers. Some companies, including Tiffany & Co., overlap into both categories.

As of 2000, jewelry stores represented the chief distribution channel for jewelry, accounting for 60 percent of all jewelry sales in that year. Large U.S. jewelry retailers with national chains are Kay Jewelers (with origins as far back as 1916) and Zales (1924). Kay Jewelers operates 868 stores and is known by its advertising slogan, "every kiss begins with Kay." Jared Galleria of Jewelry and JB Robinson are both under the Kay umbrella. Zales emerged from bankruptcy in 1993 to post $2.8 billion in 2000. Zale Corporation operates approximately 2,250 retail locations throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Its brands include Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Gordon's Jewelers, Bailey Banks & Biddle Fine Jewelers, Peoples Jewelers, Mappins Jewelers, and Piercing Pagoda.

The U.S. retail jewelry distribution channel is broad. Market Share Reporter 2007 reported the jewelry and watch sales figures of 15 companies. The channel included, in order of sales: Wal-Mart, Sterling, Zale, QVC, Tiffany & Co., JCPenney, Sears Roebuck & Co., Finlay Fine Jewelry, Helzberg Diamond Shops, Fred Meyer Jewelers, Costco, Home Shopping Network, Target Stores, and two television retailers. In 2006 Wal-Mart had $2.7 billion in jewelry sales.

Online jewelry sales are increasing. According to Market Share Reporter 2007, online sales increased from $2.8 billion in 2004 to a projected $6.0 billion in 2008. Zales, for instance, operates online at,, and


In 1999, 43 percent of the U.S. adult population bought jewelry. Compared to men, women have a slightly higher purchase rate, 48 percent for women and 36 percent for men. Men have a lower purchase rate incidence, but they spend considerably more money on their jewelry purchases than women do. Most of the jewelry purchases by men are gifts. The highest jewelry purchase rate is among younger adults 18 to 24 years old.

Key users of jewelry are people planning to wed who want to symbolize their love with wedding ring sets, typically gold and diamond. Other key users of jewelry include groups who are marking life transitions. For instance, class rings symbolize the completion of high school, college, or university. Identity and medical bracelets are used to help people in the medical profession care for people in a prompt and appropriate manner.


Gold is a valuable metal. It is a stable chemical that does not easily combine with other substances, nor does it tarnish or corrode. This makes it ideal for a number of industrial uses. More than 80 percent of the gold mined worldwide is used for jewelry. The remaining 20 percent is used in industrial applications. World gold prices increased 45 percent between 2005 and 2006. Rising prices often indicate increased demand in an adjacent market. The adjacent market for gold used in jewelry is gold used in industrial applications. Industrial uses for gold include fine wire for electronics, as a protective coating for spacecraft and satellites, and in industrial and medical laser systems.

India is the largest worldwide consumer of gold. Demand in India for gold is anticipated to increase from 800 tons per year in 2000 to 981 tons by 2010 and 1,152 tons by 2015. The United States is the second largest worldwide gold consumer.

The fashion industry and the jewelry industry are closely adjacent markets. Trends in apparel lead to trends in jewelry. New jewelry collections are rolled out as often as new apparel collections, sometimes four times per year.


Research and development in jewelry relates primarily to gemstones. Gemstones are artificially manufactured and artificially farmed.

Artificially manufactured gemstones are either synthetics or simulants. Synthetic manmade gemstones are laboratory grown. They are of the same or extremely similar chemical composition as their natural equivalents. Most synthetic stones are produced using a high temperature process. Synthetically grown gemstones have, in essence, the same appearance as well as the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as the naturally occurring gemstones they represent.

Simulated stones are also manmade, but of a lesser quality than synthetic gemstones. Simulants have an appearance that is similar to a natural gemstone, but different optical, physical, and chemical properties. Simulant gemstones produced in the United States include coral, cubic zirconia, turquoise, malachite, and birthstones such as garnet, amethyst, aquamarine, emerald, ruby, peridot, sapphire, and topaz.

Consumer acceptance of synthetic and simulant gem-stones has increased in recent years. The recognition of synthetics and simulants for their own merits and not as inexpensive substitutes is perhaps the main reason. United States law requires that synthetic and simulant gemstones be clearly marked so that they are not confused for natural gemstones. The value of synthetic gemstone production in 2004 was $30.4 million and $100 million for simulants.

Human intervention is also used to produce cultured pearls. Most pearls used for jewelry today are cultured pearls. Research and development related to cultured pearls is attributed to Japanese researchers. Cultured pearls are developed through pearl farming. Cultured pearls are generally larger and of a more consistent size and color. They are made through the insertion of an artificial nucleus or shell bead directly into the tissue of an oyster. This process is referred to as grafting.

Pearl farming is a relatively simple form of aquaculture because oysters do not require artificial nourishment. Pearl farming, does, however, require a long-term investment of time and money. Only 5 to 10 percent of each pearl crop will be the high quality gems that generate 90 percent of the profit. Pearls are farmed throughout the world. In the United States, pearls are farmed in Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alabama.


The current trend is greater concern about social and environmental aspects of diamond and gold mining. The plot of the 2006 movie Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, brought issues surrounding conflict diamonds to the attention of the general public. Conflicts in Sierra Leone during the 1990s resulted in the coining of the phrase blood diamond.

Conflict diamonds come from regions that are controlled by forces, splinter groups, or factions that are opposed to the legitimate and internationally recognized governments in the areas. Conflict diamonds are sold to generate funds to support illegal activities, such as rebel military forces, and their profits contribute to prolonged brutal wars in parts of Africa. Legitimate diamonds play a role in the prosperity and economic development of many parts of Africa.

The United Nations, the diamond industry, and other organizations created a system to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain. The system, known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was implemented in 2003. KPCS participating governments guarantee that shipments of rough diamonds are exported in secure containers accompanied by a uniquely numbered, government validated certificate stating that they are conflict free. KPCS participating governments also agree not to import rough diamonds without approved KPCS certificates.

Two diamond industry programs supplement KPCS with self-regulation. These are the International Diamond Manufacturers Association and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses. These two bodies effectively represent all diamond processors and traders. Self-regulation involves warranties that accompany invoices covering the sale of rough diamonds, polished diamonds, and finished diamond jewelry. Warranties apply to rough diamonds mined after 2002 and the products fabricated from them.

In 2005 the Council for Responsible Jewelry Practices (CRJP), a non-profit organization, was founded in part by the Jewelers of America, a trade organization. CRJP promotes and develops responsible social, ethical, and environmental business practices throughout the gold jewelry industry. It held its first meeting in London, United Kingdom, in 2006. The Council believes gold should be extracted and processed in a manner that respects the needs of current and future generations. It supports transparency in gold mining, procuring, and selling.


The market is segmented into a low-end and a high-end. On the low-end, manufacturers produce costume jewelry. Stores such as Wal-Mart cater to consumers who may be interested in costume jewelry. On the high-end, manufacturers produce luxury jewelry items and target consumers who have enough disposable income to purchase them.


British Jewelers Association,

Council for Responsible Jewelry Practices,

Diamond Facts,

Gemological Association and Gem Testing Laboratory,

International Diamond Manufacturers Association,

Jewelers of American,

Jewelers Vigilance Committee,

The National Craft Association,

No Dirty Gold,

Society of American Silversmiths,

Society of North American Goldsmiths,


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views updated Jun 11 2018


JEWELRY Several countries can boast of a period when their culture produced outstanding jewelry, but none can surpass the vitality of India's output, which has spanned over three thousand years. Physical evidence brought to light at Indian archaeological sites in the Indus Valley, such as Mohenjo-Daro (2500–1700 b.c.), support this claim. Necklaces, bracelets, bangles, rings, beads, and other forms of ornaments made in gold, silver, copper, stone, ceramic, proto-glass, and other materials were unearthed there, revealing that the material culture at that early period included an extensive use of personal ornaments. Other finds elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent support the premise that Indians adopted the concept of body ornamentation at an even earlier date. To these physical remains we must add the many later literary references to jewelry, highly sophisticated written treatises on gemstones, and the existence of epigraphic inscriptions concerning the donation of jewelry to a temple, such as those that occur in profusion on the eighth-century Rajaraja temple at Thanjavur in South India.

Ethnic Jewelry

The unique creative genius that constitutes Indian civilization permeates all aspects of its expressive arts, including jewelry. Following a recognized pattern of development, over time, the contributions of many individual artisans coalesce, and the results take on a unique character that becomes identifiable with the group or place where they were initiated. When, in the creation of artifacts, governing concepts of technology, form, and design are retained, repeated, and developed, the results become a physical aspect of the material culture in which they originated. When seen by others outside that culture, such concepts are perceived to possess original and unique qualities, and these become associated with the creators. Such a group is designated as a specific ethnic entity, which can consist of relatively few (a tribal group), many (a regional class), or an entire nation. The traditional jewelry of India is an outstanding example of ethnic jewelry characterized by unique, unmistakable regional styles.

Religion and Jewelry

Religion has always been a dominant factor in the use of Indian jewelry, and its attributed protective purpose was probably its original function. This is especially apparent in the widespread practice of wearing amulets and using rosaries, both of which are normally carried visibly on the body. Their use is universal and stems from a common belief in the supernatural, whose dire effects the amulet is meant to repel or control. The most usual amuletic function is to counteract potentially disastrous encounters with the evil eye. Made in many materials, amulets must be consecrated and activated by a priest. They can then be worn on the body and put to use. Thereafter they are normally never removed.

Another example, the rosary, is a handheld prayer counting device in the form of strung beads. When not in use, it may be worn on the neck or coiled around the left wrist. Widely used by the followers of all religions in India, the rosary is a means of acquiring merit by the recitation of prayers invoking a specific deity. Count of the recitations is noted by means of passing the beads through the fingers. Prayer recitation is a daily practice necessary to earn the ultimate reward of a future existence in the postmortal world (Nirvāna for Hindus, Paradise for Muslims, and the Western Paradise for Buddhists). Hindu rosaries have 100 beads; those of Muslims have 99, and Buddhists, 108. All these are made in a variety of materials that among Hindus and Buddhists is often one related by tradition to a particular deity and chosen for use for that or other reasons. Rosary materials include natural organic substances, such as sections of dried basilica stems (a plant sacred to Vishnu), various hard seeds, stones (including gemstones), glass, silver, and even gold.

Social Identity and Practices

Certain forms of jewelry are worn by particular groups to indicate to others their religion and caste, the latter concept still operative in India though legally banned. These forms become familiar to others, as is their significance. Aside from form, the particular material used for jewelry also becomes an important factor because ideas and specific symbolism are associated with them. Thus a wearer of gold jewelry automatically acquires a higher social status than one using silver, a less precious metal. This is most evident in making a distinction between the gold-wearing urban and silver-wearing rural people. Using a traditional jewelry form, normally made in silver, but ordered by the user to be made in gold, is another way of achieving and indicating high social status.

Until recent times, it was common to see rural women publicly wearing considerable amounts of jewelry. In effect, these possessions represented the surplus earnings of the family, transformed into ornaments acquired when economic circumstances permitted and, for reasons of safety, worn on the body. Rural economy, however, is subject to vicissitudes of reliability, often depending on natural causes such as monsoon success or failure. Investment in jewelry is a form of family security; when necessary, jewelry can be sold to assure survival from a natural or man-made disaster.

According to texts such as the Kāma Sūtra, which among other subjects discusses concepts of feminine beauty, the ideal woman must wear the types of ornament prescribed for her social condition. As a means of achieving this, the dowry system evolved and became a necessity at the time of marriage, an event considered to be the most important of one's lifetime. By universal practice, the two families must arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement, which in most Indian societies involves providing a bride with a specified weight of precious metal jewelry. The amount varies according to the economic condition of the families involved. This jewelry is generally termed the bride's stridana (stri, meaning "woman"; dana, meaning gifts). In theory it remains her sole property to dispose of as she wishes. In practice it may be used as a means of family survival when by necessity, the wife may allow it to be sold.

Indian jewelry can be classified into typological groups based upon broad geographic areas (Himalayan, North Indian, South Indian) and within these places classes that use it. These divisions simultaneously reveal the overall hieratic organization and complexity of Indian society. Each group has its own characteristic cultural concepts, resides in communally or geographically concentrated locations, and employs its own culturally evolved types of traditional ornaments. The most primitive groups, whose culture until recently harkens back to Neolithic times, are tribal peoples, who generally live in relatively isolated locations. By far the largest group, comprising at least 70 percent of the over 1 billion total population of India, is the rural agriculturalist contingent. At the economic apex of Indian society are the growing middle and upper classes, the latter in former days the royal sector. In reality, a degree of interaction of jewelry design concepts occurs among these categories which at times results in the appearance of some hybrid artifacts.

Materials Used and Their Origins

In the history of the development of personal ornament by humankind, the earliest materials used are believed to have been substances available in the immediate environment. These include many types of fibers, grasses, wood, flowers, seeds, mica, shells, gourds, feathers, stones, and sometimes metals. In modern times in India, the use of such materials characterizes the ornaments of tribal groups such as the Nagas of northeastern India Though tribal groups usually reside in remote areas, they were never totally isolated, and other non-indigenous materials, such as metals, came to them by trade. In some cases, unique metal tribal ornaments were made to their specifications by nontribal artisans who worked in or near tribal territory and catered to tribal demands. Glass beads of various types are also widely used; these also arrived through trade from their centers of manufacture, which were often great distances away from the place of their eventual use.

An example of the above is a special material and an important ornamental element used by most tribal people, but especially by Naga groups: hard-stone beads. For more than two thousand years, utilizing an unchanged manual technology, the manufacture of drilled hard-stone beads of a variety of stones and forms continues in many workshops of bead-making artisans at Khambat, Gujarat, in western India, and have since antiquity been widely distributed.


Metals of several kinds are a major element of jewelry in general. India is rich in iron (in very limited use, however, for ornaments in India), but the inadequate indigenous production of copper and its alloys, brass and bronze (widely used by tribal people for ornament), had to be supplemented by the import trade. The precious metals, silver and gold, whose local production was never sufficient to meet the enormous demand, since antiquity have constituted important foreign import products. As long ago as Roman times, and probably longer, the much sought after Indian spices and textiles were, by the demand of Indian merchants, paid for in foreign silver and gold bullion or coinage, hidden hoards of which have been uncovered in archaeological excavations. Voluminous import of the precious metals continues even today, giving India the reputation of being the world's largest consumer of the precious metals, most of which are converted into jewelry.


Hard stones used in Indian jewelry are divided into two categories: the semiprecious variety, in Sanskrit termed uparatnani (minor gemstones); and the precious ones, termed maharatnani (major gemstones). India is fortunate in its natural possession of many of both kinds. Deposits of semiprecious hard stones such as agates (which include carnelian, bloodstone, chalcedony, moss agate, and onyx), garnet (almandite and uvarovite), rose quartz, apatite, rhodonite, and tourmaline exist in quantity. Most of these are used for beads, and less frequently are set to ornament jewelry.

Beryl (emerald) and corundum (sapphire) also exist, but of the precious gemstones, the most important is diamond (which, followed by ruby, emerald, sapphire, and pearl, comprise the five classical gemstones used in upper-class Indian jewelry, especially since Mughal times). Until 1726, when diamond deposits were discovered in Brazil, India was the world's principal producer of diamonds. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a seventeenth-century French gemstone merchant who made six journeys to India mainly to purchase diamonds, recorded that enormous quantities came from several highly productive mines located in the Kingdom of Golconda in the Deccan. These mines were intensely worked until their exhaustion in the eighteenth century. Eventually South Africa and Russia emerged as the main diamond producers while Indian production today is negligible. The regular faceting of diamonds, on the other hand, has become an important industry centered in Mumbai and Surat. This technology now provides India with a means of earning foreign exchange. India today is a world leader in diamond faceting, exceeded only by the Netherlands and Israel.

Other gemstones that were not available domestically were regularly imported. Of primary importance among these is ruby, followed by emerald (found only recently in India) and the prolific pearl. In an annual monsoon-dependent trade, rubies came to India from the Mogok mines of Burma (Myanmar), which are still active. This trade originated in South India, from where wind-borne boats regularly seasonally crossed the Bay of Bengal. Mostly small rubies, rounded by attrition, became available in prodigious amounts, and as a result, with minimal polishing could be profusely used in a single ornament. This circumstance to a great extent determined the character of an extensively produced class of South Indian gold jewelry. Today, because of trade difficulties and high cost, synthetic ruby manufacture has been firmly established in India to supply the ongoing demand.

Emeralds have always been utilized in Indian ornament. Their original main source was Egypt, but in the sixteenth century, Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores in the New World discovered and exploited the highly productive Chivor and other emerald mines of Colombia, still the world's main source. Exported in extraordinary amounts to Europe, they were then brought to the colonial Portuguese-Indian enclave of Goa, which, with its existing Indian diamond trade, became a precious gemstone entrepôt. Indian Mughal dynasty rulers and their courtiers especially favored the intense green of emerald (a propitious color associated with Islam), endowed this gemstone with mystical, prophylactic powers, and utilized it widely in their highly idiomatic style of jewelry.

Pearls, a ready-made, popular natural mollusk product needing only to be drilled, have been extensively used in Indian jewelry from ancient times through the present. The proximity of their prolific sources in the Gulf of

Manar, between India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and Basra in the Persian Gulf facilitated their availability.

Semiprecious gemstones were also in wide use. Contributing to their employment is the concept of the nine planetary gemstones (nava ratna), in which the nine different stones were frequently used as a group, mounted in one object. References to this concept occur as early as the thirteenth century. In this belief system, each of the nine planetary or celestial entities in the then known universe is assigned a gemstone. According to the widespread belief in astrology, every planet is thought to exert a positive or negative influence on the life of every individual born at the time of its ascendancy, a fact calculated by an astrologer for every child at birth and carefully preserved on paper thereafter. This calculation of compatibility becomes a strong factor in choosing jewelry that contains a gemstone.

For those unable to afford ornaments set with gemstones, glass substitutes are treated in the same manner as precious stones, that is, cut into cabochon, rounded, or dome shapes, but not faceted forms. To heighten their brilliance, such transparent "stones" were backed by a polished, shining metal foil, sometimes colored to increase its resemblance to a genuine gemstone. Glass mirrors are also set as gemstones, an outstanding example being their use in a ring (arsi) generally worn on the left thumb.

Gemstone settings

India developed a unique system for the setting of gemstones, which when present can serve to identify the origin of some Indian jewelry. Known as the kundan style (meaning "pure gold"), the system is used to set gemstones in metal or stone substrates such as jade. In this technique, a depression or opening is made to conform to the shape of the gemstone (or glass "stone") being set. This depression is filled with lac (the Indian term for a natural resin exuded by an insect—tachardia lacca—on the branches of its host tree during its life cycle). A backing sheet of polished metal foil is placed over the lac. While the stone is held in the depression, a strip of pure gold (kundun) is forced around its perimeter with a stylus. Because pure gold is soft enough to be manipulated simply by pressure, the result, a raised surrounding ridge of gold, firmly fixes the gemstone in place

Jewelry Making

Jewelry making starts with the training of an apprentice. Until recent times, this was probably a boy belonging to a jeweler's family, or a relative whose caste was that of the jeweler (sonar). Beginning at an early childhood age, the apprentice is trained by his family in the simpler tasks, which increase in complexity with his acquisition of skills. Ultimately, after several years, the trainee becomes a full-fledged gold- or silversmith. Each workshop, whether a family unit or, as in recent times, a cooperative of many workers, is headed by a leader (ustad) or master craftsman, under whose direction work proceeds. Large workshops are often owned by an entrepreneur (Mahajan or Saraf) who decides what is to be made according to demand, provides his hired workers with materials, and either sells the results directly or wholesale to other jewelry dealers. There are believed to be over 2 million artisans currently making jewelry in India.

Fabrication techniques

The nature of metal jewelry fabrication is such that the basic techniques employed have not changed since the time when this technology began. Indian jewelers work with what their Western counterparts consider to be the most elemental tools. Yet, despite this seeming limitation, through the ages they have produced, and continue to make, masterpieces of the jeweler's art.

Jewelry fabrication processes have developed from the necessity to employ the elemental forms of metal available to every jeweler: wire, sheet metal, and bulk metal, the latter used for the casting process. The dominating use of the first two forms, wire or sheet metal, at specific locations has resulted in jewelry designs that exploit the possibilities inherent in these forms of metal. Thus, for example, torques constructed totally of wrapped and coiled wire are made in Rajasthan and Gujarat; and low relief repoussage transforms flat sheel metal into decorated dimensional forms in Uttar Pradesh and places too numerous to mention here.

Some uniquely Indian specialized decorative metalwork processes have evolved, and their use in many cases has become associated with a particular place of manufacture. Among these are the granulation technique used in Gujarat; the babul kam ("acacia thorn work," small projecting gold "thorns" that cover a surface) of the Punjab; thewa work (pierced gold foil units fused on glass) of Partabgarh, Rajasthan; the enamel work of Jaipur, Rajasthan; and the aforementioned, widely practiced kundan style of gemstone setting in universal use.

Mughal Style Jewelry

The styles of jewelry produced in India are extremely varied, and as mentioned, many can be associated with the geographic area of their origin. Thus the jewelry of the Himalayan area, North India, and South India are stylistically distinctive. Only recently have these general differences been recognized and given the attention they deserve. One North Indian style of design also practiced as far south as the Deccan is the so-called Mughal style. This today should rightfully be designated the Mughal-Rajput style since it originated during the Mughal period but is now practiced in places such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Bikaner (all in Rajasthan). This style has become so well known worldwide that for most Western people it represents Indian style in general to the exclusion of other, lesser known but equally interesting styles. Accounting for this popularity may be its prolific use of gemstones as well as the highly skillful application of polychrome enamel (usually on the reverse, unseen side of the ornament), resulting in objects of seductive opulence. Perhaps also operative in this world perception of what constitutes Indian design is the romanticized association of this style with the fabled wealth of the Mughal court, reflected in the rich appearance of new work in this design idiom. Its perpetuation in India and elsewhere attests to the endless design possibilities it allows.

Late Developments and Modern Trends

For millennia, Indian jewelers have cultivated their own systems of work production. With the invasion of Europeans, bent on commercial and colonial exploitation, that started in the sixteenth century and ended with Indian independence in 1947 inevitably, new concepts exotic to indigenous practice were introduced. In the jewelry field, of significant importance was the Western use of regularly faceted, calibrated sized gemstones, and claw settings for them developed to increase gemstone brilliance. Previously, the time-honored Indian approach to the use of gemstones, especially diamonds, was to retain their initial weight as much as possible by limited polishing. As a result, gemstones of many dissimilar, irregular forms were used in the same object. Stone form irregularity is probably what motivated the invention of the kundan gemstone setting process, as it permitted and facilitated the setting of stones of any perimeter form, thus eliminating the painstaking work of producing many exactly measured collet-type bezels, which are required when calibrated gemstones are used.

The claw or open-backed setting was another innovation, though rare examples from the past do exist. Prior to this, Indian gemstones were set into the kundan foil-backed, closed settings. In these settings, light was reflected through the stone from the backing foil to the visible front only. Open-backed settings, as in the case of claws that hold the stone in air, permit light penetration from all directions, which considerably increases gemstone brilliance. Both methods are in practice in India since the mid-nineteenth century. The Western use of regularly faceted gemstones and claw settings in an otherwise traditionally styled ornament probably are indications of a relatively recent manufacture.

The Influence of Indian Jewelry Design on the West

Conversely, the impact of Indian jewelry design on the jewelry of the Western world became strongly evident after the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, when traditional Indian jewelry was first presented in quantity to the general public. Its earliest subsequent influence is seen in the jewelry design of the so-called Arts and Crafts Movement in Great Britain in the late nineteenth century. Indian forms and motifs of ornament were widely adopted by Western craftsmen who, in sympathy with Indian handwork methods, admired the organic, handmade appearance characteristic of Indian jewelry, as contrasted with the more mechanical-looking perfection of most contemporary Western jewelry.

Especially dramatic was the adoption of Indian styles, especially inspired by that of the Mughal period, by the grand jewelers of France and Great Britain, such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Chaumet, and others. This occurred coincidentally with the universal acceptance of platinum in jewelry at the turn of the nineteenth century into the early years of the twentieth. The reign of Queen Victoria and that of her son, King Edward VII, both of whom bore the additional title, respectively, of Empress and Emperor of India, brought about a surge of interest in Indian culture. This period also attracted to Great Britain and Europe many Indian maharajas and their retinues to participate in political events such as the celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee of 1877 (when she was designated empress of India) and the coronation of Edward VII in 1907 (when he became emperor of India). Their magnificent appearance, particularly the opulence of their elaborate jewelry display, was widely reported in the newspapers and magazines. Upon their exposure to high fashion Western jewelry and its refined technology, Indian royalty soon became important clients to the famous European jewelry houses. The result was an active intercultural jewelry design exchange.

Western jewelry that either exhibits an obvious stylistic similarity to Indian jewelry, or that uses typical elements of traditional Indian design, is still produced by the workshops of the major jewelry fabrication houses of the world. This artistic homage, a form of flattery to Indian culture, is but one instance of evidence of the inexhaustible design inspiration that Indian jewelry has provided to the world.

Oppi Untracht


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Jean-Pierre Ghysels Collection. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994.

Brijbhushan, Jamila. Indian Jewellery, Ornaments and Decorative Designs. Mumbai: D. B. Taraporevala, 1964. Butor, Michel. Adornment: The Jean-Paul and Monique

Barbier-Mueller Collection. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.

Chandra, Rai Govind. Studies in the Development of Ornaments and Jewellery in Proto-Historic India. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Studies, vol. 41. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1964. Filliozat, J., and P. Z. Pattabiramin. Parures divines du sud de l'Inde. Pondicherry: Institut français d'indologie, 1966. Hasson, Rachel. Early Islamic Jewellery. 2 vols. Jerusalem:

L. A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, 1987. Hendley, Thomas Holbein. "Indian Jewellery." In Reprints of

Journal of Indian Art. 2 vols. New Delhi: Cultural Publishing House, 1989. Hendley, Thomas Holbein, and Swinton S. Jacob. Jeypore

Enamels. London: William Griggs and Sons, 1886. Jacobson, Doranne. "Women and Jewellery in Rural India."

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R. Shamasastry. 8th ed. Mysore: Mysore Printing and Publishing House, 1967.

Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary. New

York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984. Nandagopal, Chudamani. "The Traditional Jewellery of

Karnataka." In Decorative Arts of India, edited by M. L. Nagam. Hyderabad: Salar Jung Museum, 1987. Postel, Michel. Ear Ornaments of Ancient India. Mumbai:

Franco-Indian Pharmaceuticals, 1989. Pressmar, Emma. Indian Rings. Ahmedabad: New Order,


Stronge, Susan, Nima Smith, and J. C. Harle. A Golden Treasury: Jewellery from the Indian Subcontinent. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1988. Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste. Travels in India by Jean-Baptiste

Tavernier, Baron of Aubonne. Translated from the French edition of 1676 by Valentine Ball. 2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1889.

Untracht. Oppi. Jewelry Concepts and Technology. Garden

City, N.Y.: Doubleday; London: Robert Hale, 1982.

——. Traditional Jewelry of India. New York: Harry N.

Abrams; London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Costume Jewelry

views updated May 17 2018


The earliest costume jewelry was simply an imitation of precious jewelry and had little intrinsic value or original style of its own. However, once the French couturiers put their names to costume jewelry it became desirable, acceptable, and expensive. In the early 1910s, couturier Paul Poiret became a proponent of costume jewelry, accessorizing his models with necklaces of silk tassels and semiprecious stones designed by the artist Iribe.

Coco Chanel, Jean Patou, Drécoll, and Premet were also among the first famous couturiers to create costume jewelry along with clothing, which propelled its acceptance. By 1925, the Marshall Field's department store catalog described costume jewelry in positive terms, announcing, "The imitation is no longer a disgrace."

The most ubiquitous jewelry imitation in the 1920s was a pearl necklace. Strands of pearls or colored beads neatly circled the neck or swung to waist, hip, even kneelength, made to move with fast-paced dances like the Charleston. At the end of the period when the little black dress became a daytime standard, shorter strands of light-colored beads and pearls continued as the accessories of choice. Rhinestone jewelry also blazed into prominence, as it was the perfect foil for two fashion innovations: suntans and white evening gowns.

Beginning in the 1920s and continuing throughout the 1930s, fashion and jewelry shared a multitude of influences including Art Deco, the Far East, North Africa, and India. Egyptian motifs were inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. The Colonial Exhibition

in Paris in 1931 and the New York World's Fair in 1939 expanded the vocabulary of foreign influences, and rough, raw, "barbaric" materials (real and imitation), including ivory (and faux versions), bone, amber, wood, and even cork, were used for over-scale jewelry. Chanel's signature necklace in 1939 was a massive East Indian– inspired bib of faux pearls, uncut emeralds, ruby beads, and dangling metal pieces with a cord tie.

In the mid-1930s, fashion's palette turned Technicolor, as plastic was produced in bright colors for the first time and metal jewelry was hand-enameled to add color. Toy-like novelty accessories (both costume and precious jewelry) were wildly popular, inspired by the Surrealists, couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, and Walt Disney's cartoons. The queen of whimsy, Schiaparelli put metal insects and caterpillars on necklaces, and her brooches ranged from miniature musical instruments, roller skates, harlequins, blackamoors, and ostriches. Influenced by the lively antics of cartoons, jewelry also had movable parts: Brooches and necklaces were adorned with "trembler" flowers, hanging plastic fruit, or charms. Clips could be deconstructed into separate pieces. This silly jewelry lightened up the lapels of the fashionable severe and sober, fitted suits.

At the same time, the romantic rococo and Victorian styles flourished, lingering into the 1940s. Rococo jewelry, associated with the Empress Eugenie, was typically frivolous bow-knots, swags and ribbon curves, sparingly ornamented with large, faux-semiprecious cut stones. It was usually plated with real gold (pink, white, yellow) or sterling silver. Victorian styles were copied directly from the originals: lockets, cameos, chokers, even hat pins. Black plastic was the substitute for nineteenth-century jet.

During World War II, imports from Europe were cut off, and many jewelry materials were also restricted. Desperate costume jewelers bought beaded sweaters, evening dresses, and even stage costumes, and harvested their beads, rhinestones, and pearls. They also fashioned jewelry from humble materials that were readily available during wartime: pumpkin seeds, nuts, shells, olive pits, clay, leather, felt, yarn, and even upholstery fabrics. Women wore hand-carved wooden brooches, necklaces of multicolored painted shells, cork, and bits of drift-wood. There was little difference between quirky, childish, commercially made jewelry and what the women made themselves following do-it-yourself instructions published in magazines.

Patriotic motifs flourished during wartime, ranging from red, white, and blue to all-American motifs related to California, Hawaii, Native American Indians, and cowboys. Costume jewelry also took on a militaristic theme, and miniature model tanks, airplanes, battleships, jeeps, soldiers, and even hand grenades were made up in metal or wood and worn as brooches, necklaces, and earrings. In the summer of 1940, "V" for victory was a popular design. As Mexico was America's wartime ally, jewelry imported from that country and its imitations was highly fashionable. Two notable Mexican artisans who worked in silver, Rebajes and Spratling, had their sophisticated jewelry featured at top department stores across the country. Patriotic jewelry completely vanished during peacetime.

Postwar fashion succumbed to couturier Christian Dior's highly structured New Look, followed by a series of equally severe styles: the chemise, sheathe, trapeze, and sack dress. The transformation was radical. Clothing concealed most of a woman's body, and only chokers, earrings, bracelets (notably charm bracelets), and brooches were visible. Dresses and suits in heavy, rough-textured fabrics were weighty enough to support the hunky, oversized circles, ovals, snowflake, or starburst-shaped brooches (associated with the atomic bomb), typically three-dimensional. Rhinestones were standard, produced in a rainbow of colors including white, black, pink, blue, yellow, and iridescent, which was an innovation.

Tailored jewelry was the most conservative accessory in the 1950s. Neat and small scale, it was made up in gold or silver metal with little ornamentation. Although clothing concealed their figures, women wore their hair upswept, in a ponytail, or cropped gamine short, to show off hoop, button, and neat pearl earrings. Later in the decade, metal jewelry was thicker, its surface scored, chiseled, or deeply etched, a treatment that lingered into the 1960s.

The distinction between accessories for day and night blurred as casual Italian sportswear became popular. For example, in 1959 actress Elizabeth Taylor was featured in Life magazine wearing Dior's black jet choker with a low-cut black sweater. Entertaining at home also created another new fashion category. Theatrical, over-sized chandelier and girandole earrings complemented lounging pajamas, caftans, and floor-length skirts, which remained stylish hostess garb into the 1960s.

Chanel plundered the Renaissance for jewelry inspiration. With her signature suits, in 1957 she showed pendants (notably the Maltese cross), brooches, and chain sautoirs in heavy gold set with baroque pearls, lumpy glass rubies, and emeralds. This style still continues to be identified with Chanel today.

In the 1960s, bold, pop-art graphic "flower power" motifs were fashion favorites. The ubiquitous daisy was produced in every material from plastic to enameled metal, and in a palette of neon bright colors. Daisies were linked into belts, pinned on hats and dresses, and suspended from chains around the neck. Even Chanel and Dior produced flower jewelry, although their brooches, necklaces, and earrings were petaled with fragile poured glass.

Hippies and the counterculture rejected this sophistication in favor of handmade and ethnic jewelry in humble materials: clay and glass beads, yarn, temple bells, papier-mâché, macramé, and feathers. Both men and women pierced their ears, crafted their own head-bands, ornamented their clothing with beads and embroidery, strung love beads, or hung a peace sign, ankh, or zodiac symbol on a strip of rawhide around their necks. Singer Janis Joplin typically performed while weighed down with a massive assortment of new and vintage necklaces and bracelets.

Vogue and Harper's Bazaar also cultivated this theatrical style. Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of Vogue, commissioned wildly dramatic, oversized jewelry specifically for the magazine. Usually one of a kind, tenuously held together with wire, thread, and glue, these pieces were too fragile to be worn outside the photo studio. There were breastplates of rhinestones or tiny mirrors, golf-ball-size pearl rings, shoulder-sweeping feather earrings, wrist and armloads of painted papier-mâché bracelets.

Technology also contributed to this fantastical mode. In 1965, plastic pearls were produced for the first time in lightweight, gigantic sizes. They were strung together into multistrand necklaces, bibs, helmets, and even dresses.

Style-wise, costume jewelry was a match for fine jewelry. The so-called beautiful people gleefully mixed costume jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane's $30 rhinestone and enamel panther bracelets (inspired by the Duchess of Windsor's original Cartier models) with their real ones. Lane was well known for his weighty pendant necklaces, shoulder-length chandelier earrings set with gaudy, multicolored fake stones, and enormous cocktail rings. His clients ranged from Babe Paley to Greta Garbo and the Velvet Underground.

Chanel continued to produce Renaissance-style jewelry, notably Maltese crosses and cuff bracelets embellished with large stones, which morphed into a more exaggerated version. Diana Vreeland chose this style as her signature, sporting a pair of bejeweled enamel cuffs reportedly designed by Fulco di Verdura.

At the end of the 1960s and into the 1970s, "space age" style was an alternative to this ornate jewelry. Coolly modern, geometric, it was made up in industrial materials such as transparent plastic and metal hardware. This hard-edged jewelry was a match for clothing ornamented with oversized buckles, zippers, grommets, and nail heads.

Around the same time, punk ruled the streets. The devotees of this style favored leather jackets and jeans that were as aggressive and unisex as their accessories: dog collars and leather armbands bristling with nail heads and spikes, thick chains worn as chokers and around waists. The most notorious punk ornamentation was also the simplest: a safety pin stuck through an ear, nose, lip, or cheek.

Two designers, Elsa Peretti and Robert Lee Morris, heavily influenced costume jewelry during this period. Peretti began designing for Tiffany in 1974, and costume jewelers immediately copied her small-scale, streamlined "lima bean" and "teardrop" pendants, and "diamonds by the yard" of cut stones strung on slender chains.

In New York City, Robert Lee Morris set up his own boutique, Artwear, as a showcase for his handmade gold-bead necklaces, gladiator-size cuffs, metal breastplates, and hefty belt buckles. Fashion designer Donna Karan accessorized her line with Morris's bold and simple creations for several seasons.

In the 1980s, entertainers Cyndi Lauper and Madonna were the female forces that drove style through the new media of music videos, and both mixed lingerie with vintage clothing, and vintage jewelry with cheap new baubles. Madonna wore armloads of rubber bracelets with religious-cross pendants and rosaries. Hip hop and rap music stars sported jewelry in heavy gold or gold-plated look-alikes: nameplate pendants, knuckle rings, ID bracelets. A gold-covered front tooth was a more permanent and extreme ornament.

As the simplified styles of designers Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein became popular, jewelry gradually shrank in scale until it disappeared. As minimalism ruled fashion, the jewelry business was abysmal. However, costume jewelry came back to glitzy glory in the early 1990s, propelled by the whimsical accessories of Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. Lagerfeld successfully revived and restyled many of Chanel's signatures, including multistrand pearl necklaces, and Renaissance-style jewelry. He used the "CC" logo as decoration on everything from earrings to pocketbooks.

Entertainers and movie stars steered fashion in 2000, and they wore the real thing, not costume jewelry. Pop music figures Jennifer Lopez and Lil' Kim flashed enormous precious stones on their fingers. Impresario Sean Combs (a.k.a Puff Daddy, P. Diddy) flaunted enormous diamond-stud earrings and monster diamond rings. A long line of movie stars, including Nicole Kidman and

Charlize Theron, borrowed jewelry, usually fine antique pieces, from established jewelers such as Harry Winston and Fred Leighton. It was a sign of the times when Chanel launched a line of precious jewelry, and Prada installed precious jewelry from Fred Leighton in their Soho store. Once again, the cycle had turned, and costume jewelry imitated precious jewelry, or "bling bling" as the blinding real thing was called in 2003.

See alsoBracelets; Brooches and Pins; Earrings; Jewelry; Necklaces and Pendants .


Becker, Vivienne. Fabulous Fakes: The History of Fantasy and Fashion Jewellery. London: Grafton, 1988.

Davidov, Corinne. The Bakelite Jewelry Book. New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.

Mulvah, Jane. Costume Jewelry in Vogue. London: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1988.

Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier Jewelers Extraordinary. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984.

Shields, Jody. All That Glitters: The Glory of Costume Jewelry. New York: Rizzoli, 1987

Jody Shields


views updated May 14 2018


Almost universally, individuals adorn themselves with jewelry that may indicate rank, gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, and religious beliefs—and barbarian Europe was no exception. Jewelry gives an important view into how peoples of the early medieval period from a.d. 400 to 1000 identified themselves and their groups. In the absence of stone architecture and sculpture, jewelry making was a primary art and sometimes is the only medium that has survived from these cultures. Though much of barbarian jewelry comes from loose or undocumented finds, whether accidentally lost or deliberately hidden, examples found in inhumation graves allow archaeologists to re-create details of costumes, since jewelry was used to fasten clothes together as well as to adorn the elite. Some jewelry, such as buckles and brooches, was functional, regardless of the degree of decoration, whereas other types, such as pendants and earrings, were more ornamental and symbolic, distinguishing individuals from each other.

Knowledge of various groups, such as Anglo-Saxons, Burgundians, Franks, Goths, Langobards, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Vikings, and Visigoths, has sometimes been based on spatial distributions of jewelry styles, since these "tribes" had diverse clothing fashions that required distinctive jewelry types to fasten and adorn them. Thus it has sometimes been assumed that peoples can be identified from jewelry found in graves; however, it is difficult to distinguish groups based on artifacts dating to this proto-historic age. As Helmut Roth points out in From Attila to Charlemagne (edited by Katharine Brown, Dafydd Kidd, and Charles T. Little), it is often difficult to establish that an object was produced by, for instance, a Frank, just because it was found in an area later associated with the Franks. Issues of "ethnic" identification are also discussed by Herbert Schutz in the introduction to his Tools, Weapons, and Ornaments (2001). Finally, extra caution is necessary when making assertions about ethnicity based on classifications of jewelry without documented provenance.

jewelry types

Common jewelry types included hair ornaments and headdresses, straight pins to hold veils and hair ornaments, necklaces of beads and pendants, earrings, brooches, belt buckles, strap ends, bracelets, wrist clasps (cuff fastenings), finger rings, and thin metal plaques sewn to clothing. In particular, brooches (or pins) have been studied and classified according to their myriad forms, including annular (ring), penannular (broken ring), quoit (flattened ring), disk, saucer, bow, cruciform, square-headed, equal-armed, oval, trefoil, bird, and animal types. Several brooch types derive from the Roman fibula, whose name recalls its formal resemblance to the human leg bone. Its function is based on the principle of the modern safety pin; it uses a wire spiral to provide flexibility for opening and shutting and usually has ornamentation on the enlarged head and foot plates that conceal the coiled spring and the catch plate for the pin. Certain types of jewelry were appropriate for particular clothing styles, and as fashions changed, so too did jewelry.

raw materials

Late Roman styles influenced the types of jewelry that were made, and the gold used in much early jewelry originated from melted down Roman coins. In the Viking Age, silver became more common than gold, as the supply of late Roman coins had long since died out and the source of metal by this time was Arabic silver coins. Copper, bronze, and iron were also used, particularly for functional jewelry. Bone and walrus ivory were carved for pins and rings. Glass, amber, and semiprecious stones (particularly quartz, rock crystal, jet, and garnet) were made into beads and also inserted into metal jewelry. Glass was produced in provincial Roman workshops in the Rhineland, and garnets came to Europe through Roman trade.

construction techniques

The techniques used to produce barbarian jewelry also derive from Roman methods and changed very little throughout the early medieval period, except for the introduction of the draw plate to produce wire (discussed below). The best source of information about production methods often is an examination of the artifacts, though some conclusions can be based on archaeological discoveries of tools and workshop debris. Important early medieval jewelry workshops have been discovered in Scandinavia at Helgö, Birka, Ribe, and Hedeby.

The most common method of jewelry construction was fabrication, which entails mechanical manipulation and joining of sheets of metal by hammering, folding, and soldering. Inscriptions, patterns, and images can be made on sheet metal by chasing or engraving, that is, using a pointed tool to displace or gouge out metal. The sheet can also be impressed with a stamp or die having a relief design, worked in repoussé by having designs hammered from the reverse, or embellished with small hammered punches. The central designs on Scandinavian Migration period (a.d. 450–600) gold pendants called bracteates were stamped with a die, but punches were used around the perimeter of these objects.

Casting was the other major method of jewelry construction. During the early medieval period, a two-piece mold was used rather than the ancient "lost-wax" technique. In casting, metal is melted in a crucible and then poured into the mold; used crucibles with residue as well as broken molds were found at workshop sites such as Birka in Sweden. After casting, rough edges must be filed away and polished; after this cleanup, the piece of jewelry might receive additional embellishment. Often jewelry cast in bronze or silver would be coated with silver or gold respectively to give an impression of a more valuable material.

decorative techniques

Jewelry made by either casting or fabrication may be further adorned by surface decoration, including granulation, filigree, and inlays of stones or glass. Filigree, also known as wire work, consists of patterns of plain or decorative beaded wires soldered to the surface of a piece of jewelry. In the fifth and sixth centuries, wire was made by techniques called strip twisting and block twisting, in which a strip of metal is twisted, rolled, and hammered until it is approximately circular in section like a drinking straw. Drawn wire, manufactured by pulling a thin metal strip through a series of successively smaller round-sectioned holes in a draw plate, gradually replaced strip- or block-twisted wire from the seventh through the ninth centuries in northern Europe.

A decorative technique called granulation consists of soldering small spheres of gold or silver onto the jewelry surface. Granules are simple to produce by heating small pieces of metal until they roll up due to surface tension, but they are difficult to solder into place accurately. They were often used in large quantity and in combination with filigree, so individual mistakes are difficult to see without a microscope while the overall effect is impressive. Both filigree and granulation created glittering effects that are impressive by firelight.

Enameling and inlay of colored stones and cut glass were also used to enhance the surface appearance of jewelry with color, or polychrome, effects. Cloisonné, a technique in which materials are set into small cells (cloisons) fabricated by soldering upright strips of metal onto the surface of the jewelry, was often used in the early medieval period. Garnet cloisonné was used extensively on Merovingian jewelry. Well-known Early Anglo-Saxon examples are the shoulder clasps from Sutton Hoo, in which cut garnets as well as millefiori glass, composed of colored glass rods fused together and sliced into thin sections, are placed in cell work. Enameling during the early medieval period was achieved by placing broken or powdered glass within cells, which were then heated, and the glass was allowed to melt and fuse with the metal jewelry surface. Finally, glass was also used to make colorful, patterned beads, as evidenced from workshops at Ribe in Denmark.

See alsoLa Tène Art (vol. 2, part 6); Sutton Hoo (vol. 2, part 7).


Arrhenius, Birgit. Merovingian Garnet Jewellery: Emergence and Social Implications. Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1985.

Axboe, Morten. "The Scandinavian Gold Bracteates: Studies on Their Manufacture and Regional Variations." Acta Archaeologica 52 (1981): 1–100.

Bayley, Justine. "Anglo-Saxon Non-Ferrous Metalworking: A Survey." World Archaeology 23, no. 1 (1991): 115–130.

Brown, Katharine Reynolds, Dafydd Kidd, and Charles T. Little, eds. From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000.

Cherry, John. Goldsmiths. Medieval Craftsmen Series. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

Coatsworth, Elizabeth, and Michael Pinder. The Art of theAnglo-Saxon Goldsmith. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: Boydell Press, 2002.

Duczko, Wladyslaw. Birka V: The Filigree and GranulationWork of the Viking Period: An Analysis of the Material from Björkö. Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1985.

Hines, John. A New Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Great Square-Headed Brooches. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: Boydell and Brewer, 1997.

——. Clasps, Hektespenner, Agraffen: Anglo-Scandinavian Clasps of Classes A–C of the Third to Sixth Centuriesa.d.: Typology, Diffusion, and Function. Stockholm, Sweden: Kungliga Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, 1993.

Hougen, Bjo⁄rn. The Migration Style of Ornament in Norway. 2d ed. Oslo, Norway: Universitetets Oldsaksamling, 1967.

Jensen, Stig. The Vikings of Ribe. Ribe, Denmark: Den antikvariske Samling, 1991.

Jessup, Ronald. Anglo-Saxon Jewellery. Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, U.K.: Shire Archaeology, 1974.

László, Gyula. The Art of the Migration Period. Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1974.

Ogden, Jack. "The Technology of Medieval Jewelry." In Ancient and Historic Metals: Conservation and Scientific Research. Edited by David A. Scott, Jerry Podany, and Brian B. Considine, pp. 153–182. Marina del Rey, Calif.: Getty Conservation Institute, 1994.

Ryan, Michael. Studies in Medieval Irish Metalwork. London: Pindar Press, 2002.

Schutz, Herbert. Tools, Weapons, and Ornaments: GermanicMaterial Culture in Pre-Carolingian Central Europe, 400–750. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001.

Suzuki, Seiichi. The Quoit Brooch Style and Anglo-Saxon Settlement. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: Boydell Press, 2000.

Vida, Tivadar. "Veil Pin or Dress Pin: Data to the Question of Avar Period Pin-Wearing." In Pannonia and Beyond. Edited by Andrea Vaday, pp. 563–573, 811–815. Budapest, Hungary: Archaeological Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1999.

Whitfield, Niamh. "Round Wire in the Early Middle Ages." Jewellery Studies 4 (1990): 13–28.

Wicker, Nancy L. "On the Trail of the Elusive Goldsmith: Tracing Individual Style and Workshop Characteristics in Migration Period Metalwork." Gesta 33, no. 1 (1994): 65–70.

Youngs, Susan, ed. "The Work of Angels": Masterpieces ofCeltic Metalwork, Sixth–Ninth Centuriesa.d. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.

Nancy L. Wicker


views updated May 29 2018



Stone Jewelry. In prehistory humans used stones and animal bones to make beads and pendants, but it was not until the fourth millennium b.c.e.—when unusual sorts of stone were imported into Mesopotamia and the technological ability to work metal had developed—that more-elaborate forms of jewelry were possible. The little surviving Mesopotamian jewelry of the Late Uruk period (circa 3300 - circa 2900 b.c.e.) largely consists of beads, sometimes made of exotic stones such as lapis lazuli imported from northern Afghanistan. This tradition continued into the third millennium b.c.e., when, as trade routes expanded, carnelian was imported from the Indus Valley. The Royal Graves at Ur (circa 2600 -circa 2500 b.c.e.) contained beads and pendants in which colored stones are often combined with gold. Sometimes the forms of the gold beads, such as a popular biconical shape, copy those of stone.

Gold Jewelry. Gold jewelry was largely made from metal hammered into thin sheets and then cut to shape. Sometimes the sheet was decorated with scored lines or

punched dots. Soldering was occasionally used to join elements. Spiral-cone beads or pendants were created from gold wire, which was also soldered onto sheet gold as decoration or used to make chains or loops. Sheet gold was also used to make boat-shaped earrings found in the Royal Graves at Ur. Simpler wire hoops or elaborate multilobed earrings with granulation are also known. Popular from around 2000 b.c.e., granulated designs were created by forming patterns of tiny gold spheres on a metal sheet. Fine examples of granulated gold work date to the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries b.c.e. and come from royal tombs at Ebla in Syria.

First Millennium B.C.E. Some of the beads in the jewelry of the first millennium b.c.e. are made of colored glass. Much evidence, particularly for the kind of jewelry worn by men, can be gleaned from Neo-Assyrian reliefs of the ninth to seventh centuries b.c.e. The reliefs depict the king, courtiers, and supernatural genii wearing bracelets, armlets, earrings, and necklaces with elaborate pendants. The armlets and bracelets often end in animal heads. These forms became popular throughout much of the ancient world. A gold bracelet with lion heads (seventh century b.c.e.) was discovered in the palace at Karmir Blur in Urartu, the northern rival of Assyria, and is one of the earliest datable examples of this type. Gold jewelry discovered in the tombs of Assyrian queens at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) demonstrates the extraordinary quality of gold work produced in Mesopotamia in the eighth century b.c.e. Elaborate crowns, necklaces, headbands, and bracelets were deposited in the tombs and include examples with enamel and inlay work.


The most important evidence for art of the Early Dynastic period comes from the vast Royal Cemetery at Ur (circa 2600 - circa 2500 b.c.e.). Among the hundreds of graves excavated there by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s, sixteen were extremely rich graves and contained multiple sacrificial victims, an extremely rare practice in Mesopotamia. The owners of the majority of the graves are unknown, but the wealth buried with them, together with the presence of human victims—seventy-three in one grave—suggest that they were “priest-kings” and queens. Evidence of virtually every type of metallurgical technique known in antiquity, except the working of iron, was found in the graves. Among the grave goods were weapons and vessels in copper, gold, and silver, and a large amount of elaborate jewelry. Sumerian jewelers exploited organic forms, such as flower-head rosettes, fluted beads, and leaves, or simple geometric shapes, such as cones, spirals, and circles. Some of the earliest known gold chains of the loop-in-loop style, decorative rings, and cloisonné inlay were found in the graves.

Other skillfully fashioned pieces include a sheet-gold helmet from a grave without sacrificial victims, and two examples of the “Ram in the Thicket,” sculptures made of gold, shell, copper, and lapis lazuli and depicting a goat standing on its hind legs while resting its front hooves on the branches of a flowering plant. Each of these sculptures was originally the lower part of some sort of stand that probably supported a small table or tray. The materials used in such grave goods testify to long-distance trade. Metal deposits are unknown in Mesopotamia, so gold, silver, and copper would have been imported from Iran, Anatolia (modern Turkey), and possibly even Egypt. Similarly, exotic stones would have been brought into the region; lapis lazuli was imported from Afghanistan and carnelian from the Indus Valley. Inlay was a common feature on many objects including scepters, musical instruments, and the “Standard of Ur.” This box-like object, of unknown function, is inlaid with lapis lazuli as a background for pieces of cut shell. On one side, chariots pulled by donkeys are trampling enemies; infantrymen carry spears, and enemy soldiers are killed with axes; other enemies are paraded naked and presented to a taller male figure, perhaps the king, who holds a spear. On the other side of the box, animals, fish, and other goods are brought in procession to a ceremonial banquet with religious overtones. Seated figures, wearing fleece or fringed skirts, drink and are entertained by a singer and a musician playing a lyre. These two scenes portray the chief aspects of Sumerian kingship: the divine world supports the ruler as both military leader and bountiful provider.

Sources: J. E. Reade, “Assyrian King-Lists, the Royal Tombs of Ur, and Indus Origins” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 60 (2001): 1-29.

Richard L. Zettler and Lee Horne, eds., Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1998).

Oxus Treasure. Some of the finest jewelry of the Achaemenid period (559-331 b.c.e.) comes from the so-called Oxus Treasure, named for the river in Central Asia (the modern Amu Dariya) near where the hoard was said to have been found. The objects in this collection range in date (fifth to fourth centuries b.c.e.) and

may not belong to a single hoard. The treasure includes magnificent jewelry, such as two inlaid gold bracelets ending in winged griffins, several torques, and bracelets ending in the heads of animals. The animal imagery links the pieces stylistically with nomadic art of Central Asia as well as with Greek gold work.


O. M. Dalton, The Treasure of the Oxus, with Other Examples of Early Oriental Metal-Work, third edition (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1964).

K. R. Maxwell-Hyslop, Western Asiatic Jewellery, c. 3000-612 B.C. (London: Methuen, 1971).

Jack Ogden Jewellery of the Ancient World (London: Trefoil, 1982).


views updated Jun 11 2018


JEWELRY. Until about the mid-eighteenth century, both men and women wore significant quantities of jewelry. Sixteenth-century portraits, for example of Robert Dudley, show men wearing the popular hat badges (enseignes) and pins (agraffes), an occasional earring, gold chains, often adorned with pendants or lockets, and several rings. Women could wear such pieces in even greater quantity, pinning pendants to their sleeves and starched collars and into their hairdos as well as layering shorter and longer necklaces. While certain types were gender-specificjeweled daggers and sword hilts for men, pairs of bracelets, girdles, and marten or sable pelts with jeweled heads for womenthe earlier period stands out for the types and designs they had in common. The clothing of both sexes was adorned with rows of pearls, stoneset rosettes, pairs of tassel-like aglets, or larger sets of small jewels sewn onto fabric, indicating jewelry's close connection to costume and fashion.

In the course of the eighteenth century, as men's fashion grew simpler, their jewelry was reduced to buttons, buckles, rings, and, occasionally, medals, hat jewels, and ceremonial weapons. Women wore quantities of pearls dangling from their ears and in necklaces, elaborate pins or bodice jewels (stomachers), and hair jewelry, as forms of jewelry became increasingly specialized and gendered. The quantity and quality of jewelry denoted status, yet the frequency and repetitiveness of sumptuary laws mainly proves how ineffectual such regulations were. The most expensive and elaborate jewels belonged to monarchs and the high nobility, who, however, did not hesitate to pawn them for money when necessary. Displaying fabulous jewels at ceremonial or special public occasions was required to maintain rank and standing among their peers and in the eyes of the general public. The rising merchant class and bourgeoisie developed their own, only slightly less elaborate, versions; basically, everyone wore similar forms of jewelry, but in lesser materials according to what one could afford. Costume jewelry, which always existed but does not survive in quantity from earlier periods, became a more widespread alternative during the eighteenth century. As manufacturing techniques advanced, so did the use of glass paste, rhinestones, gilt silver and brass, and prefabricated, stamped, or other types of hollow jewelry worn by larger segments of the population.

Important jewelry-making centers existed in all the major trade and court cities of Europe. There was such a great exchange of objects, artists, and designs that attributions to individuals, and even to particular regions, are often impossible to determine. Stylistically, the early modern period saw a fundamental transition around 1600 from narrative and colorful gold and enamel jewelry to more monochromatic, abstract, and often geometric, forms. Such designs were driven by an emphasis on glittering rows of faceted stones as gem-cutting techniques advanced and greater quantities of stones, especially diamonds and pearls, became available. The pendant, perhaps the most popular Renaissance jewel, displayed a range of subjects, from religion and mythology to miniature portraits, while the characteristic motifs of later centuries focused on large glittering rosettes, sets of graduated bows, or stylized plant forms.

See also Aristocracy and Gentry ; Bourgeoisie ; Class, Status, and Order ; Clothing ; Diamond Necklace, Affair of ; Sumptuary Laws ; Technology ; Women .


Bury, Shirley. Jewellery, 17891910: The International Era. Woodbridge, U.K., 1991.

Cocks, Anna Somers, ed. Princely Magnificence: Court Jewels of the Renaissance, 15001630. Exh. cat. London, 1980.

Een eeuw van schittering: Diamantjuwelen uit de 17de eeuw = A Sparkling Age: 17th-Century Diamond Jewellery. Exh. cat. Antwerp, 1993.

Stefanie Walker


views updated May 21 2018


Jewelry has occupied an important part of life in India from ancient times to the present day. Evidence from the earliest Indus Valley civilizations, which flourished along the Indus River in modern-day Pakistan and which date back to 2500 b.c.e., indicates that early Indians adorned themselves from head to toe with many varied ornaments. Although traditions have changed over the thousands of years since the beginning of Indian culture, jewelry remains an integral part of religious, regional, and social life.


The earliest forms of jewelry were amulets, or ornaments worn to protect or empower the wearer. Ornaments worn by men symbolized their power over adversaries. Some ornaments, such as a specific headdress, could be worn only by certain members of a social group: those who inherited the right or earned it. The earliest forms of jewelry were made with flowers, especially orchids, which were inserted as ornaments in a hole in the earlobe of men and boys. Metal, ivory, or crystal ornaments also adorned the earlobes. Human hair taken from the decapitated head of an enemy was also a prized ornament for men. It symbolized a boy's rise to the status of warrior. The hair was often dyed red to symbolize the blood spurting from its victim. Tiger claws and those of the Indian anteater along with animal horns were also used to adorn the body. The Naga people of northeastern India continue to practice the ancient customs that archeologists, or scientists who study past cultures, believe ancient Indians began many thousands of years ago.

As societies grew and developed throughout India, jewelry styles became more elaborate. Jewelry continued to be worn as amulets, but the materials used became quite complex. Stones were polished into beads that were worn around the neck. Strings of red coral beads began to be worn by women and children to protect them from evil. Beads of amber, a fossilized clear or yellowish substance from a cone-bearing tree, were worn to protect the health of the wearer. Traditional Indian medical practices suggest that amber will protect against sore throats and that yellow amber prevents jaundice, a deficiency of vitamin D that causes the skin to turn yellow. More elaborate amulets began to be made of metal and jewels. These amulets took many forms, including intricately engraved plates with symbols of gods and weapon-shaped amulets in the form of arrow-heads and knives.

Jewelry from head to toe

The Mogul Empire, Indian Muslims who ruled India from 1500 to 1700 c.e., greatly influenced Indian jewelry styles. Under Mogul rule Indian goldsmiths developed the technical skill to create beautiful jewels for the body, and Indians wore an almost infinite variety of jewelry that literally covered the wearer from head to toe.

Indian men typically wore less jewelry than women, but the varieties available to men were plentiful. Upon their heads men could adorn their turbans with pearl-tipped heron bird feathers, a fan of jewels, or an ornament shaped like a bird with a strand of pearls in its beak. Around their necks, men hung pendants, strands of pearls, or amulets made of precious metal inlaid with gemstones. Hinged armbands and bracelets adorned their upper arms and wrists.

Indians wore many rings on their fingers. Especially prized were signet rings, small circular rings with unique marks on them which were worn on the little finger or the middle finger of the right hand, and archer's thumb rings. Worn by Hindus since ancient times, signet rings were considered good luck amulets by Buddhists from the first to the tenth centuries, and prized by Muslims from the twelfth century. The archer's thumb ring was used to increase the accuracy and distance of an arrow and became popular in India during the Mogul Empire. A curved ring made of stone, especially jade, the archer's ring is worn with the curved tip pointing toward the wrist between the thumb and the forefinger. Wealthier men wore archer's rings made of gold and inlaid with gems, including diamonds and rubies.

The lower part of the body was also ornamented. A baldric, or a special belt worn diagonally across the chest from the left shoulder, supported a sword but was also a beautiful ornament made of gold brocade with enameled pieces and gemstones. Men's ankles were circled with chain bracelets. Although only the wealthiest Indian men wore this type of jewelry, they represent the extent of jewelry styles that were popular during the Mogul Empire. These styles continue to be worn in India, especially in rural areas of the north.

Women's jewelry

Women wore more jewelry than men. During the Mogul Empire women adorned their heads with coins, chains worn over their foreheads, strands of pearls, and ornaments made to look like flowers. They also had hair ornaments made of gold and jewels that covered the long braids that reached their waist. Multiple piercings in their noses as well as their ears allowed for more jewelry to be worn. Bracelets and armbands were worn in groups. Some women covered their entire upper and lower arm in bangles, wearing fifty or more at a time to signify their marriage. For ceremonies, each finger was covered with a ring attached to a chain that covered the back of the wearer's hand and attached to a bracelet with more chains. Women's waists were circled with gold belts, some with bells strung on them. Women's feet were adorned with elaborate jewelry, including toe rings and anklets.

Women wore jewelry daily, but wedding ceremonies required the most decoration. Jewelry signifying a woman's married status is very important in Indian culture. Rather than using a wedding ring as Western cultures do, Indians use a variety of regional types of ornament. In northern India women wear specific ornaments on the head, nose, wrist, and toes, while in southern India ornaments called thali signify marriage. Many other regional variations also exist. Some wear silver anklets and toe rings. Women often wear special jewelry during their wedding ceremonies and some continue to wear this jewelry during the first year of their marriage for luck.

Many traditional Indian jewelry styles continue to be worn by modern Indian women, but those living in cities have adopted Western styles as well.


Untracht, Oppi. Traditional Jewelry of India. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997.

Costume Jewelry

views updated May 29 2018

Costume Jewelry

Adornments for the body that are made of precious metals and stones are called jewelry, and jewelry is given the name costume jewelry when it is not made from precious materials. Costume jewelry provides an inexpensive way to add glamour and sparkle to fashion because it is usually made of cheap materials, such as glass or plastic rather than diamonds and emeralds, and plain steel, brass, or copper, rather than gold and silver. Though costume jewelry has been worn during many periods, it had a major rise in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s.

For as long as people have worn jewelry made of precious stones and metals, they have also made false versions of that jewelry. Even ancient Greeks and Romans wore glass jewelry, which imitated the look of expensive precious stones. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries French and English jewelers worked to perfect new hard types of glass that could be cut to give the many-faceted look of a diamond. This glass was called paste, and paste became the name given to false jewels. Jewelry made of these paste jewels was usually called fashioned jewelry because the stones were made or fashioned by people.

During the early 1920s the creative French designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (18831971) introduced many popular new styles. She moved away from the formal layers of clothing that had been popular during the 1800s, considering them old-fashioned and suffocating. Chanel's styles were simple, loose, and comfortable, and to dress them up with sparkle she designed a type of fashioned jewelry she named costume jewelry.

Chanel's costume jewelry was big and bold with long strings of glass beads, dangling earrings, and many plastic bracelets stacked up on the arms. The inexpensive flashy jewels fit right in with the sexy look of the 1920s flapper, or independent and rebellious woman, and soon costume jewelry adorned many stylish young women across the Western world. Other well-known designers, such as Elsa Schiaparelli (18961973) of Italy, began to design their own styles of costume jewelry.

The tremendous popularity of costume jewelry lasted through the 1930s, as many women imitated the glamour of Hollywood stars. Though women continue to buy costume jewelry as an inexpensive alternative to real jewelry into the twenty-first century, many of the costume pieces designed during the costume jewelry craze of the 1920s have become collectors' items, bringing prices almost as high as gold and diamonds.


Brower, Brock. "Chez Chanel: Couturiere and Courtesan, Coco Made Her Own Rules as She Freed Women from Old Fussy, Frilly Fashions." Smithsonian (July 2001): 6066.

Haedrich, Marcel. Coco Chanel: Her Life, Her Secrets. New York: Little, Brown, 1972.

Miller, Brandon Marie. Dressed for the Occasion: What Americans Wore 1620-1970. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1999.

Schiffer, Nancy, and Lyngerda Kelley. Costume Jewelry: The Great Pretenders. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1998.

Wallach, Janet. Chanel: Her Style and Her Life. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Wallis, Jeremy. Coco Chanel. Chicago, IL: Heinemann, 2001.

Yarwood, Doreen. Fashion in the Western World: 15001900. New York: Drama Book Publishers, 1992.

[See also Volume 3, Eighteenth Century: Paste Jewelry ]


views updated May 29 2018


Documentation of Native American ornament dates back several thousands of years. Although styles and designs for jewelry differed among different peoples, all Native Americans held in common the belief that ornament had spiritual meaning. Native American jewelry reflects the religious and social customs of each unique group. Traditional styles of tribal jewelry were considered a type of medicine, or contact with helpful spirits. Styles common to many tribes include necklaces, armlets, earrings, nose rings, and other ornamentation.

Spiritual decoration

When making jewelry, Native Americans selected materials for their spiritual or magical qualities. Animal claws, crystals, shells, sticks, cornhusks, beads made of grass seed, dried rose hips, silver-berries from silverberry shrubs, and later metal and glass beads, among other things, were used to create necklaces, bracelets, armlets, and earrings, as well as many other unique adornments worn by both men and women. Hunters of northeastern and other tribes would adorn themselves with animal parts, wearing antlers, hooves, fur, and bones to gain strength and protection from the animal's spirit. Among the Plains Indians, for example, a necklace made of grizzly bear claws was worn by a man to honor his killing of the great bear. Bear claw necklaces, sometimes strung alternately with human finger bones, were also prized among the tribes of the Great Basin, a desert region in the western United States that comprises parts of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.

While the materials were selected carefully, the design or type of the jewelry also had special significance. Along the coast of the modern state of Alaska, Eskimo men wore labrets, or pierced ornaments, at the corners of their mouths that looked like small walrus tusks to signify the importance of the animal to their survival. Pierced ears among the tribes of the Great Basin were believed to enable people to live long lives and allow them to enter the spirit world after death. Nose ornaments of bone or metal were similarly important for men in the Southeast. Arapaho warriors created necklaces for themselves patterned after dreams or visions they had had. The Iroquois nation of the Northeast placed great importance on wampum, a belt beaded with purple and white shells in designs of particular meaning. The designs on wampum recorded important events, and the length and width of the belt indicated the importance of the event. Wampum was used as money for trading, as treaties to solve disputes between tribes, and as a courting item between young women and eligible men. Among the tribes of the Southwest, including the Navajo and Pueblo Indians, turquoise, a blue and green mineral, has had special meaning since as early as 300 c.e. Native Americans of the Southwest adorned themselves with turquoise earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry. The mineral was also central to religious ceremonies, especially Navajo prayers for rain.

A symbol of wealth

Although most jewelry had spiritual meaning, some indicated social status or was worn simply for decoration. For example, pearls could only be worn by the children of noblemen in the Natchez tribe of the Southeast. While women of the Iroquois nation typically wore many beaded necklaces, for ceremonies they showed off their collections, wearing as much as ten pounds of beaded jewelry at once. Men of the Plateau region wore multiple strands of shell and glass bead loop necklaces with chokers made of dentalium, long thin white tubular shells from the Pacific coast. After 1850 some Plains Indians began to wear breastplates, once worn as armor, simply for decoration. Breastplates, or chest coverings made of horizontally strung long shells called hair pipes, became so popular that people from other tribes began to wear them as well, and European Americans on the East Coast began to manufacture glass and metal beads to make decorative breastplates. Trade with Europeans and white settlers, as well as the changes to Native American culture due to the movement of white settlers into their homelands, introduced new materials, designs, and uses for jewelry among various tribes.

The living members of many tribes throughout the modern-day North American continent continue these jewelry traditions. For some, such as the Navajo of the Southwest, the sale of their jewelry provides a significant amount of their income.


Dubin, Lois Sherr. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

Paterek, Josephine. Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. Denver, CO: ABC-CLIO, 1994.