The history of jewelry making

The history of jewelry making

Main PageALROSA FACETSDid you know?The history of jewelry making
08.05.2020 / # Did you know?

Jewelry making is an ancient art that goes back into the distant past. The very first jewelry served our ancestors as protective amulets and good luck charms, crafted from the materials close at hand: wood, animal teeth and bones, shells, and colorful pebbles. The most ancient beads ever discovered were made from seashells about 100 thousand years ago.

With the emergence of pottery, we started making jewelry from painted clay, which was later joined by the first ornamental stones and minerals like nephrite, obsidian, jadeite, or flint.

And then, several millennia ago, humankind discovered gold. This beautifully colored metal was fairly rare, but easy to work with, and retained its exquisite glow for a long time; these valuable properties, among many others, were quick to captivate many an ancient craftsman.

Jewelry making was already a booming profession in ancient Egypt. At the time, gemstones and other accessories had already stopped being purely magical charms: they had also become a symbol of power and wealth, a way of displaying their owner’s high status. The jewelers from ancient Greece and Rome, Middle East and Asia Minor, ancient China and beyond have all left behind marvelous works of art. In India, the basic diamond, sapphire, and ruby polishing techniques were in use as far back as 1000 BC.

During the Middle Ages, India was the source of most of the world’s precious gems. The kingdom of Golconda was the main rough diamond trade hub. From there, rough diamonds reached Europe: first through Venice and later on, through Amsterdam.

Jewelers from the Early Medieval Europe relied extensively on the cold enamel technique and used a lot of gold and unpolished gemstones. The ornamental patterns were dominated by the so-called animal motifs. The master craftsmen from Byzantium were especially renowned for their intricately wrought religious accessories: liturgic chalices and other vessels, crucifixes, and icon frames. Their creations were adorned with gold or gilded silver, alongside with rough diamonds, turquoise, rubies, emeralds, and pearls.

European jewelry making continued to flourish during the Renaissance. The techniques employed by craftsmen became more and more complex, and the resulting items were stunningly delicate and unique. Dozens of new jewelry making hubs appeared all over Italy, France, Germany, and other countries. In some of them, jewelers used both traditional materials and some rather unorthodox alternatives like ostrich eggs or coconuts. Some of the particularly popular accessories of the time included chest pendants and all manner of hat adornments, often encrusted with gemstones or pearls.

As humankind entered modern history, jewelry began to be transformed from a type of artisan craft into an art form. Its development was heavily influenced by the predominant contemporary art movements: baroque, rococo, and eventually classicism. Commissioned by emperors and other rulers of the time, court jewelers produced incredible masterpieces, which are on display in the pride of place at the world’s largest museums to this day.

That was when diamonds earned their tremendous popularity. A lot of the most distinguished jewelers of that period worked in Russia. One of them was Jérémie Pauzié, who created the Grand Imperial Crown for Catherine the Great’s coronation.

In the middle of the 19th century, jewelry making became more automated, enabling accessories to be produced for the general public. Men’s fashion shifted from adorning clothes with gemstones to flaunting expensive cigarette cases, snuff boxes, cane knobs, and more.

The 20th century brought a wealth of art movements into jewelry making. The art nouveau boom during the century’s first decades resulted in fantastically complex shapes and patterns of jeweled accessories. The same period was also marked by growing interest towards national cultures.

Jewelers began to turn to the most diverse and unexpected materials, including synthetics. In the meanwhile, natural metals and gems only kept growing in value. Diamonds in particular became the most coveted gems. Some jewelry brands managed to surround diamonds with a flair of legend, making them not just a popular choice but a must-have accessory for certain special occasions (such as weddings).

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