The Craft of Jewelry

The word jewel comes from the French word “Jouel” and Latin word “Jocal” meaning plaything. Jewelry is the art of wearing decorative items for self-adornment. The Craft of Jewelry is considered to be the oldest and most expensive art of metalwork.

The craft’s ornaments include rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, tiaras, amulets, crowns, cuff links, brooches, chains, pins, household objects and many more.  Alongside metals, precious gemstones too gain a higher value when engraved as beautiful ornaments for wear.

Jewelry Store

Throughout human history, jewelry has had various applications, they are:

  • As Self-adornment
  • As fashion ornaments
  • As an artistic display
  • As something of personal value, such as love, grief or a memory.
  • As an indicator of social status, such as wedding and engagement.
  • As a showcase of ethnic or religious values

This craft is immensely diverse among different cultures. As each culture have used jewelry in different manners, there will always be similarities of metalwork, use of gemstones and rare exotic items.

 

Jewelry History

One of the important ways of determining the way of life of ancient cultures has always been through recognizing what type of jewelry they had used and for what reasons.

The non-reactivity of precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum and other gemstones like diamonds and pearls, have safeguarded and preserved the history of these ancient cultures.

The oldest pieces of jewelry ornaments date back to 7000 years in Sumer. Other ancient and powerful empires such as Egyptians, Mesopotamian, Indians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans also have a share in this.

Egypt

The Egyptians loved to work with gold over anything else and the first fragments of Egyptian jewelry date back to 5000 years. Egyptian empires have symbolized jewelry with power and influence over the people.

Their idols were made out of gold and if not, had huge golden necklaces while the temple monks held valuable treasures in their possession. The pharaohs also used to show off their jewelry in attempts of dictating superiority over the common people.

The wealthy people of Egypt wore expensive ornaments in life, and even in death, were buried with their treasures, so that they could have a great time in the afterlife. The unique methods of Egyptian jewelry were also traced in the Middle East and Byzantine, proving there were trades between these empires.

Mask of Tutankhamun

Mask of Tutankhamun

Mesopotamia

Today’s Iraq and Syria were known as Mesopotamia in ancient times, and were home to the popular cities of Babylon and Sumer. Jewelry craft in Mesopotamia also traces back to 5000 years.

These people favored shaping gold into leaves, spirals and grapes and combined them with precious stones such as lapis lazuli, to decorate themselves, their idols and statues.

Ancient Mesopotamian earring jewelry

Greece

As old as the Greek Empire was, their use for jewelry were not common or symbolic, rather they would wear it only to show wealth, social status and beauty (in women). Their main technique included casting, twisting bars and making wires in the forms of wreaths, bracelets and earrings.

Greek jewelry was simpler than other cultures, and much of the designs were taken from Asia when Alexander the Great conquered and returned. Most jewelry ornaments were dedicated to the gods and to oppose the “evil eye” given by other people.

Greek Golden Wreath

Rome

As the Roman Empire conquered large parts of Europe, other factions began developing jewelry of Roman design. Like the Greeks, Roman jewelry was also to ward off the evil eye. Roman governors used to wear specialized rings used for marking and waxing secret documents.

Their common ornaments were crude gold earrings, necklaces and bracelets, with the most common being the brooch, used to secure clothing.

Indian subcontinent

India has a long history of jewelry because of their abundant supply of precious metals and gemstones, dating back to almost 8000 years. The Hindu tradition associates gold with sun and immortality because of its anti-corrosion properties, and silver with moon, both of them were considered sacred metals.

Maharajahs and people associated with royalty had a special value for jewelry. Navaratna (nine gems) was a huge golden necklace with 9 gemstones engraved in it that only the Maharajah could wear.

The 9 gemstones: diamond, pearl, ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz, cat’s eye, coral, and hyacinth (red zircon), were each correlated to a deity.

Navratna

Navratna

Indian people were the first to mine diamonds and use them for people of royalty and trading. Mughal emperors and Kings inscribed their names on them as a sign of their immortality and influence on history.

Today jewelry is a common attribute of Indian people who attend a wedding or a ceremony, especially among the women.

Central and South America

The three major empires of Central and South America, The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, developed the craft of jewelry 5000 years ago. The above three and other Andean empires such as Mochica of Peru, had access to large amounts of gold and made amazing designs.

With the Mochicans, gold work jewelry hit its peak. Nose, ear and chest ornaments were considered the work of noble goldsmiths of Peruvian culture.

Gold jewelry was the most common among the Aztecs too. Only noble people were allowed to wear them to show their social rank, power and wealth. Mayans also used to make jewelry out of gold, but also with silver, bronze, copper and jade.

The earlier Mayan jewelry were made from stone and bone since they did not have access to metal. In addition to adornment, these cultures used jewelry in sacrificial rituals as well.

Mochican Jewelry pieces

 

Jewelry Process

We all know the materials used in the production of various jewelry. Precious metals, gemstones, exotic wood and others, sometimes only one and sometimes all of them combined can result in the perfect piece of jewelry you are looking for.

Now of course, each of these substances walk through a series of unique methods to make their way into your fashion or decoration.

The process of jewelry are as follows:

  • Mining
  • Dissociation
  • Forging
  • Casting
  • Soldering
  • Cutting and carving
  • Polishing and plating

Mining

Before you can start the process of making jewelry, you have to find the location of raw material used in it. While the precious metals and gemstones can be found all over the world, some places are luckier than others, and at the same time much more unfortunate.

You see, precious metals and minerals attract greedy people with evil intentions, and most often they step on the throats of others to reach their goals.

Here is a list of some countries that hold mountains of precious material:

  • United states with the most Gold reserves (8140 tons)
  • Mexico with the most Silver (5600 tons)
  • South Africa with the most Platinum production (161000 kilograms per year)
  • Russia with the most Palladium production (80000 kilograms per year)
  • Russia with the most Diamond production (40 million carats per year)
  • Kazakhstan with most Uranium production (23000 tons per year)

It is worth mentioning that most African third-world countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, DR Congo and Angola also have huge mines of gold, platinum and diamond. It is one of the main reasons that they are war-torn.

Gold mine forced labor

Africans working in a gold mine

Today two types of mining are performed to excavate precious materials, surface mining and underground mining. Usually the latter has proven to be more beneficial in locating valuable metals and minerals.

Dissociation

Usually related to metals, after they are found and mined, you need to separate and isolate them since most are found mixed and alloyed with each other. You are either required to isolate metals from rock or one metal from another by melting them.

Mostly precious metals are found as electrum (gold and silver), a platinum nugget (platinum family metals mixed), gold nuggets and natural copper alloys (bronze and brass). Minerals are usually found in pure form such as diamonds or pearls.

Electrum

Forging

In order to structure the metal into a desired shape, a metal is melted then hammered, this process is known as forging. Even though it this has a lesser application in jewelry, eventually all kinds of metals need to be forged, including precious ones. Forging has a greater use in the steel and aluminum industry.

Casting

Much like forging, casting is the same process but instead of hammering or pressing, the molten metal is poured into a mold or a crucible to obtain its shape. Casting is the applied procedure of shaping precious metals.

These were the two most prominent methods of metalwork in medieval ages, forging for swords and casting for sculpture and jewelry making.

Soldering

Soldering is the method of connecting two pieces of metal, just like welding but in a small scale. Unlike welding, which requires metal to melt for it to stick, soldering is gluing the fragments to one another.

Today it has a wide variety of applications in plumbing, electronics, musical instruments and metalwork including jewelry. There are three types of soldering:

  • Soft soldering (lead-tin alloy)
  • Silver soldering (silver alloy)
  • Brazing (uses brass as filler alloy)

Soldering of metals

Cutting and carving

Most famous among lapidaries (people who collect and work with minerals and gemstones), cutting and carving are two of the most basic processes used in decorative items and engraved gems.

Most of the jewelry pieces contain one or multiple gemstones engraved in them, while casting, soldering and polishing are attributes of metalwork, cutting and carving are performed on gemstones.

A precious stone like diamond is not naturally found the way you see it on TV or the internet. It is manually cut, polished and carved into the metal of jewelry later on (or not). Though, those who work with diamonds are called gem cutters, not lapidaries.

Carving can be done on metals as well, for example when you order a particular name to be written on a ring or pendant.

Diamond cut and carve

Polishing and Plating

Most people picture cleansing an already owned piece of jewelry from dust and scratch when polishing is mentioned, where in fact it is done before you buy them at the last stage of jewelry process.

Without it, your golden ring may appear as a cheap copper circle on your finger, and your expensive platinum bracelet as rusty old nickel. It is the polish that provide a metal its true exterior.

Plating on the other hand can be done before or after the process. Some people order a gold-plated silver jewelry for a lower price, and some people go to the jewelers for rhodium-plating.

Even those gold and silver medals you see at the Olympics are not 100% pure, but rather plated. Polishing and plating are the most important things a piece of jewelry undergoes, without them the efforts of the previous steps are of little value.

Ring polish

 

Jewelry Types

Today there are hundreds of jewelry types with names you have never heard of in your life. When I first started researching, it came to me as a shock to see so many types, techniques and appliances of this beautiful ornaments.

Excluding some special ones, almost all of them are designed for self-adornment. The type of jewelry is directly related to the part of the body it is worn on.

Indian Actress Urvashi Rautela

A simple series of examples that all of us are familiar with are that earrings go with ears, necklaces go with neck, bracelets go with hands and rings go with fingers.

But do you know what type of jewelry can be worn on the head, hair, nose, lips, tongue, upper arm, thumb or feet? Fear not, here you can learn all about them.

Head ornaments

Any type of jewelry that can be worn on your head, hair, face and ears can be listed under this category, these also include various piercings. Head jewelry ornaments are:

Crowns:

Worn on the head to showcase royalty or authority in ancient times. There are many types of crowns and half-crowns each worn under specific circumstances, they are:

Coronet:

A small crown with ornaments fixed on a metal ring. It completely covers the top of your head and is an English royal adornment.

Corolla:

A small ancient circlet used to show authority or victory, mostly worn by Roman people.

Diadem:

Like corolla, a simple metal headband worn by Greek men. In women, it is more fashionable and covers the forehead.

Rawena Ravenclaw's lost diadem - Harry Potter

Kokoshnik:

A traditional headdress worn by women in Russia.

Makuta:

A traditional pointed headdress made out of gold and worn by the women of South Asian nations.

Khepresh:

A war crown worn by the ancient Egyptian military.

Tiara:

A jeweled half-crown worn by women in certain ceremonies, such as proms or other formal occasions.

Earrings:

The most typical and ancient piece of jewelry worn on the ear, earrings can also be of many types depending upon different cultures around the globe and the location they are worn on the ear, they are:

Statement earrings:

The most uniquely designed earrings decorated with a combination of materials.

Stud earrings:

worn on the earlobe like a clip-on, but smaller and not dangly.

Hoop earrings:

Bigger than a normal ring, hoop rings are decorative circles worn on earlobe.

Dangle earrings:

They are designed to hang from your earlobe and can be 2-5 centimeters long. Examples of it can be clip-ons and traditional earrings.

Barbell earrings:

Shaped like a barbell, these can be worn mostly on top and middle of the ear and are small.

Huggie earrings:

Just like stud rings, but more in number. They come in two’s and four’s, and decorates half of your ear.

Thread earrings:

Consists of a slightly longer dangly metal chain thread that can be put into your earlobe. You can add beads to them too.

Hairpin:

Mostly used among women, hairpins have many applications, from preventing hair streams to coming to your face, to using them to fashion your hair.

The most common example of a hairpin is the bobby pin. The oldest recorded usage of hairpin was among the Egyptians and Chinese.

Chinese women used to have amazingly long hairs, and so the hairpin was a huge part of their fashion. Chinese royalty women used to wear huge golden hairpins.

The girls who hit puberty took part in a ceremony wearing hairpins, showing that they are ready for marriage. Younger ones beaded their hair and were not allowed to use hairpins.

Ancient Chinese hairpin

Hatpins:

Used for holding the hat to the head, hatpins are functional and decorative ornaments mostly used in western culture among women, or in eastern culture to hold the veil. A hatpin is normally 15-20 centimeters long.

Nose pins:

A simple clip-on circlet that is worn on nostrils. Indian and South-East Asian women use them in their daily fashion.

Nose rings:

Similar but bigger than nose pins, nose rings are also a feature of Indian women.

Turbans:

A traditional clothing part of Islamic and Sikh culture, turbans were widely worn among Muslim and Hindu princes, sultans and rajahs. Unlike the common people whose turbans are made from a piece of cloth, the wealthy people’s royalty’s were engraved in precious metals and gemstones.

Even today, some people wear turbans in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India.

Neck Ornaments

Neck is one of the most beautiful and attractive parts of a woman’s body. Throughout history, exposing the neck and displaying levels of cleavage with a fine piece of jewelry, have been a huge feminine cultural attribute.

Precious metal neck adornments first originated in ancient Egypt, as a sign of exhibiting wealth and military rank, though both men and women wore them.

After that women of several other cultures adapted wearing a golden or silver necklace with or without an engraved gemstone.

There are several types of jewelry that can be worn on the neck, they are:

Necklace:

The oldest kind of jewelry worn by humans, a necklace is a circle metal chain often connecting a series of gemstones or a locket and is worn around the neck.

Prehistoric necklaces were made of stones, bones and feathers. In ancient Babylon, gold, agate and lapis lazuli necklaces were common, and in ancient Egypt, collars made of precious metals and stones. Pendants and amulets were attributes of Greeks.

Necklaces are categorized by the length:

Choker:

A tight-fitting circlet worn around the neck, usually made of plastic, leather, velvet and metal.

Princess necklace:

A little longer than a choker, these are often metallic and have name engravings.

Matinee:

Usually 60 centimeters long, it is a metallic necklace engraved with gems that rest upon cleavage of women.

Opera:

Slightly longer than a matinee, opera necklaces rest on the breastbone, could be metallic or made from beads.

Pendant:

The word pendant comes from the French word “pandere” which translates to “hang down”. Accordingly, a pendant is an object attached to a metal or leather chain or beads.

Pendants are worn for self-adornments, displaying personal values, cultural and religious beliefs. The pendant is usually worn around the neck, but sometimes as earrings as well.

Halo of the sun pendant

Pendants come in all shapes, sizes and material. Here are some types that you may be familiar with:

Amulet:

The most common types of pendants, amulets can be worn around the neck, arms and legs if the person desires. Most of the times, amulets represent a person’s cultural and religious values through a symbol or writings, such as the six-pointed star or Hindu/Muslim holy words.

Talisman:

A talisman is more ancient than an amulet but similar in meaning, although talismans were believed to contain magical powers. It can be metallic engraved in gemstone.

Locket:

Mostly worn around the neck, lockets are smaller than the previous two with a feature that it can be opened, and you may most likely find an old picture or writing inside it. Lockets often hold personal value to the wearer.

Medallion:

Given to particular people as awards, rewards, recognition or religious blessings, a medallion is shaped like a big coin and is usually plated with gold or silver. You have most likely seen them in competitions like the Olympics.

Torc:

Torcs are ancient ornaments worn around the neck. It is a single or multiple pieces of thick metal connected together in the shape of a horseshoe. Torcs were common among the Greeks, Romans, Celtics, Vikings, ancient England and Germany, but of course, no one wears them today.

dragon torc

Arm and Hand Ornaments

The most common jewelry that you can wear in your hand are rings and bracelets. Just like the previous wearable ornaments, these too carry specific values for the person.

Depending upon the culture and ceremonies, there are particular rings and bracelets to wear, such as the wedding and engagement rings, or friendship bracelets.

Here is a list of the most common jewelry type that you can wear on your arms and hands:

Ring:

Perhaps the most worn piece of jewelry by both men and women is the ring. It is a round object, mostly made out of precious metals like gold or silver, and sometimes from leather, wood and plastic, that is worn on the finger.

However, there can also be toe rings, arm rings, neck rings and earrings.

Authority rings were the most popular in early eras. Kings and lords of huge empires used them as seals for sending out confidential letters. Even though rings are a sign of fashion and wealth, today they are worn to display social status such as engagement, marriage or mourning.

Believing that the fourth finger from left, of the left hand has a vein that is directly connected to the heart, people refer to it as the ring finger.

Rings come in a wide variety of types that I cannot include all of them in here. However, some of them are:

Championship ring, Class ring, Doctoral ring, Engagement ring, Eternity ring, Finger armor ring, Engineer’s ring, Mood ring, Mourning ring, Portrait ring, Puzzle ring, Sewing ring, Signet ring, Thumb ring, Toe ring and Watch ring.

Bracelet:

Bracelets are ancient jewelry ornaments dating back to 5000 BC. Every culture may have a different standpoint about them, such as in Turkey and Latin America, the “evil eye” bracelets are worn to deflect evil eye.

In India and Pakistan, the type and color of bangle shows a woman’s marital status and in Bulgaria and Greece, particularly red and white bracelets are worn to hope for an earlier spring.

Size, rigidity, material, engravings and usage lead to five types of bracelets, they are:

Bangles:

Made of metal, glass or plastic, bangles are rigid and thick pieces of jewelry ornaments worn around the wrists. It is almost always a woman’s choice but some men do wear them too.

In Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other South-Asian countries, colorful glass and metal bangles are quite common. People of these places wear it in groups because they enjoy the sound they make when they are hit.

Beaded:

A type of bracelets that is connected with a string. The material can be stones, gemstones, plastic and wood.

Charm:

Decorated by little metal, wood or glass trinkets, a charm bracelets hold personal sentimental attachments to the owner.

Link:

Most common with men, link bracelets are similar to metal chains that can be worn around the wrist. Some of them can have gemstones.

Sports:

Rubber silicone wristbands have gained quite a popularity in recent years. Depending upon the sport, these wristbands carry tens of functional features such as a communication tool, climbing tool, calories and steps counter.

Cufflinks:

Ever seen pairs of fancy buttons around the wrist part of fancy suits? Yeah they are called cuff links. They are manufactured only to be used with shirts that have button holes on cuffs.

The material can be of metal, glass, stone and leather. Cufflinks are for holding the shirt to the wristbands.

Feet ornaments

Feet are not the most famous part of the body for jewelry. However, in some cultures, the bride’s hands and feet are decorated with a substance called Henna with anklets and toe rings. In most Arabian and Indian cultures, public women dancers wear feet jewelry too.

Here are the two pieces of feet jewelry:

Anklet:

Also known as ankle bracelets, anklets are metal strings worn around the ankle. In most cases, the anklet is worn for self-adornment, but sometimes dancers from around the world decorate themselves with it as well.

A particular anklet known as “Ghungroo”, which is still worn by Indian women, is the most ancient form of feet jewelry, though it is not necessarily made of precious metal or gemstones. The ghungroo has phonic bells attached to it.

Toe ring:

Just like the finger ring, toe rings come in different sizes and shapes. They are commonly made of silver and worn on the second toe. In western culture, toe rings have no other significance than fashion.

In eastern culture such as India, they are worn in pairs and a woman wearing them is showing to people that she is married.

 

Jewelry Market

Jewelry might not be the most liquid market there is, but it sure is one of the most ancient, stable and durable ones. Whether it is a diamond ring, a silver necklace or a golden bangle, jewelry carries specific values and makes the wearer feel special and confident about themselves.

Some have certain meanings, but most are used for adornment and fashion purposes.

I can come up with three most basic reasons to why there is a need for jewelry market;

First one is that precious metals are internationally recognized form of currency such as gold, silver and platinum. Anywhere in the world you go, your gold is changeable to money.

That is why most rich countries have a gold reserve, because unlike money, gold and other precious metals are nonreactive, thus long-lasting.

Second reason is fashion and self-adornment. Jewelry has a much higher demand in women than men, because women buy it to embellish and adorn themselves, the same way they buy cosmetics, although some men have a taste for dexterous jewelry, particularly rings and amulets.

Third and the only reason that does not connect jewelry with money, is the personal value and sentimental attachment a person provides to it. These values can be lineage, marital, friendship, grief and memory.

Some people grow attachments to certain pop culture figures such as celebrities, movies, TV shows and books, and seek to find something physical to anchor themselves with in order to feel connected, and that something often comes in the form of jewelry.

Amulets of the Witcher 3 game characters

In 2018, the international jewelry market peaked to 280 billion dollars and can reach as high as 480 billion dollars till 2025. Countries with the most jewelry production and consumption, in particular gold, are China, followed by the United States, India and Japan.

The newest piece of jewelry coming to the markets is the synthetic diamond, which will be much cheaper and available than natural diamond.

 

Final Words

I sincerely hope you have found this article about The Craft of Jewelry, joyous, and that it has provided with the information you require. Leave your opinions in the comments below and if you believe there are incorrect data please mention them.

Thanks a world!

Azimi.

 

Sources:

Wikipedia.com

Wikiwand.com

Jewelrydesigns.com

Visual-arts-cork.com

Lumenlearning.com

Esslinger.com

Statista.com

7 thoughts on “The Craft of Jewelry

  1. Thanks for sharing such an amazing article about jewellery. It fantastic to see such a detailed article about the history as well as the process of making jewellery. I learned a lot from you. I’m wondering about synthetic diamond and how it’s going to turn out. Maybe you could write an article. Thanks in advance.

  2. Such a unique and valuable article which has made me learn a lot about the development of jewels through different countries.
    I can relate with the jewels in Egypt merely because I am from Africa and it was interesting to know the history of this.

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