History of Jewelry - Paleolithic through Roman times|
Egypt was in control of much of the Mediterranean until 1200 BCE, when Phoenicia came into its own as a dominant seapower, trading throughout the Mediterranean. Egyptian jewelry trends were picked up by the traveling Phoenicians who imported jewels and other articles of trade through Italy and Greece, spreading the ironworking of Etruscans and the symbology of Greece. Greece had been rather isolated from 1100 to 800 BCE, producing jewelry that was far simpler than it had been before: circles and bands had taken the place of elaborate Mycenaean pieces. With renewed “international” contact via the Phoenicians, their jewelry-making flowered again.
The Archaic period in Greece (600-475 BCE) saw very little goldwork perhaps because Persians controlled the Middle East and made very little gold available. By the 5th century – or what is known as the Classical period – Greeks used gold in the processes of repousse, chasing, engraving, intaglio, and soldering. Enameling reappeared, though it hadn’t been used since the Mycenaean period. Diadems also reappeared as a form of ornamentation, and were often created with minute detailing. Earrings, pins, and bracelets were all popular. Sometimes girdles were decorated with gold, to accompany silken tassels that held garments to the waist, and in this case, the gold was fashioned to resemble a textile.
Gold became increasingly abundant as Greece began to have more and more contact with the East and with Egypt: Alexander the Great’s conquests ushered in the Hellenistic age (330 – 27 BCE), during which period many and various colors of semi-precious stones were used to decorate bracelets, earrings, and other forms. Crescents were very popular shapes, even into the years of the Roman occupation after 27 BCE. Many different colors of stones were used during this period and enameling became less popular.
The Roman Empire (27 to 476 BCE) corresponds to a period of time in jewelry-making in the Western world during which the traces of many cultures can be found. Because the Romans had subdued the Etruscans, the Italians, and the Greeks, the handiwork of all these artisans were combined to create the extravagance for which the Empire is infamous. Romans were more passionate about precious stones and pearls and more lavish with their rings than any culture before them.