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A History of Jewelry

Ancient Jewelry
Ancient Jewelry
The earliest form of jewelry appeared in the Paleolithic Age. The jewelry at that time consisted of simple seashells pierced with suspension holes. Jewelry as we know it today began to be produced in the Neolithic Age, which lasted from 6800 to 3300 BC. This article discusses the development of jewelry from the Neolithic Age until the time of the Roman Empire (27 to 476 BC).
Byzantine Jewelry
Byzantine Jewelry
In Constantinople, jewelry was ornate. Quantities of pearls and precious stones passed through Constantinople as it was the highway of commerce between the East and Europe. Gold work became more delicate, was highly valued, and rife with originality. Enamel and precious gemstones were a chief artistic aspect of Byzantine jewelry.
Medieval Jewelry
Medieval Jewelry
Ornamentation began to take on a real material significance during this time, forming the cornerstone of a family’s treasures. This was important because the political landscape of the time was rough and changed often; precious possessions had to be portable and jewelry was small and easily movable. Jewelry had assumed something of the character of currency and was passed from hand to hand as payment of debts. All jewelry of the period was set with cabochon stones
Renaissance Jewelry
Renaissance Jewelry
During the Renaissance, a revival of interest in classical sources and scientific discovery led artists to copy objects from real life. Sculptures, paintings, and the shallow relief carved into jewelry were full of accurate renditions of animate forms. Artists were competitive about their skills. Jewelry was uncomplicated in design, though worn in abundance. As a result of trade in the fourteenth century, new sources of stones appeared and so did new cuts. Jewels were faceted, table cut, and rounded.
Baroque Jewelry
Baroque Jewelry
The baroque period brought jewelry towards glittering faceted stones. At first it was primarily colored, precious stones that graced the jewelry of the Baroque period. Soon however, the diamond took absolute precedence over all other elements– metalwork and color were quite subordinate to the new glistening cuts available in the 1600's.
Victorian Jewelry
Victorian Jewelry
Styles from the Nineteenth Century were mostly led by France. A revival of luxury was afoot and under the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, jewelry was a big part of French society. There are distinct periods to the Victorian era. The first 23 years of Victoria’s reign were happy and prosperous, both for the Queen and the country. This period is termed “Romantic”, and the jewelry of that time was primarily yellow gold, enhanced with naturalistic gems such as seed pearls and pink coral, modeled in delicate openwork. Jewelry during this period also employed dark garnet, onyx, and dark shells, sometimes carved into skulls; diamonds and lighter colored stones were not much in use.
Modern Jewelry
Modern Jewelry
The 19th Century began with the Art Nouveau period when jewelry boasted designs with beautiful curving lines. Financial changes during the war then forced people to out their jewels into vaults or to barter them for their owners’ lives. Once recovered from the war, the forms left over from that period were abstracted into what is now known as Art Deco. Next came costume jewelry, and then the ‘70s and ‘80s- a time when a sense of fun was re-instilled into jewelry.