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About the Author

Mr T Sampath Kumaran is a freelance writer. He regularly contributes articles on

Management, Business, Ancient Temples, and Temple Architecture to many
leading Dailies and Magazines.
His articles are popular in “The Young World section” of THE HINDU. His e-
books on nature, environment and different cultures of people around the world are
educative and of special interest to the young.
He was associated in the production of two Documentary films on Nava Tirupathi
Temples, and Tirukkurungudi Temple in Tamilnadu.

I wish to express my gratitude to the authors from whose works I gathered the
details for this book, Courtesy, Google for the photographs.
The word jewellery itself is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicised
from the French "jouel", and beyond that, to the Latin word "jocale", meaning
plaything. In British English it is spelled jewellery.

The history of jewellery is long and goes back many years, with many different
uses among different cultures. It has endured for thousands of years and has
provided various insights into how ancient cultures worked.
Jewels were always part of human culture. Even from the times when humans first
started using clothes and tools some 100.000 years ago, jewels were produced from
any kind of materials that were available - stones, animal skins, feathers, plants,
bones, shells, wood, and natural made semi-precious materials such as obsidian. As
the time went on, advancing technology enabled artisans to start taming metals and
precious gems into works of art that influenced entire cultures and many modern
Jewellery styles.
Jewellery or jewelry consists of small decorative items worn for personal
adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Jewellery
may be attached to the body or the clothes, and the term is restricted to durable
ornaments, excluding flowers for example
The first signs of jewellery came from the people in Africa. Sometime around
120,000 years ago in the desert near Oued Djebbana, in what is modern-day
northern Algeria, a human acquired some small seashells. The shells were from a
species known as Nassarius (Plicarcularia) gibbosulus, a grape-sized marine
gastropod (like a garden snail) that lives in the shallow waters of the Mediterranean
Sea, and they were perforated and made into beads, probably for a necklace.
If evidence of what anthropologists call symbolic behavior—the use of seashells
for decorative and aesthetic purposes—as far back as 120,000 years ago isn’t
striking enough on its own, Oued Djebanna’s location should be: It lies about 120
miles inland from the sea.

For many centuries metal, often combined with gemstones, has been the normal
material for jewellery, but other materials such as shells and other plant materials
were also used.

The basic forms of jewellery vary between cultures but are often extremely long-
lived, in European cultures the most common forms of jewellery listed above have
persisted since ancient times, while other forms such as adornments for the nose or
ankle, important in other cultures, are much less common. Historically, the most
widespread influence on jewellery in terms of design and style have come from

Development of early jewelry can be roughly divided across three ancient

civilizations - Egypt, India and China. Egypt and Mesopotamia set standards in
metallurgy, gem collecting, and glass manufacture. Their several thousand year
long tradition of jewelry production laid a solid foundation for all European
civilizations that came after them, and their unique style affected fashion trends
even four thousand years later.

India however managed to develop such a connection to jewelry that it became

integral part of their daily life and religion. Since they were the first who managed
to conquer the art of gold gathering and processing, they develop art of jewel
making much earlier than anyone in their environment. This made them one of the
most sought destinations for trade, which eventually became driving force for the
incredible expansion of European civilization during the Age of Discovery. On the
far side of the world, China managed to become driving force in developing of arts
and their influence slowly spread their unique style across entire Asia. Chinese
style that is focused on scenes of nature, animals and dragons is today still in high
popularity, and continues to be developed with each passing year.

Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials. Gemstones and similar
materials such as amber and coral, precious metal, beads, and shells have been
widely used. In most cultures jewellery can be understood as a status symbol, for
its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols. Jewellery has been
made to adorn nearly everybody part, from hairpins to toe-rings, and even genital
jewellery. The patterns of wearing jewellery between the sexes, and by children
and older people can vary greatly between cultures, but adult women have been the
most consistent wearers of jewellery; in modern European culture the amount worn
by adult males is relatively low compared with other cultures and other periods in
European culture.

Humans have used jewellery for a few different reasons:

• functional, generally to fix clothing or hair in place, or to tell the time (in the
case of watches)
• as a marker of social status and personal status, as with a wedding ring.
• as a signifier of some form of affiliation, whether ethnic, religious or social
• to provide talismanic protection.
• as an artistic display
• as a carrier or symbol of personal meaning – such as love, mourning, or even
Most cultures at some point have had a practice of keeping large amounts of
wealth stored in the form of jewellery. Jewellery has been used as a currency or
trade good; an example being the use of slave beads. Many items of jewellery,
such as brooches and buckles, originated as purely functional items, but evolved
into decorative items as their functional requirement diminished.
Alloys of nearly every metal known have been encountered in jewellery. Bronze,
for example, was common in Roman times. In creating jewellery, gemstones,
coins, or other precious items are often used, and they are typically set into
precious metals. Modern fine jewellery usually includes gold, white gold,
platinum, palladium, titanium, or silver.

Other commonly used materials include glass, such as fused-

glass or enamel; wood, often carved or turned; shells and other natural animal
substances such as bone and ivory; natural clay. Hemp and other twines have been
used as well to create jewellery that has more of a natural feel.
Beads are frequently used in jewellery. These may be made of glass, gemstones,
metal, wood, shells, clay and polymer clay. Beaded jewellery commonly
encompasses necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts and rings. Beads may be large or
small; the smallest type of beads used is known as seed beads, these are the beads
used for the "woven" style of beaded jewellery. Another use of seed beads is an
embroidery technique where seed beads are sewn onto fabric backings to create
broad collar neck pieces and beaded bracelets. Bead embroidery, a popular type of
handwork during the Victorian era, is enjoying a renaissance in modern jewellery
making. Beading, or beadwork, is also very popular in many African and
indigenous North American cultures.
Diamonds were first mined in India.
In 2005, Australia, Botswana, Russia and Canada ranked among the primary
sources of gemstone diamond production.
Many precious and semiprecious stones are used for jewellery. Among them are:
Amber, an ancient organic gemstone, is composed of tree resin that has
hardened over time. The stone must be at least one million years old to be
classified as amber, and some amber can be up to 120 million years old.
Amethyst has historically been the most prized gemstone in the quartz
family. It is treasured for its purple hue, which can range in tone from light
to dark.
Jade is most commonly associated with the colour green but can come in a
number of other colours as well. Jade is closely linked to Asian culture,
history, and tradition, and is sometimes referred to as the stone of heaven.

(Spanish emerald and gold pendant at Victoria Museum)

Emeralds are one of the three main precious gemstones (along with rubies
and sapphires) and are known for their fine green to bluish green colour.
They have been treasured throughout history, and some historians report that
the Egyptians mined emerald as early as 3500 BC.
Jasper is a gemstone of the chalcedony family that comes in a variety of
colours. Often, jasper will feature unique and interesting patterns within the
coloured stone. Picture jasper is a type of jasper known for the colours (often
beiges and browns) and swirls in the stone’s pattern.
Quartz refers to a family of crystalline gemstones of various colours and
sizes. Among the well-known types of quartz are rose quartz (which has a
delicate pink colour), and smoky quartz (which comes in a variety of shades
of translucent brown). A number of other gemstones, such as Amethyst and
Citrine, are also part of the quartz family. Rutilated quartz is a popular type
of quartz containing needle-like inclusions.
Rubies are known for their intense red colour and are among the most highly
valued precious gemstones. Rubies have been treasured for millennia. In
Sanskrit, the word for ruby is ratnaraj, meaning king of precious stones.
The most popular form of sapphire is blue sapphire, which is known for its
medium to deep blue colour and strong saturation. Fancy sapphires of
various colours are also available. In the United States, blue sapphire tends
to be the most popular and most affordable of the three major precious
gemstones (emerald, ruby, and sapphire).
Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth, and the world’s largest
turquoise producing region is the southwest United States. Turquoise is
prized for its attractive colour, most often an intense medium blue or a
greenish blue, and its ancient heritage. Turquoise is used in a great variety of
jewellery styles. It is perhaps most closely associated with southwest and
Native American jewellery, but it is also used in many sleek, modern styles.
Some turquoise contains a matrix of dark brown markings, which provides
an interesting contrast to the gemstone’s bright blue colour.
Some gemstones (like pearls, coral, and amber) are classified as organic, meaning
that they are produced by living organisms. Others are inorganic, meaning that
they are generally composed of and arise from minerals
Some gems, for example, amethyst have become less valued as methods of
extracting and importing them have progressed. Some man-made gems can serve
in place of natural gems, such as Cubic Zirconia, which can be used in place of
Jewellery has been used to denote status. In ancient Rome, only certain ranks could
wear rings, later, sumptuary laws dictated who could wear what type of jewellery.
Jewellery in Indus Valley Civilization is amongst the most commonly found relics
and artefacts of the Harappan society. The traditional art of India recommends a
richness and profusion in the jewellery adorned by both men and women during
that period. Earlier, it had a massive quantity to it but the workmanship was coarse.
Ornaments made of gold, silver, copper, ivory, pottery and beads have been
discovered in civilisations as ancient as the Harappa and Mohenjodaro The people
of the Indus Valley Civilization were the first to explore the jewellery making
craft. One of the most remarkable excavations of Indus Valley Civilisation was the
discovery of the art and crafts and the social, religious and economic condition of
that era.
Around seven-thousand years ago, the first sign of copper jewellery was seen. In
October 2012 the Museum of Ancient History in Lower Austria revealed that they
had found a grave of a female jewellery worker – forcing archaeologists to take a
fresh look at prehistoric gender roles after it appeared to be that of a female fine
metal worker – a profession that was previously thought to have been carried out
exclusively by men.

Amulet pendant (1254 BC) made from gold, labis, lazuli and turquoise and

The first signs of established jewellery making in Ancient Egypt was around
3,000–5,000 years ago. The Egyptians preferred the luxury, rarity, and workability
of gold over other metals. In Presynaptic Egypt jewellery soon began to symbolise
political and religious power in the community. Although it was worn by wealthy
Egyptians in life, it was also worn by them in death, with jewellery commonly
placed among grave goods..
In conjunction with gold jewellery, Egyptians used coloured glass, along with
semi-precious gems. The colour of the jewellery had significance. Green, for
example, symbolised fertility. Lapis lazuli and silver had to be imported from
beyond the country’s borders.

Magnificent bracelets, pendants, necklaces, rings, armlets, earrings,

diadems, head ornaments, pectoral ornaments and collars of gold were all produced
in ancient Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs. Egyptian designs were most common in
Phoenician jewellery.
Also, ancient Turkish designs found in Persian jewellery suggest that trade
between the Middle East and Europe was not uncommon. Women wore elaborate
gold and silver pieces that were used in ceremonies

Pair of Gold Hair Ornaments, Mesopotamian, circa 2000 BC (Isin-larsa period).

Decorated with granulation and cloisonné.
By approximately 5,000 years ago, jewellery-making had become a significant
craft in the cities of Mesopotamia. The most significant archaeological evidence
comes from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, , where hundreds of burials dating 2900–
2300 BC were unearthed; tombs such as that of Pubis contained a multitude of
artefacts in gold, silver, and semi-precious stones, such as Llaapis lazuli crowns
embellished with gold figurines, close-fitting collar necklaces, and jewel-headed
pins. In Assyria, men and women both wore extensive amounts of jewellery,
including amulets, ankle bracelets, heavy multi-strand necklaces, and cylinder
Jewellery in Mesopotamia tended to be manufactured from thin metal leaf and was
set with large numbers of brightly coloured stones (chiefly agate, lapis, carnelian,
and jasper). Favoured shapes included leaves, spirals, cones, and bunches of
grapes. Jewellers created works both for human use and for adorning statues and

Gold earring from Mycenae, 16th century BC.

Gold Wreath
The Greeks started using gold and gems in jewellery in 1600 BC, although beads
shaped as shells and animals were produced widely in earlier times. Around 1500
BC, the main techniques of working gold in Greece included casting, twisting bars,
and making wire. Many of these sophisticated techniques were popular in the
Mycenaean period, but unfortunately this skill was lost at the end of the Bronze
Age. The forms and shapes of jewellery in ancient Greece such as the arm ring
(13th century BC), brooch (10th century BC) and pins (7th century BC), have
varied widely since the Bronze Age as well. Other forms of jewellery include
wreaths, earrings, necklace and bracelets. A good example of the high quality that
gold working techniques could achieve in Greece is the ‘Gold Olive Wreath’ (4th
century BC), which is modeled on the type of wreath given as a prize for winners
in athletic competitions like the Olympic Games. Jewellery dating from 600 to 475
BC is not well represented in the archaeological record, but after the Persian wars
the quantity of jewellery again became more plentiful. One particularly popular
type of design at this time was a bracelet decorated with snake and animal-heads
Because these bracelets used considerably more metal, many examples were made
from bronze. By 300 BC, the Greeks had mastered making coloured jewellery and
using Amethysts, pearl, and emeralds Greek jewellery was often simpler than in
other cultures, with simple designs and workmanship. However, as time
progressed, the designs grew in complexity and different materials were soon used.
(Pendant with naked woman, made from electrum, Rhodes, around 630–620 BC.)
Jewellery in Greece was hardly worn and was mostly used for public appearances
or on special occasions. It was frequently given as a gift and was predominantly
worn by women to show their wealth, social status, and beauty. The jewellery was
often supposed to give the wearer protection from the "Evil Eye" or endowed the
owner with supernatural powers, while others had a religious symbolism. Older
pieces of jewellery that have been found were dedicated to the Gods.

When Roman rule came to Greece, no change in jewellery designs was detected.
However, by 27 BC, Greek designs were heavily influenced by the Roman culture.
That is not to say that indigenous design did not thrive. Numerous polychrome
butterfly pendants on silver foxtail chains, dating from the 1st century, have been
found near Olbia, with only one example ever found anywhere else.

These Hellenistic bracelets from the 1st century BC show the influence of Eastern
Although jewellery work was abundantly diverse in earlier times, especially among
the barbarian tribes such as the Celts, when the Romans conquered most of Europe,
jewellery was changed as smaller factions developed the Roman designs. The most
common artefact of early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing
together. The Romans used a diverse range of materials for their jewellery from
their extensive resources across the continent. Although they used gold, they
sometimes used bronze or bone, and in earlier times, glass beads and pearl.

The Renaissance and exploration both had significant impacts on the development
of jewellery in Europe. By the 17th century, increasing exploration and trade led to
increased availability of a wide variety of gemstones as well as exposure to the art
of other cultures. Whereas prior to this the working of gold and precious metal had
been at the forefront of jewellery, this period saw increasing dominance of
gemstones and their settings
Changing social conditions and the onset of the Industrial Revolution also led to
growth of a middle class that wanted and could afford jewellery.

(India - Royal earrings, 1st Century BC.)

In Asia, the Indian subcontinent has the longest continuous legacy of jewellery
making anywhere, with a history of over 5,000 years. One of the first to start
jewellery making were the peoples of the Indus Valley Civilization, in what is now
predominately modern-day Pakistan and part of northern and western India. Early
jewellery making in China started around the same period, but it became
widespread with the spread of Buddhism around 2,000 years ago.
The Chinese used silver in their jewellery more than gold. Blue kingfisher feathers
were tied onto early Chinese jewellery and later, blue gems and glass were
incorporated into designs. However, jade was preferred over any other stone. The
Chinese revered jade because of the human-like qualities they assigned to it, such
as its hardness, durability, and beauty. The first jade pieces were very simple, but
as time progressed, more complex designs evolved. Jade rings from between the
4th and 7th centuries BC show evidence of having been worked with a compound
milling machine, hundreds of years before the first mention of such equipment in
the west.
In China, the most uncommon piece of jewellery is the earring, which was worn
neither by men nor women. Amulets were common, often with a Chinese symbol
or dragon. Dragons, Chinese symbols, and phoenixes were frequently depicted on
jewellery designs.
The Chinese often placed their jewellery in their graves. Most Chinese graves
found by archaeologists contain decorative jewellery.

The Indian subcontinent (encompassing India, Pakistan and other countries of

South Asia) has a long jewellery history, which went through various changes
through cultural influence and politics for more than 5,000–8,000 years. Because
India had an abundant supply of precious metals and gems, it prospered financially
through export and exchange with other countries. While European traditions were
heavily influenced by waxing and waning empires, India enjoyed a continuous
development of art forms for some 5,000 years.
According to Hindu belief, gold and silver are considered as sacred metals. Gold is
symbolic of the warm sun, while silver suggests the cool moon. Both are the
quintessential metals of Indian jewellery. Pure gold does not oxidise or corrode
with time, which is why Hindu tradition associates gold with immortality. Gold
imagery occurs frequently in ancient Indian literature. In the Vedic Hindu belief of
cosmological creation, the source of physical and spiritual human life originated in
and evolved from a golden womb (hiranyagarbha) or egg (hiranyanda), a metaphor
Jewellery had great status with India’s royalty; it was so powerful that they
established laws, limiting wearing of jewellery to royalty.
Only royalty and a few others to whom they granted permission could wear gold
ornaments on their feet. This would normally be considered breaking the
appreciation of the sacred metals. Even though the majority of the Indian
population wore jewellery, Maharajas and people related to royalty had a deeper
connection with jewellery. The Maharaja’s role was so important that the Hindu
philosophers identified him as central to the smooth working of the world. He was
considered as a divine being, a deity in human form, whose duty was to uphold and
protect dharma, the moral order of the universe.

Navaratna (nine gems)is a powerful jewel frequently worn by a Maharaja

(Emperor). It is an amulet, which comprises diamond, pearl, ruby, sapphire,
emerald, topaz, cat’s eye, coral, and hyacinth (red zircon). Each of these stones is
associated with a celestial deity, represented the totality of the Hindu universe
when all nine gems are together. The diamond is the most powerful gem among the
nine stones. There were various cuts for the gemstone. Indian Kings bought
gemstones privately from the sellers. Maharaja and other royal family members
value gem as Hindu God. They exchanged gems with people to whom they were
very close, especially the royal family members and other intimate allies. "Only the
emperor himself, his intimate relations, and select members of his entourage were
permitted to wear royal turban ornament.
India was the first country to mine diamonds, with some mines dating back to 296
BC. India traded the diamonds, realising their valuable qualities. Historically,
diamonds have been given to retain or regain a lover’s or ruler’s lost favour, as
symbols of tribute, or as an expression of fidelity in exchange for concessions and
protection. Mughal emperors and Kings used the diamonds as a means of assuring
their immortality by having their names and worldly titles inscribed upon them.
Moreover, it has played and continues to play a pivotal role in Indian social,
political, economic, and religious event, as it often has done elsewhere. In Indian
history, diamonds have been used to acquire military equipment, finance wars,
foment revolutions, and tempt defections. They have contributed to the abdication
or the decapitation of potentates. They have been used to murder a representative
of the dominating power by lacing his food with crushed diamond. Indian
diamonds have been used as security to finance large loans needed to buttress
politically or economically tottering regimes. Victorious military heroes have been
honoured by rewards of diamonds and also have been used as ransom payment for
release from imprisonment or abduction. Today, many of the jewellery designs and
traditions are used, and jewellery is commonplace in Indian ceremonies and
Jewellery played a major role in the fate of the Americas when the Spanish
established an empire to seize South American gold. Jewellery making developed
in the Americas 5,000 years ago in Central and South America. Large amounts of
gold was easily accessible, and the Aztecs, Mixtecs, Mayans, and numerous
Andean cultures, such as the Mochica of Peru, created beautiful pieces of
With the Mochica culture, goldwork flourished. The pieces are no longer simple
metalwork but are now masterful examples of jewellery making. Pieces are
sophisticated in their design, and feature inlays of turquoise, mother of pearl,
spondylus shell, and amethyst. The nose and ear ornaments, chest plates, small
containers and whistles are considered masterpieces of ancient Peruvian culture.[

Among the Aztecs, only nobility wore gold jewellery, as it showed their rank,
power, and wealth. Gold jewellery was most common in the Aztec Empire and was
often decorated with feathers from Quetzal birds and others. In general, the more
jewellery an Aztec noble wore, the higher his status or prestige. The Emperor and
his High Priests, for example, would be nearly completely covered in jewellery
when making public appearances. Although gold was the most common and a
popular material used in Aztec jewellery, jade, turquoise, and certain feathers were
considered more valuable. In addition to adornment and status, the Aztecs also
used jewellery in sacrifices to appease the gods. Priests also used gem-encrusted
daggers to perform animal and human sacrifices.
Another ancient American civilization with expertise in jewellery making were the
Maya. At the peak of their civilization, the Maya were making jewellery from jade,
gold, silver, bronze, and copper. Maya designs were like those of the Aztecs, with
lavish headdresses and jewellery. The Maya also traded in precious gems.
However, in earlier times, the Maya had little access to metal, so they made the
majority of their jewellery out of bone or stone. Merchants and nobility were the
only few that wore expensive jewellery in the Maya region, much the same as with
the Aztecs.
Native American jewellery is the personal adornment, often in the forms of
necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, pins, brooches, labrets, and more, made by the
Indigenous people of the United States. Native American jewellery reflects the
cultural diversity and history of its makers. Native American Tribes continue to
develop distinct aesthetics rooted in their personal artistic visions and cultural
traditions. Artists create jewellery for adornment, ceremonies, and trade.
Jewellery in the Pacific, except for Australia, is worn to be a symbol of either
fertility or power. Elaborate headdresses are worn by many Pacific cultures and
some, such as the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, wear certain headdresses once
they have killed an enemy. Tribesman may wear boar bones through their noses.
Island jewellery is still very much primal because of the lack of communication
with outside cultures. Some areas of Borneo and Papua New Guinea are yet to be
explored by Western nations. However, the island nations that were flooded with
Western missionaries have had drastic changes made to their jewellery designs.
Missionaries saw any type of tribal jewellery as a sign of the wearer's devotion to
paganism. Thus, many tribal designs were lost forever in the mass conversion to
Australia is now the number one supplier of opals in the world. Opals had already
been mined in Europe and South America for many years prior, but in the late 19th
century, the Australian opal market became predominant. Australian opals are only
mined in a few select places around the country, making it one of the most
profitable stones in the Pacific.
Nowadays a wide range of such traditionally inspired items such as bone carved
pendants based on traditional fishhooks and other greenstone jewellery are popular
with young New Zealanders, which have contributed towards a worldwide interest
in traditional Māori culture and arts.

Freemasons attach jewels to their detachable collars when in Lodge to signify a

Brothers Office held with the Lodge.
In many cultures, jewellery is used as a temporary body modifier; in some cases,
with hooks or other objects being placed into the recipient's skin. Although this
procedure is often carried out by tribal or semi-tribal groups, often acting under a
trance during religious ceremonies, this practice has seeped into western culture.
Jewellery used in body modifications can be simple and plain or dramatic and
extreme. The use of simple silver studs, rings, and earrings predominates. Common
jewellery pieces such as, earrings are a form of body modification, as they are
accommodated by creating a small hole in the ear.
Padaung women in Myanmar place large golden rings around their necks. From as
early as five years old, girls are introduced to their first neck ring. Over the years,
more rings are added. In addition to the twenty-plus pounds of rings on her neck, a
woman will also wear just as many rings on her calves. At their extent, some necks
modified like this can reach 10–15 in (25–38 cm) long. The practice has health
impacts and has in recent years declined from cultural norm to tourist curiosity.
Tribes related to the Paduang, as well as other cultures throughout the world, use
jewellery to stretch their earlobes or enlarge ear piercings.
Lip plates are worn by the African Mursi and Sara people, as well as some South
American tribal people.