In antiquity, bracelets were invented as a portable method of safely transporting valuable metals !


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Jewelry-making in Antiquity.

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In ancient times, men used jewellery to show thier power, their virility and their social status. Later in time, these symbols of virility became little by little symbols of seduction and attraction.

In ancient times, men used jewellery to show thier power, their virility and their social status. Later in time, these symbols of virility became little by little symbols of seduction and attraction. Men kept mainly crowns and scepters, and jewels were elevated to the rank of feminine ornaments par excellence. Nowadays jewellery, which is part of every woman's life, is no longer simple ornaments: they are objects of one's femininity and style. The modern woman, no longer submitted to fashion and no longer simply a passive user, seeks also in jewellery the quality of products with an original and sophisticated design, easy to adapt to various styles and moods.

The Mesopotamians and the Egyptians had developed advanced metalworking techniques long before the Greeks, and so it is natural. that the Greeks learned these from them. However, as in other forms of art so in metalworking, the craftsmen selected those elements they wanted and quickly adapted them to their own aesthetic perceptions, creating decorative themes that far outshone the commonplace repetitive designs of the artifacts of the East. 

Ancient Greek jewellery constitutes a characteristic example of this process. Whereas for the Oriental peoples semi-precious stones were structural elements of their jewellery, in Greece emphasis was placed on modeled decoration. The jewelers used gold and silver, as well as baser metals such as copper, lead and iron., to fashion diadems, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings of unrivalled artistry (figs 1,2,3,4). Jewellery decoration depended on the characteristic traits of each period, moving gradually from simple to complex. In Hellenistic times semi-precious stones began to feature too, which is not fortuitous, since after the campaign of Alexander the Great there was direct contact with the East. 


The natural properties of gold, such as its resistance to tarnish, its lambent yellow colour, its weight and plasticity, distinguished it from the outset as a medium for accumulating wealth or creating luxury objects such as jewellery. Gold, one of the first metals used by man, is found in veins, mainly between pyretic minerals such as quartz, from which it is also mined. As these minerals weather, particles of gold are released and washed away by rainwater into the rivers. The collection. and separation (panning) of alluvial gold constitutes probably the most ancient process for obtaining this precious metal. In antiquity there were gold deposits around the Mediterranean in Egypt, Spain, the Caucasus and elsewhere. It would be remiss not to mention some of the gold mines in Greece, such as those of Siphnos, Thasos or Mount Pangaion.

Another noble metal is silver. The whitest metal, its surface can be polished to a high degree, while in pure state it is second only to gold in malleability and ductility. These qualities were decisive for the use of silver in jewellery-making. Native silver is rarely found. The principal source of the metal in antiquity was the ore galena (lead sulphide PbS) of which there were rich lodes at Laurion. Another source of silver was its natural alloy with gold, electrum. During antiquity electrum was either used native or broken down into its two valuable components by the process of cupellation. This same method was employed for extracting silver from galena. Cupellation is based on the different behaviors of metal oxides on heating: In the case of galena the impurities are first removed and the metals converted into their oxides. These are then placed in crucibles (cupels). On heating the lead oxide is absorbed by the porous walls of the crucible, while the silver oxide decomposes, leaving the pure silver at the bottom. 

Copper is considered to have been the first metal used by man. It has great thermal conductivity, is easily modeled, anneals and solders well, while displaying great ductility. It occurs native in small : quantities. The first ores from which copper was obtained were its oxides (cuprite), followed by the sulphates (chalcanthite), carbonates (azurite, malachite), sulphides (chalcocite) and others. One of the most important sources of copper in antiquity was Cyprus, for which reason the Latin word for copper, cuprum, derives from its name. 

Man discovered very early on that it is preferable to use metals in alloys because these have better properties. Thus while gold is soft, its alloys with silver or copper are much harder. Silver was mainly used in alloys with copper. The first alloys of copper were with arsenic or antimony, but from the time tin was discovered this replaced them. From Roman times zinc began to be used too. Another component that frequently occurs in copper alloys is lead, which imparts plasticity. 

Two-thirds of the gold mined each year is used to make jewellery. The "lost wax" casting technique, developed more than 4,000 years ago, enables the modern jewellery maker to create faithful copies of a design from the same model. "Lost wax" was invented by the ancient Egyptians, was lost, then rediscovered in 1545 by Benvenuto Cellini, the great Italian goldsmith. After Cellini's death, the art was "lost" again and not rediscovered until the early 1900's by an American dentist, Dr. W.H. Taggert. Readily adopted by the dental industry, it was not widely used in commercial jewellery manufacturing until after World War II. It is the method used for creating perhaps 60% of all karat gold jewellery made today. From an original design, a model is made in metal.

The model is used to make a rubber mold. When the mold is ready, the model is removed ....
Wax is injected and a perfect wax copy is formed.The wax copies are affixed to a post and plaster of Paris is poured over them. The hardened mold is placed into a kiln and fired. The wax melts - is "lost" - leaving the hollow plaster mold. Molten gold is then forced by pressure or sucked by vacuum into the mold so that it fills every crevice and forms perfect copies of the original design. The plaster is broken and washed away from the cooled gold casting.The individual gold items are now ready to be cut from the "tree".. for hand finishing and polishing.The result is a beautiful piece of karat gold jewellery, which flawlessly mirrors the designer's original.

René-Jules Lalique was born in the Marne region of France. As a young student he showed great artistic promise and his mother guided him toward jewelry making. From 1876 to 1878 he apprenticed with Louis Aucoc, a noted Parisian jeweler. By the 1890s he had opened his own workshop in Paris and become one of the most admired jewelers of the day. Lalique avoided using precious stones and the conservatively classical settings favored by other leading jewelers of the time. Rather, he combined semiprecious stones with such materials as enamel, horn, ivory, coral, rock crystal, and irregularly shaped Baroque pearls in settings of organic inspiration, frequently accentuated by asymmetrical curves or elaborate flourishes. He designed this powerfully evocative necklace for his second wife, Augustine-Alice Ledru, around the turn of the century. The repeats of the main motif - an attenuated female nude whose highly stylized curling hair swirls around her head and whose arms sensuously curve down to become a border enclosing enamel-and-gold swans and an oval cabochon amethyst - are separated by pendants set with fire opals mounted in swirling gold tendrils.

Pectoral with the Name of Senwosret II

This pectoral is composed around the throne name of King Senwosret II. It was found among the jewelry of Princess Sit-hathor-yunet in a special niche of her underground tomb beside the pyramid of Senwosret II at Lahun. Hieroglyphic signs make up the design, and the whole may be read: "The god of the rising sun grants life and dominion over all that the sun encircles for one million one hundred thousand years [i.e., eternity] to King Khakheperre [Senwosret II]."
This cloisonné pectoral is inlaid with 372 carefully cut pieces of semiprecious stones. The heraldic design is replete with symbolism. Zigzag lines on the base bar represent the primordial waters out of which the primeval hill emerged. Each of the falcons, symbols of the sun god, clasps a circular hieroglyph meaning "encircled," thus declaring the solar deity's supreme power over the universe. The same hieroglyph, elongated to form a cartouche, encircles the throne name of Senwosret II, Khai-kheper-re. Flanking the king's name are two ankh hieroglyphs (meaning "life") suspended from cobras whose tails are wound around the sun disk on the falcons' heads. These snakes represent Nekhbet and Udjo, the traditional protector goddesses of the king. Supporting the royal cartouche is the kneeling god Heh clutching two palm ribs symbolizing "millions of years." Thus the king's life and existence in time are described as part of a universe created and sustained by the supreme sun god.

Jewelry worn by royal women during the Middle Kingdom was simply for adornment or an indication of status but was also symbolic of concepts and myths surrounding Egyptian royalty. Jewelry imbued a royal woman with superhuman powers and thus enabled her to support the king in his role as guarantor of divine order on earth. It was essentially the king who benefited from the magical powers inherent in the jewelry worn by the female members of his family, which explains why his name, rather than that of the princess, appears in the designs.

Since the tomb of the princess was beside the pyramid of Senwosret, scholars speculate that she was his daughter. Other items in the tomb bear the name of Amenemhat III, suggesting that the princess lived during the reigns of three of the most powerful rulers of Dynasty 12: Senwosret II, Senwosret III, and Amenemhat III.

Viking Jewelry

Both men and women wore necklaces. These might be simple ones with a couple of beads on a thread or leather thong, or more elaborate ones, as shown here. 
Most of the beads here are millefiori, with some amber and bone ones. Wood, clay, semi-precious stones and plain glass were also used for beads. The beads are arranged in an irregular pattern. 
Both crucifixes and Thor's Hammer pendants (symbols of the pagan Norse religion) are hung on the same necklace. One Viking necklace was found to have a pendant of Buddha on it. Before Christianity was firmly established people seem to have followed it alongside older religions. 
The crucifixes all have equal length arms, apart from the one with the figure on at the bottom right of the picture. This is the usual medieval cross shape. 

Close up of some of the pendants and beads.

The female figure is a Valkyrie carrying a drinking horn. Valkyries were Norse goddesses who carried dead warriors to Valhalla where they would feast forever in the afterlife. A high status woman would traditionally serve guests at a feast with drink herself, although servants brought the food.
The crystal pendant in the centre is a very uncommon style. There has only ever been one found in a pagan Saxon grave site. 

Heart Scarab of Hatnofer

Hatnofer was the mother of Senenmut, architect of Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahri. Hatnofer was buried early in the queen's reign. Many of the goods in her tomb came from the royal storerooms, and it is possible that this heart scarab, with its gold setting and finely woven gold chain, was also provided by the queen. Heart scarabs, usually made of green-colored stone, were placed over the heart of the mummy. The heart was considered the home of the spirit and was left in the mummified body. Heart scarabs were inscribed with a spell from the "Book of the Dead" that exhorted the heart not to bear witness against the spirit during the judgment in the afterlife. The tomb of Hatnofer was excavated by the Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1935. It is located on the hillside below her son's offering chapel. The small rock-cut chamber contained chests of linen cloth, baskets of food offerings, and personal belongings. Several family members, including Hatnofer's husband Ramose, seem to have been brought from elsewhere and reburied in this tomb.

Ram's-Head Amulet

This amulet was probably made for a necklace worn by one of the Kushite kings. Representations show these pharaohs wearing a ram's-head amulet tied around the neck on a thick cord, the ends of which fall forward over the shoulders. Sometimes a smaller ram's head is attached to each end. Rams were associated with the god Amun, particularly in Nubia, where he was especially revered. The Nubians were superb goldsmiths, as demonstrated by the workmanship of this amulet. 

Double Eagle Pendant

The bird-form pendants of Central America are perhaps the best known type of Precolumbian gold object. Made to be worn suspended around the neck, they were fabricated in many sizes, from those that are less than an inch in height to others of more than five inches. While the pendants differ in specific details, the basic configuration is usually the same. They have extended wings over open, splayed tails and heads and beaks that project strongly forward. Single birds are the most common, although double images, like this one, also occur. These pendants are stylized representations of birds of prey often holding small objects in their prominent beaks. The pendants may have functioned as protective emblems.

Frog Pendant

Frogs are frequently depicted in the goldwork of Costa Rica and Panama. In this tropical region numerous species abound, from tiny terrestrial varieties to giant tree frogs, some with poisonous skins and some vibrantly colored. A tree frog may be depicted here, with its long thin legs projecting from its body. Bifurcated tongues, a pervasive serpent symbol, emerge from either side of the mouth and are stylized as split scrolls. Chiriquí-style objects come from both sides of the Costa Rica-Panama border. This example is said to have come from Puerto González Víquez, located in the far south of Costa Rica.

Pair of Earflares

Large circular ear ornaments were popular personal adornments of prominent ancient Peruvian lords and a symbol of their status and wealth. The weight of the frontal, which could reach widths of more than four inches, was counterbalanced by a long tubular shaft that went through the distended hole in the earlobe. Particularly impressive are those earflares with colorful mosaics. On this pair, bird-headed (or masked) winged runners, worked in turquoise, sodalite, and spondylus shell, hold bags in their outstretched hands. Their eyes and beaks are sheathed in gold. They may be depictions of mythological messengers.

Features On Site
Art Museums
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Gold hair ornament,
200-150 BC (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, ET369).
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Gold earring
5th century BC. (Athens, National Archaeological Museum)
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Gold hair ornament
200-150 BC (Athens, National Archaeological Museum)
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Circular domed brooch
with pearlmut, Franconia, 700
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Gold belt
inlaid with rock crystal, 3rd century BC. (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, ST.353)
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Golden disk earring
with granulation; 6th century BC
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Linked chain drop earrings
from Sardes (Greece); 4th century BC
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Necklace, ca. 1900
René Jules Lalique (French, 1860–1945) Gold, enamel, Australian opal, Siberian amethysts; Overall diam. 9-1/2 in. (24.1 cm) 9 large pendants: H. 2-3/4, W. 2-1/4 in. (7 x 5.7 cm) 9 small.
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Necklet, gold
Asia Minor; 4th century BC.
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with the Name of Senwosret II, ca. 1897–1878 B.C.E.; Dynasty 12, reigns of Senwosret II–Amenemhat III; Middle Kingdom Egyptian; Lahun Gold, carnelian, feldspar, garnet, turquoise; L. of pectoral 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
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Gold bracelet
with garnet, Greece; 300 BC
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Buckle type gold earrings
4th century BC
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The Viking brooches shown
above and below were made by casting. Designs could also be punched into metal, and wires or dots could be fixed to a flat surface to make a pattern. Below shows the back of one of the brooches with details of the fastening. It had to be quite large and robust to be used for holding a thick woolen cloak closed.
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Heart Scarab of Hatnofer
ca. 1466 B.C.E.; Dynasty 18, reign of Hatshepsut; New Kingdom
Egyptian; Western Thebes Gold, green stone; 2 5/8 x 2 1/4 in. (6.7 x 5.3 cm)
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Cross decorated
with cloisonne enamel, gold and diamonds; 1560
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Belt buckle
gold, Roman; 4th century BC
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Ram's-Head Amulet
ca. 770–657 B.C.E.; Dynasty 25; late Dynastic period Egyptian Gold; 1 5/8 x 1 3/8 in. (4.2 x 3.6 cm).
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Double Eagle Pendant
1st-5th century; Initial Style. Panama. Cast gold; H. 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm)
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Frog Pendant
11th-6th century; Chiriquí
Costa Rica, Puntarenas Province. Cast gold; H. 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm)
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Pair of Earflares
3rd-7th century; Moche peoples; Peru, North Coast. Gold, turquoise, sodalite, shell; Diam. 3 3/16 in. (8 cm)


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