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A History of Jewelry: Unique Pieces From Every Era

Jewelry holds a special place in our hearts. It is one of the oldest forms of personal expression and can be traced back to some of the earliest civilizations. Each era has its unique style when it comes to jewelry. In this blog post, we will look at some of the most iconic pieces from each era. We will also explore the symbolism and meaning behind these pieces. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this journey through history!

The First Evidence

The first evidence of jewelry dates back to around 75,000 years ago. This early jewelry was made from bones, teeth, and shells. Jewelry was originally worn as a talisman or amulet, believed to protect the wearer from harm. By around 30,000 BC, humans had begun to mine and work with metals like copper and gold. This marked a major shift in jewelry-making, as these metals could be shaped and formed into intricate designs. Gold became especially popular for its beauty and rarity.

The Bronze Age

During the Bronze Age (c. 3000-1200 BC), jewelers began to cast metal using molds. This allowed for even more intricate and detailed designs. Bronze Age jewelry often featured religious or spiritual symbols. The Iron Age (c. 1200-550 BC) saw another shift in jewelry design, as iron became the primary metal used. Iron was harder to work with than bronze, so Iron Age jewelry tended to be less ornate. The advent of Christianity in the Roman Empire (c. 300 AD) led to a decline in the wearing of jewelry. Christian leaders discouraged wearing “pagan” adornments, and many pieces were destroyed or melted down.

The Middle Age

During the Middle Ages (c. 500-1500 AD), jewelry became more functional than decorative. Rings were often used to seal documents, and necklaces were worn as talismans to ward off evil. It wasn’t until the Renaissance (c. 1400-1600 AD) that jewelry became fashionable again. Wealthy nobles commissioned lavish pieces adorned with precious stones. The wealthy upper class also began to wear diamond engagement rings during this time. The Industrial Revolution (c. 1700-1900 AD) saw the mass production of jewelry for the first time. This made it more accessible to the average person and helped to popularize certain styles, like Victorian jewelry.

Modern Jewelry

Modern jewelry can be divided into three categories: fine jewelry, costume jewelry, and artisanal jewelry. Fine jewelry is made from precious metals like gold and silver and often features diamonds and other precious stones. Costume jewelry is made from less expensive materials like base metals or plastics. It is designed to resemble fine jewelry but is not as durable or valuable. Artisanal jewelry is handmade by skilled jewelers using traditional methods. This type of jewelry is usually one-of-a-kind or limited edition.

In addition, jewelry can be divided into eight distinct periods that have had the most impact on the jewelry we wear today.

1. Georgian: The Georgian era is characterized by its delicate and intricate jewelry. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the Georgian locket. These lockets were often made with enamel or gold and typically contained a portrait of a loved one. The lockets were worn as a way to keep loved ones close to the heart.

2. Victorian: The Victorian era was a time of great social and political change. This is reflected in the jewelry of this period, which is often very ornate and detailed. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the mourning brooch. These brooches were worn by widows as a way to memorialize their lost spouses. They were often made from jet, a black gemstone that was thought to ward off evil spirits.

3. Art Nouveau: The Art Nouveau period was characterized by its use of natural forms and motifs. This is reflected in the jewelry of this era, which often features flowers, birds, and other nature-inspired designs. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the Tiffany dragonfly brooch. This brooch was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and it is considered one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau jewelry.

4. Gothic: Gothic jewelry is characterized by its dark and dramatic designs. This type of jewelry often features skulls, bats, and other spooky motifs. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the Victorian mourning brooch. These brooches were worn by widows as a way to memorialize their lost spouses. They were often made from jet, a black gemstone that was thought to ward off evil spirits.

5. Renaissance: The Renaissance was a time of great artistic achievement, which is reflected in this period’s jewelry. Renaissance-era jewelry is often very intricate and detailed. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the Venetian glass bead necklace. These necklaces were made with Murano glass beads and were often given as gifts to loved ones.

6. Art Deco: The Art Deco period was characterized by its use of geometric shapes and bold colors. This is reflected in the jewelry of this era, which often features clean lines and bright colors. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the Cartier Tank watch. This watch was designed by Louis Cartier, and it is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco jewelry.

7. Modern: The modern era is defined by its minimalist aesthetic. This is reflected in the jewelry of this era, which often features clean lines and simple designs. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the Cartier Love bracelet. This bracelet is made from gold or platinum and features a screw design meant to symbolize everlasting love.

8. Contemporary: The contemporary era is characterized by its use of innovative materials and cutting-edge designs. This is reflected in the jewelry of this era, which often features unique and experimental pieces. One of the most iconic pieces from this era is the Damien Hirst diamond skull necklace. This necklace was designed by British artist Damien Hirst, and it features a human skull encrusted with over 8000 diamonds.

Jewelry has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. It has been used as a talisman, a status symbol, and a form of self-expression. The history of jewelry is reflective of the history of humanity itself. From the early use of natural materials to the mass-produced pieces of today, jewelry has always been a reflection of our time. 

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