The Invention of Jewellery

Love jewellery and history? Well, get out your notepad and pay attention, because we’re about to give you a crash course on the history of jewellery. And before you start thinking, “omg how long will this blog post take to read?” – we’ve only included the cool snapshots we think you’d be interested in hearing. Are you ready?

How far does jewellery date back?  

In broad terms, jewellery has been around for even longer than we have. Artefacts dating back more than 100,000 years show that Neanderthals in Europe were creating body ornaments, including painting and wearing shells and puncturing talons to be strung together as necklaces or bracelets, before our Homo Sapien ancestors even landed on the continent.

@DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/Getty Images via via Pinterest

Jewellery across the world

Objects that more closely resemble jewellery as we know it today – deliberately designed, etched, or sculpted, and/or crafted from stone, metals, and precious gems – surfaced around 8000 – 7000 BCE. According to this deep dive, the Etruscans (an ancient civilisation located in what is modern day Italy) were early pioneers, perfecting complex techniques like filigree and granulation (refining gold to a pure, powder form). They used this resulting gold dust to create intricate illustrations on gold pieces.

The Sumerians (an ancient civilisation in Mesopotamia, located in what is now southern Iraq) were innovators too. A particular Sumerian Queen, buried around 3000 BCE, was discovered adorned in gold, silver, and semi-precious gems, in pieces that demonstrated intricate craftsmanship.

Ancient Egyptian royalty were also known to love some luxe embellishment, with Cleopatra famously favouring emerald jewels. The infamous discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb revealed a gravesite that could be described as extra (if you were underplaying things); his coffin was lined in gold, and his mummy was adorned in gems.

The Ancient Romans had amongst the most significant impacts on the history of jewellery. Taking innovative techniques from the Etruscans and gradually improving upon them, the Romans created jewellery that was intricate, luxurious, and worn more prominently throughout society. Think gold jewellery set with an array of precious gems, like emerald, sapphire, ruby, and pearls. Like many traditions we have today, the concept of wedding rings, and especially gold wedding rings, can also be traced to the Ancient Romans (though previous civilisations did similar riffs on rings representing eternity). via Pinterest

Around the Middle Ages, jewellery became much more stratified. The royal and ruling classes of Europe decided jewellery made from precious metals and gemstones was for the upper-class alone; flaunting their wealth with opulent designs while restricting common people with the introduction of Sumptuary Laws (bit rude, really).

Trends we still see today

While modern jewellery is a giant leap from the O.G. adornment of bird talons (respect to the ancient fashion innovators, though), there are several classic styles we still wear today, which have historical roots.

Shop All

The wedding ring is a key style that traces back centuries, as is the eternity ring. The concept of rings being exchanged and worn to symbolise infinite connections traces back to the ancient symbol of ouroboros, which depicts a snake biting its own tail. You can learn more about that here.

Lockets also have a surprisingly long and interesting history, really making their mark as a symbolic piece of jewellery during the Middle Ages in Europe. You can learn more about lockets here, and add a cute, modern version to your collection here.

Shop Lockets

Another trend, which has lasted literally forever since it was first discovered, is the love for gemstones. Even before ancient civilisations had the know-how to cut and polish gems to reveal their brilliant potential, they were drawn to the natural beauty of diamonds, pearls, and coloured gemstones. And, this is a fascination that’s not going anywhere – so make like your ancient ancestors and take a moment to admire the beauty and lustre of your gems (albeit expertly cut and faceted these days) before you pop them on. Check out our latest collection of birthstone jewellery for our modern take on the loved gemstone.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, it’s clear that jewellery has been special to us throughout human history. People have always had the desire to adorn themselves; with ancient forms of jewellery even pre-dating the shift from nomadic hunter-gatherer ways of life. Whether it’s been worn for symbolism like our zodiac pendants and charms, for fashion, or a bit of both, jewellery has deep historical roots.

Shop jewellery with history: