Did you realize that the art of jewelry making has been traced back for 100,000 years? As long as there have been people who have wanted to adorn themselves with items of beauty and meaning there has been jewelry. We will never know what exactly gave rise to the desire to create jewelry, but the oldest known beads are actually a small collection of Nassarius shells found in Israel, carefully drilled so they could be worn by an individual.
Jewelry has Many Uses
Of course, the most popular use of jewelry is as adornment, but it actually has been used for many purposes over the years. Jewelry can be used as a way to store wealth, for currency, for practical reasons, as a symbol, for protection, and more.
For example, a kilt pin is a very practical tool, but it can be much more if the designer has taken the time to fashion that same pin into the shape of a harp. Many people wear crosses, triskelions, stars, and a variety of other religious symbols indicating their participation in a particular group. Medicine bags, hair pins that turn into small daggers, and of course the ever popular sword in a cane are all examples of protective jewelry.
Jewelry can and has been made of just about every material imaginable. Fine metals and gems, beads, shells, seeds, tree sap, and glass have all been involved in the jewelry trade at one point or another. There are few items that haven’t been used to adorn the human body, temporarily or permanently.
The selection of materials that is popular with a culture is more often determined by what is available in the local environs than anything else. For example, sea side residents are more likely to have a history of making jewelry from shells while those who lived in an area that had a great deal of naturally forming amber would use that. Today, geography is no longer a prime determinant of which materials are used where.
Beads Reign Supreme
Beads are probably the most popular material used in making jewelry. Whether the beads are made from precious gemstones, expensive metals, or particularly attractive seeds, beads are flexible and easy to use. Colors, shapes, and textures can all be created by using a selection of beads, and the variety is nearly beyond comprehension. Beads are even embroidered onto articles of clothing, essentially creating wearable jewelry.
We are long past the days where sumptuary laws dictated who could wear what kind of jewelry. This means that anyone can wear anything their heart desires. The jewelry making field has taken full advantage of that freedom. You can find everything from cheap costume jewelry to handcrafted artisan jewelry, right up to diamond encrusted platinum showpieces that are only affordable by the richest people in the world.
It can take an artist many years to learn how to make the most of their jewelry making medium, but the best, most unique pieces you will ever find are those that are custom made and not mass produced. It is clear that jewelry will always be a part of the human experience, even as the trends change to accommodate changing tastes and norms.