History of Adornment

One of at least a 5 Part Series

As defined in a dictionary:  noun 1. something that adds attractiveness; ornament; accessory: the adornments and furnishings of a room. 2.ornamentation; embellishment: personal adornment.  (1)

This too:  “An adornment is generally an accessory or ornament worn to enhance the beauty or status of the wearer. They are often worn to embellish, enhance, or distinguish the wearer, and to define cultural, social, or religious status within a specific community. When worn to show economic status, the items are often either rare or prohibitively expensive to others. Adornments are usually colourful, and worn to attract attention.

They have a long history, around the world, from feathers or bone, to modern accessories, such as jewellery.Items of adornment are also used by warriors, and by other members of the military to show rank or achievement.(2)

When you think about adornment, how do you think of it? Does it include clothing, jewelry, wall art, body art . . . how you furnish your home . . . the make-up you wear/don’t wear . . . have you put eyelashes on your car headlights?

I think of it, as all of that. It’s very broad. And in this, the 21 Century, it also includes young men with their pants around their ankles 🙂

Adornment ‘speaks’. It communicates to the observer and it communicates for the wearer/displayer (yes, I think I made up that word, displayer).

As broad as the topic is, I’m going to stick with adornment as it relates to jewelry (and piercing in the traditional earring sense).  It is after all what I do – create wearable art jewelry – so I will stick to what I know.

100,000 Year Old History – Who Knew?

Beads made from Nassarius gibbosulus shells may be the earliest known forms of personal jewelry.  The Nassarius is a marine creature, commonly known as a “mud snail” here in the US.

Despite my aversion to the idea of wearing the shell of a “mud snail” I was intrigued.

Two shell beads found in Skhul Cave on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Israel are thought to be 100,000 years old More shells, some with red ochre, have been recovered from the Aterian levels at Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco; these Nassarius gibbosulus beads have been dated to about 82,000 years ago. You can learn more using the link referenced at (3).


So I wonder . . . did the ancient people that wore these, do so to look pretty, or was it some other meaning? We may never know, I mean, they are all dead, those people and the creatures that were in the shells, not that they could talk, and I love to speculate. [SQUIRREL]

Did men wear them to indicate the number of animals they killed. Did women wear them to demonstrate the number of men they conquered. 🙂 Did the leader of the group wear them as an indication of his/her leadership?

I’m stopping here for now, hopefully this was some fun-fact-for-thought moments for you.

Hint for next week: Finger guards were worn by the aristocracy in China, as a symbol of their absolute exemption from any sort of manual labor.

Now – go make something . . . even if it’s trouble.
(1) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/adornment
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adornment
(3) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/06/060622-jewelry.html


About Phoenix

I am a mom, artist and teacher!
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