History of Adornment – Part 3

Adornment in the jewelry sense, has an interesting history right?!?! It is obvious that early peoples used what was available to them . . . pretty creative . . . super creative, when you think about it. Shells and eggs as beads, plants/berries and other materials of the land as colorants . . . I’m a bit riveted myself.

I changed my mind again. I hope this won’t be confusing. ☺ I want to talk about the Greeks first. I am part Greek, so it works for me and the history is rich with interest.

There have been finds as old and 1600 BC in Greece. They had begun to use “gold”* and gems. It is amazing when I consider how mining is done now and what it must have been like then. I’m not a history major, however, I feel certain there was less digging then. As sources were used up, digging had to occur. In the research I’ve done so far, there is little mention of how the materials were obtained. Honestly, I get this picture of gems and metals just laying around. *Another thing that is interesting, they did not always use pure gold – it was often what is called “electrum” which is a combination of gold and silver with traces of copper and other metals.

By 300 BC – and just so we are clear 1600 BC is earlier than 300 BC – I had to type that for my dyslexic self ☺ So, by 300 BC the Greeks were using pearls, amethyst and emeralds. Gotta love my people for using my three favorite things.

There have also been finds of cameos, from Agates – which if you know anything about agate, it is simply not the easiest thing to carve with a stick or a rock – so how did they do that?

As with many cultures, we will come to see, the people of ancient Greece did not wear jewelry adornment everyday. It wasn’t practical for daily fetching of water, and foraging for foods. Now, even when I look and study history, I still take it for granted that I have a solid roof over my head and there is a grocery store not far away.

So jewelry was worn for special events AND as a sign of social status. So if you were in charge and did not have to chop wood and carry water, you probably had a chance to wear your bling more often.

More than the display of wealth or social standing, there were a great deal of pieces that were representative of the Greek Gods and Goddesses. Just as in these modern times, there are those who wear religiously themed jewelry, the Greeks wore that which represented their beliefs. In that time adornment also had power to fend off the Evil Eye. It also was a sign of the Seer’ or Shaman.

There are Roman and Asian influences seen in early Greek jewelry work, which in the case of the Roman influences, has everything to do with who beat up who. Asian influence would most likely come from trading. It is, however believed that finds from Olbia of “polychrome” butterflies are indigenous design. Olbia is now in modern times an Italian city or “commune”.

What is “polychrome” you ask? It is the technique of creating multi-color objects/architecture. In the case of buildings for example, it was and still is, the use of different colored bricks or stone . . . paint and metals. In jewelry, it is the use of stones, mixed-metals and in some cases pigments of some type and glass . . . melted glass . . . known today as enameling. This bit of delightful knowledge is a perfect segue into Egyptian adornment.

Ancient Egyptians. The first finds of more advanced jewelry are about 3000 – 5000 years old. Earlier finds are of the same type all early peoples played with: shells, eggs, branches and the like.

With more knowledge, awareness and finds of gold and gems, the work became more advanced to include those elements. They used primarily gold, preferring the luxury and look to that, over other metals. Copper and clay pieces were made for the less wealthy.

We do see a lot of gems and color (with glass usually)! Color was significant in it’s meaning. For example, green was a color used to indicate fertility. I have this picture of women looking for husbands, wearing all kinds of green adornment.☺ Turquoise, lapis lazuli and feldspar symbolized good luck, while amethysts represented happiness. Today, amethyst is more a stone of high spirituality – which really is happiness right?!?!

Like the Greek, adornment was used in amulet form to ward off the Evil Eye.  Tutankhamun’s mask demonstrates the sophistication of jewelry making. The facial likeness, created in gold complimented with obsidian and quartz for the eyes, created, to be sure his soul was acknowledged and could, at some point return to the body.

Overall most design is considered Phoenician is style. Phoenician is a society understanding. It is the state-level form of government and marks a period of culture.

What we are most used to from the Ancient Egyptian artisans are: scarab pieces, the Ankh, Cartouches and of course the masks for mummies program ☺. I mean no irreverence, I am truly fascinated by this idea.

As I study this along with you, it is evident to me that ancient cultures had traditions of adornment steeped in belief and meaning and the demonstration of such in the jewelry they made and wore.  There is strong indication as people of the world evolved, so did their ideas and the brilliant designs formed, for us to later study and consider.

I’m having a really great time with this series . . . you? I’m excited to bring you part-4, next week with further examination of adornment and it’s meaning . . . it’s right up my alley.

"Hercules Knot" 698px-Ancient_Greek_jewelry_Pontika_(Ukraina)_300_bC

“Hercules Knot”








Now – go make something!  You know you want to. Much love and light,  Delia


About Phoenix

I am a mom, artist and teacher!
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