Jewellery is the most popular form of decoration. Humans have used it for at least 10,000 years, and its popularity has changed over time. So, how did jewellery become popular?
500 BC: From functional to Ornamental
Jewellery was first used as a functional item. People in Southern Asia wore Indian jewellery to enhance their appearance and display their wealth, but they also found practical uses. The earliest jewellery was made from animal bones, shells and beads strung together with string or leather cord. In Africa and Asia, finger rings were often made from ivory tusks or elephant tusks (the large tooth of an elephant). However, once people started making metal tools that could be sharpened into points, such as needles and awls (an instrument with two prongs), they began to make more ornamental items like bracelets and necklaces out of gold or silver wire.
As more materials became available, such as copper alloys like bronze made from equal parts copper and tin, iron became another common material. It is because it could be easily worked into different shapes through hammering on anvils during this period, called the “Bronze Age”.
1000-1850 AD: The Age of Opulence
The desire for adornments has been around since the dawn of time. But why did it become so popular?
- Show status: In ancient times, they were used to show one’s standing in society. The more elaborate and expensive a piece of jewellery was, the more respect you could command from your peers, even if it cost you everything!
- Show wealth: During this period, people were interested in showing off their power, not just their social status. For this reason, Indian kings often wore large and expensive pieces of Indian jewellery visible from miles away. (It’s no coincidence that the two go hand-in-hand)
- Religious affiliation: It wasn’t just opulence that made them fashionable during this period; it also had religious significance! For example, Catholics would wear crosses as symbols of faith; Protestants would wear medallions with biblical sayings to proclaim their beliefs.
1850-1900 AD: The Industrial Revolution Changes the Rules of the Game
The Industrial Revolution changed the way they were made. Mass production led to a shift in design, and materials such as gold were commonly used.
1950-2000 AD: From Native American to Boho Chic
During the 1950s and 1960s, Native American and Boho jewellery appeared on popular television shows such as Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones and Sesame Street. These shows featured their lead characters wearing necklaces made from leather, feathers, stones and other natural materials. And from the 1970s onwards, there was a change in style, and adornments became more elaborate.
Humans Have Used Them for a Very Long Time
Jewellery has been around for a long time. Ever since humans have been able to make tools, they have used them to create jewellery. It is not just a matter of fashion; different cultures have used it for many reasons, such as religious practices and social status.
Hence, they are still popular today, and many people love to collect or make their own jewellery pieces.
This is the story of how jewellery has evolved from a functional item to an ornamental one. It’s a fascinating journey, and it’s incredible how it changed along with the times. So, from the earliest beginnings until now, humans have used jewellery as decoration or status symbols.