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Jewellery is one of the oldest types of archaeological artefact, with 115,000-year-old small shell beads thought to be the oldest known jewellery, and these were made not by Homo sapiens, rather a Neanderthal population in Spain. Mankind's love of jewellery began thousands of years ago, but it wasn't the flashy and shiny accessories that you'll find today, rather it was made from horns, bones or teeth, which were sometimes worn as trophies by hunters to bring luck or status. Other types consisted of shells, feathers or pebbles, which were coloured, also known as gems. In particular, gems were admired for their durability and eye catching qualities, so these were made into adornments. Some wore certain types of jewellery for their belief in their magical properties, as they considered them protective or would bring them good fortune
Mummies from the Royal Tombs in ancient Sumner have been recovered dating back 3000 BC in what is now known as Iran, which shows people were mummified with many jewellery pieces, including headdresses, necklaces, earrings, rings, crowns, and pins. It is thought that these were offerings to the gods as jewellery had spiritual meanings to these people.
The ancient Egyptians used jewellery to display pride and territory, and sought luxury and rarity. They used gold, silver, turquoise, chalcedony, amethyst lapis lazuli, carnelian, green feldspar, and turquoise. They also used coloured glass in conjunction with rare metals and gemstones.
In ancient Bahrain, an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, 170,000 burial sites were discovered and among these they found the oldest ever found pearl and gold earring, dating back 4000 years.
At around 1600 BC, the Greeks wore crowns, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches and hairpins usually to display wealth or social status, and sometimes the women wore necklaces with many tiny vases dangling from it. Around 1500 BC, gold and gemstones were popular, and the main techniques were casting, twisting bars, and making wire. Their relatively simple designs became increasingly complex over time.
Later on jewellery became a symbol of human connections, such as wedding rings for the married. It wasn't until some time around 1300 in Europe where diamonds became popular, and were first mined in India, as people learned how to cut them to expose their brilliance. These, and other gemstones became a symbol for high social status, wealth and power.
The Romans had sources across the continent, and so could use a diverse range of materials for their jewellery. This included gold, bronze, bone, glass beads and pearls. They imported sapphires from Sri Lanka and diamonds from India and created jewellery designs with emeralds and amber.
The renaissance period in the 17th century saw an increase in trade and exploration and a shift from gold and silver being the focus of jewellery to gemstones taking the front seat. In the 18th century, as a result of the industrial revolution, middle classes began to acquire some wealth and jewellery and cheap alloys came into practice, such that the beginning of costume jewellery began.