Jewelry of Ancient Civilizations

Some 82,000 years ago people started adorning themselves with jewelry (often spelled jewelery or jewellery in the United Kingdom). Jewelry had humble beginnings; our early ancestors made simple necklaces made of small shells. As time progressed jewelry, including necklaces, pendants, rings, and earrings, became more complex with many styles and various materials being used. In this section of Ancient Jewelry History we will list many of the great civilizations of the world providing information on the types of jewelry they wore and their contributions to the history of jewelry.

Timeline of Ancient Civilizations Jewelry

Early Jewelry

There have been many archaeological discoveries of ancient jewelry. The oldest discovery was of tiny shells, worn on a necklace, found in Morocco that date back 82,000 years. Other discoveries of early jewelry include perforated shells found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa, 40,000 year old perforated ostrich egg shells unearthed in Kenya, and numerous jewelry items including bracelets made of mammoth tusk dating back over 35,000 years ago from the Denisova Cave in Siberia.

Ancient Egyptian Jewelry (4000 BC)

The first great civilization, Egypt, is well known for the beautiful jewelry it produced. This began in the Predynastic Period and continued throughout its great history which lasted thousands of years. Gold was their favorite material for jewelry but they also used gems, glass, and other materials. They created amazing pieces including necklaces, rings, earrings, and pendants.

Mesopotamia Jewelry (2750 BC)

The Sumerian civilization, named Mesopotamia by the Greeks, was located between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in what is today Iraq and northeastern Syria. Starting in approximately 2750 BC jewelry-making was taking place in many areas of this great society. Numerous archaeological digs have unearthed jewelry including necklaces and pins made out of gold, silver, and semi-precious stones. The most famous of these sites is the Royal Cemetery of Ur, located in modern day Iraq, where numerous tombs full of ancient jewelry were discovered.

Ancient Greece (1600 BC)

The ancient Greeks had a long history of jewelry making but it was around 1600 BC that they started incorporating gems and gold into their jewelry. They would later also include emeralds, amethysts, and pearls. The early Greeks were generally known for creating simple jewelry compared to other ancient civilizations; however their designs became more complex in later years.

Ancient Rome (753 BC)

Throughout its amazing history jewelry had been a part of ancient Roman history. The early Romans generally copied the jewelry styles of the Etruscans and Greeks. As the empire grew they developed more complex styles and started using more different types of materials. The most popular jewelry piece for the Romans was the brooch. It was not only used for self adornment but also served the functional purpose of holding their clothes together.

Conclusion - Jewelry of Ancient Civilizations

The above information just gives a quick overview of the ancient jewelry of a few ancient civilizations. For more information about the jewelry of these societies and for information on the jewelry of other ancient civilizations please read the other pages within this section.