Ancient Egyptian Jewelry
Ancient Egyptian jewelry (also spelled jewellery) can be traced back in history to 4000BC, the Predynastic period. Even though this early society was divided by social
class, jewelry was acquired by all levels of status, even the poorest class. Both men and women were known to wear all types of jewelry earrings, crowns,
brooches, anklets, necklaces, bracelets and rings were common. Materials ranging from glass to gold and silver were used. The amount and quality of jewelry worn symbolized the wearers wealth and social status but it also had an important
religious significance. For the most part, the materials used to make this extraordinary jewelry were found locally within or near Egypt, but certain materials came
from such far away places as Afghanistan. This includes a highly sought after semi-precious stone called Lapis lazuli that was known for its rich blue hue. In general,
jewelry from this culture was heavy, ornate, and brightly colored.
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Ancient Egyptian Facts
Religious Significance of Ancient Egyptian Jewelry
It was thought by the Egyptians that wearing copious amounts of jewelry would act as protection against evil forces for both the living and the dead. Jewelry was
collected throughout a person's life in order to ward off evil in the present and bring prosperity in the afterlife. It was thought that the more jewelry you owned and
wore, the more prosperity would come to you during life and in the after-life. Even the lowest social class made it a priority to obtain jewelry to wear and to be
buried with. The lower social classes may not have had the most extravagant gemstones but thanks to jewelers who were able to mold hot glass into beautiful beads, they
were able to have beautiful jewelry at an affordable price. Unfortunately for those that were buried with all their finest jewels, the likelihood of a tomb robber
taking the loot was pretty high.
Sacred objects held religious significance and often became a focal part of jewelry motifs. Men and women, both rich and poor, were known to wear Scarab Beetle jewelry
as lucky charms. These beetles who spend their time rolling dung into large balls, were known for appearing out of nowhere, much like the Sun God Ra (or Atum) seemed
to do. Because of this similarity of seemingly coming from nothing, the ancient Egyptians bestowed a sacred status on the Scarab Beetle, thus making its image a very
desirable addition to all types of jewelry. This symbol was thought to have magical and religious powers and was a symbol of rebirth. In order to ensure that the
owner was the recipient of these powers, the owner's name was inscribed on the jewelry.
Gemstone carvings were a highly indulgent form of art on which the Scarab Beetle often appeared. Popular gemstones for such carvings include Carnelian, Jasper, Lapis
Lazuli, Malachite, Quartz and Turquoise. It is a fact that millions of amulets during the Ancient Egyptian period depicted the Scarab Beetle.
The very first metal used by the Ancient Egyptians was Copper. Eventually tin was added to make Bronze, which was a much harder material. Gold was considered the flesh
of the sun god and therefore a divine color so it is no surprise that it quickly became the most popular metal used during this time. Sometimes Bronze would be
incorporated and sometimes a mixture of gold, silver, and a small amount of copper was used. Polychrome glass was sometimes used in place of gemstones simple because
it was easier to work with. The main gemstones were Carnelian, Jasper, Lapis Lazuli, Malachite, Quartz and Turquoise.
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry Symbolic Meanings
The type of stone and the Color was an important factor in the Egyptians jewelry. The color and type represented a different mythical meaning. For example, Emeralds
were thought to promote fertility and immortality. The color blue is known to represent royalty and therefore Lapis, a vibrant blue stone, was one of the most favored
stones. Malachite was known for its healing properties, Turquoise was symbolic of happiness and life and Amazonite was symbolic of good luck.