Ancient Persian Jewelry

General Facts and Information

The Old Persian Empire occupied what is now Iran and Afghanistan. It's a territory made up of an array of different types of land typography including valleys, mountains, deserts, and pastures. Archaeologists have discovered jewelry (also spelled jewellery) from this empire in an archaeological site in Iran called the Burnt City. Some of the jewelry dates as far back as the third millennium. Another archaeological site in northern Afghanistan called Tillya Tepe, also known as "The Golden Hill" is a collection of several ancient tombs. This site has the distinction of being one of old Persia's most telling archeological sites. An abundance of artifacts, especially ancient Persian jewelry, have been discovered there dating back to the 1st century BC. It was typical for a person to be buried with their most valued jewels so the wealthier you were, the more jewels you were buried with. Gold necklaces with gemstones, bracelets, clasps, crowns, earrings, rings, and pendants were just some of the 20,000 ornamental artifacts that were discovered at the site.

The Persians, particularly women, were known for their love of jewelry. They had a special affection for diamonds, emeralds and other gemstones. Because of their religious beliefs, women in ancient Persia did not show any skin in public so they opted to save their favorite jewelry for events that took place at home, such as family gatherings.

The artisans who crafted the jewelry of this era were talented and well-trained. They were able to produce intricate yet delicate jewelry without any modern tools. They made everything from necklaces and bracelets to finger rings, anklets and hair pins in both gold and silver.

Wealthy people often wore gold with carvings of animal heads, mythological creatures, or certain types of plants. For example, bracelets were made open-ended, rather than in complete circles, and at each end you would often find an engraving of the head of either a goose, lion, deer, ram, or snake.

Ancient Persian Jewelry Headpieces

A diadem or tadji was a type of headpiece worn by Persian women on very special occasions. A woman's hair was parted in the middle and then pulled back and tied in a knot at the nape of the neck. This special headpiece was worn on top of this specific hairstyle. On occasions that did not require such extravagance, a slightly more simplistic head piece called a nim tadji was worn instead. This gold headband was decorated with either diamonds, pearls or gemstones.

Persia's Great Table Diamond

The "Great Table" diamond was discovered in what is now Iran by a Frenchman named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in 1642. This pale pink diamond is one of Iran's most prized crown jewels weighing in at approximately 200 carats. It is a "table-cut" diamond and it is virtually flawless. The second emperor of Persia, Fat'hh Ali Shah, one of many to have had possession of the diamond, had his name engraved on one side of this magnificent stone. His name was one of three engraved on the stone along with Akbar Shah and Nisim Shah. Since the 18th century, its whereabouts are no longer known but it believed that it was cut into many smaller diamonds.