The history of early gold jewelry (also known as jewellery) dates back to old ancient civilizations. On this page we list information and facts about how ancient civilizations used gold to make jewelry.
Gold was one of the first metals to be mined. This was due to several reasons. It was quickly discovered that gold can be mined and used in its natural form, it is indestructible, has a unique color and, of course, it could be used to make beautiful jewelry and crowns. Ancient civilizations also adorned tombs and temples with copious amounts of gold (and sometimes silver) artifacts. As early as 2500 BC the Sumerian civilization produced all types of beautiful gold jewelry. They made earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. Although it is somewhat scarce and can be difficult to mine, gold can be found in areas throughout the world in varying concentrations.
The use of gold in Egyptian jewelry dates back 5,000 years. Egyptian mummies were often discovered with gold necklaces, crowns, rings, and earrings. King Tut's tomb contained a vast array of gold pieces. "Treasures of Tutankhamun" was a public display of these items, which traveled the U.S. in the 1970's and attracted millions of people to see it.
Greek nobles who died more than 3,500 years ago were often buried with gold jewelry as well as items made from gold such as masks and gold figures. One such artifact is what is believed to be a three-dimensional gold funeral mask or death mask of the Greek leader, Agamemnon. It is on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
The Romans were credited with expanding the scope of gold jewelry to include gemstones and other vibrantly colored stones. The Roman goldsmiths and artisans took emeralds, diamonds, pearls, sapphires and other gems and used them as a centerpiece with gold as the frame. This was the first time anything had been added to gold jewelry. As Rome was at its political height, relatively simple gold jewelry had given way to much more ornate designs which also contained precious and semi-precious gemstones.
Many ancient civilizations obtained gold from areas in the Middle East. For example, Egyptian pharaohs wore gold that was mined in the Nubian Desert, in the Upper Nile region by the Red Sea. Gold was also commonly mined in Egypt and Arabia.
Indian cultures throughout Mexico, such as the Aztecs and the Incas likely obtained their gold from Columbia. Intricate gold jewelry was made and designed specifically to present to the gods as sacred offerings. Unfortunately, much of the gold jewelry from these cultures was destroyed by the Conquistadores who melted it and used it to make gold coins.