Jewellery or jewelry is a form of personal adornment - such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
With some exception such as medical alert bracelets or military dog tags, jewellery normally differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to look appealing, but humans have been producing and wearing it for a long time - with 100,000-year-old beads made from Nassarius shells thought to be the oldest known jewellery.
Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials, but gemstones, precious metals, beads and shells have been widely used. Depending on the culture and times jewellery may be appreciated as a status symbol, for its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols. Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings.
The word jewellery itself is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicized from the Old French "jouel", and beyond that, to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything.
Most cultures have at some point had a practice of keeping large amounts of wealth stored in the form of jewellery. Numerous cultures move wedding dowries in the form of jewellery or create jewellery as a means to store or display coins. Alternatively, jewellery has been used as a currency or trade good; an example being the use of slave beads.
, such as brooches and buckles, originated as purely functional items, but evolved into decorative items as their functional requirement diminished.
Jewellery can also be symbolic of group membership, as in the case of the Christian crucifix or Jewish Star of David, or of status, as in the case of chains of office, or the Western practice of married people wearing a wedding ring.
Wearing of amulets and devotional medals to provide protection or ward off evil is common in some cultures; these may take the form of symbols (such as the ankh), stones, plants, animals, body parts (such as the Khamsa), or glyphs (such as stylised versions of the Throne Verse in Islamic art).
or other precious items are often used, and they are typically set into precious metals. Alloys of nearly every metal known have been encountered in jewellery. Bronze, for example, was common in Roman times. Modern fine jewellery usually includes gold, white gold, platinum, palladium, titanium, or silver. Most American and European gold jewellery is made of an alloy of gold, the purity of which is stated in karats, indicated by a number followed by the letter K. American gold jewellery must be of at least 10K purity (41.7% pure gold), (though in the UK the number is 9K (37.5% pure gold) and is typically found up to 18K (75% pure gold). Higher purity levels are less common with alloys at 22 K (91.6% pure gold), and 24 K (99.9% pure gold) being considered too soft for jewellery use in America and Europe. These high purity alloys, however, are widely used across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Platinum alloys range from 900 (90% pure) to 950 (95.0% pure). The silver used in jewellery is usually sterling silver, or 92.5% fine silver. In costume jewellery, stainless steel findings are sometimes used.
Main article: Diamond
Diamonds were first mined in India. Pliny may have mentioned them, although there is some debate as to the exact nature of the stone he referred to as Adamas; In 2005, Australia, Botswana, Russia and Canada ranked among the primary sources of gemstone diamond production.
The British crown jewels contain the Cullinan Diamond, part of the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found (1905), at 3,106.75 carats(621.35 g).
Now popular in engagement rings, this usage dates back to the marriage of Maximilian I to Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
Main article: Gemstone
Many precious and semiprecious stones are used for jewellery. Among them are:
Amber, an ancient organic gemstone, is composed of tree resin that has hardened over time. The stone must be at least one million years old to be classified as amber, and some amber can be up to 120 million years old.
Amethyst has historically been the most prized gemstone in the quartz family. It is treasured for its purple hue, which can range in tone from light to dark.
Emeralds are one of the three main precious gemstones (along with rubies and sapphires) and are known for their fine green to bluish green colour. They have been treasured throughout history, and some historians report that the Egyptians mined emerald as early as 3500 BC.
Jade is most commonly associated with the colour green but can come in a number of other colours, as well. Jade is closely linked to Asian culture, history, and tradition, and is sometimes referred to as the stone of heaven.
Jasper is a gemstone of the chalcedony family that comes in a variety of colours. Often, jasper will feature unique and interesting patterns within the coloured stone. Picture jasper is a type of jasper known for the colours (often beiges and browns) and swirls in the stone's pattern.
Quartz refers to a family of crystalline gemstones of various colours and sizes. Among the well-known types of quartz are rose quartz (which has a delicate pink colour), and smoky quartz (which comes in a variety of shades of translucent brown). A number of other gemstones, such asAmethyst and Citrine, are also part of the quartz family. Rutilated quartz is a popular type of quartz containing needle-like inclusions.
Rubies are known for their intense red colour and are among the most highly valued precious gemstones. Rubies have been treasured for millennia. In Sanskrit, the word for ruby is ratnaraj, meaning king of precious stones.
The most popular form of sapphire is blue sapphire, which is known for its medium to deep blue colour and strong saturation. Fancy sapphires of various colours are also available. In the United States, blue sapphire tends to be the most popular and most affordable of the three major precious gemstones (emerald, ruby, and sapphire).
Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth, and the world's largest turquoise producing region is the southwest United States. Turquoise is prized for its attractive colour, most often an intense medium blue or a greenish blue, and its ancient heritage. Turquoise is used in a great variety of jewellery styles. It is perhaps most closely associated with southwest and Native American jewellery, but it is also used in many sleek, modern styles. Some turquoise contains a matrix of dark brown markings, which provides an interesting contrast to the gemstone's bright blue colour.
Some gemstones (like pearls, coral, and amber) are classified as organic, meaning that they are produced by living organisms. Others are inorganic, meaning that they are generally composed of and arise from minerals.
Some gems, for example, amethyst, have become less valued as methods of extracting and importing them have progressed. Some man-made gems can serve in place of natural gems, such as cubic zirconia, which can be used in place of diamond.
For platinum, gold, and silver jewellery, there are many techniques to create finishes. The most common are high-polish, satin/matte, brushed, and hammered. High-polished jewellery is by far the most common and gives the metal a highly reflective, shiny look. Satin, or matte finish reduces the shine and reflection of the jewellery and is commonly used to accentuate gemstones such as diamonds. Brushed finishes give the jewellery a textured look and are created by brushing a material (similar to sandpaper) against the metal, leaving "brush strokes." Hammered finishes are typically created by using a soft, rounded hammer and hammering the jewellery to give it a wavy texture.
Impact on society
Jewellery has been used to denote status. In ancient Rome, for instance, only certain ranks could wear rings; Later, sumptuary laws dictated who could wear what type of jewellery, again based on rank. Cultural dictates have also played a significant role. For example, the wearing of earrings by Western men was considered effeminate in the 19th century and early 20th century. More recently, the display of body jewellery, such as piercings, has become a mark of acceptance or seen as a badge of courage within some groups but is completely rejected in others. Likewise, hip hop culture has popularised the slang term bling-bling, which refers to ostentatious display of jewellery by men or women.