A Brief History of Jewellery

A Brief History of the Manufacturing Jewellery Industry

“To have the opportunity to write about the history of jewellery is like opening a Pandora’s Box of delight for me.

This endless world that offers a potential career in precious metals like Silver, Gold or Platinum makes me so excited.

The fact is that as long as man has been around we have always sort the need for personal adornment to assist in the delivery of personal identity. Some finds date back 7000 years.  Beginning with tattooing and then with nature through the use of shells, bone, rocks or pebbles, feathers and leather progressing to handmade beads strung together to be placed around the neck or ankles or wrists all of which is the beginning of our Industry in Jewellery Manufacturing.

As technologies developed and hand tools became more refined greater skill and control gave the ancient jewellers a trade of their own. Early casting techniques were used by the Egyptians and Greek civilisations.

The Romans considerably developed the art of Cameo and Intaglio caving and refined the art of Glass Bead making. It was the Romans that consolidated the Betrothal ring some two millennia ago, now known as the Classic Wedder and was a symbol of marriage. This at the same time that slave rings were in use.

Anglo Saxons were big on Cloisonné Enamelling which we see in their buckles, brooches through the Dark Ages and ornamented fibulae (in ancient Greece and Rome, a brooch or clasp shaped like a modern safety pin used to fasten cloaks) that continued through to the Celtic and then Scottish nations.

While the Greek culture focused on the intricate detailing of items, it also has clear associations with the preceding Etruscan civilisation and their refinement of the granulation process for detailing. This skill of granulation has also been used in the Indian Jewellery Manufacturing for a millennium and is used today in modern Tibetan jewellery as well as in some Modern Greek and Italian jewellery.

In many ancient cultures, especially the Middle Eastern Cultures Jewellery was used as a trading commodity and where better to keep your assets then close at hand around your wife’s neck.

If ever there was a multi-cultural unifying article in the world it would be in jewellery. Each civilisation has developed its own unique processes and designs yet often you will see similarities in other cultures.

Jewellery delivers a strong message of personal distinctiveness and is often the focus of mankind’s life motivations.

Symbols of :

  • Wealth
  • Title
  • Power
  • Religion
  • Love
  • Romance
  • Sentimentality
  • And Attractiveness

All these factors of human life were articulated through Jewellery and the wearing there of.

As our industry grew and developed with new innovations in production there came a point where competition within the industry saw the need for accountability. In the 1300s laws were put in place to protect the public from fraud and this in effect became the foundation of our current hallmarking system.

Fast forward a few 100 years and we see the Manufacturing Jewellery Industry as the forerunners of today’s modern bankers. The Goldsmiths and Silversmiths had safe-keeping for their precious metals and gems and it was the newly wealthy that needed to secure their assets in these vaults.

The industrial revolution was a boom time for jewellers. There is the interesting story of Francis Child who began his apprenticeship as a goldsmith in 1642 and married his boss’s daughter and inherited the family business. Francis quickly identified that there was more money to be made in stewardship of other people’s valuables and money so he gave the Gold smithing away and devoted himself to banking, henceforth, the Childs Bank.

It is perhaps an industry irony that with the ever advancing of technology and the ever-evolving human culture we still have the ancient need and desire for personal adornment.

The desire has not changed, the basic hand skills have only been refined but the passion for the quality handmade items is ever with us on a day to day reality.

It is what keeps our Industry Evocative and Vibrant.”

written by Panache’ Fabian 2013©