History of Egyptian Jewelry

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Jewels of The Nile: History of Ancient Egyptian Jewelry

Over thousands of years, jewelry has been worn by many people. Whether to show beauty, wealth or belief there is no era that can compare to the jewels of Ancient Egypt. At the beginning of the kingdom, precious stones and metals were discovered and worn like never seen before. Unfortunately, the remaining Egyptian jewelry that is displayed in Museums today is only a small fraction of what actually existed due to grave robbers. Questions such as how jewelry started, how it was made and worn, what the symbolization of jewelry was and who were the people that wore jewelry in Ancient Egypt will be answered.

It is said that Egyptians always had knowledge of metal work but the existence of metal being used for jewelry dates back to the Pre-dynasty era in the Ancient Empire. Before metals and stones were worn, Egyptians used painted bones, shells and wood and for their jewelry. Not long after, as jewelry evolved, the use of precious stones and metals was adopted. Early egyptians were able to obtain most of the jewels from the Nile but the first uses of metals such as copper and bronze were found mostly in the Sinai Peninsula or other mines nearby. Gold and gemstones were also found in this area [1]. Eventually, Egyptians discovered that mixing tin ____________________________________________________________

[1] Perrot, Georges, and Chipiez, Charles. History of Art in Ancient Egypt Volume 2. (London; Chapman and Hall Limited, 1883). 337-381.
and copper could make a stronger metal, Bronze. By the sixth dynasty, Egyptians were able to import all types of metals and stones from other locations. Asia contributed to the import of silver and it is now understood that Egyptians believed it was more rare than gold. Quartz came from the mountains between the Nile River and the Red Sea. The oldest metal used was gold but it was not before the twelfth dynasty that evidence showing how gold was processed was discovered by historians[1].

As mentioned above, jewelry began its use during the Pre-dynasty era but was mainly composed of “beads made of shell, common stones or mud strung together into simple necklaces” [2]. Eventually precious stones were used such as “agate, chrysoprase, carnelian, onyx, red and green jasper, fluorspar, garnet, malachite, microcline, olivine, amethyst, milky quartz, serpentine, steatite and turquoise” [4]. Amethyst is one of the stones that was extracted the most and became very scarce [3]. Once the Pharos began to reign, cornelian, red jasper and turquoise were the most commonly used precious stones, however; lapis lazuli was the stone that was most sought out for by the Pharos [4]. The metals were produced by melting them over “charcoaled fire with blow pipes, [being] poured into molds or...beaten into foil for gilding” [5]. Egyptians also used the lost wax process in order to create figurines of their Gods. Gold was ____________________________________________________________

[1] Perrot, Georges, and Chipiez, Charles. History of Art in Ancient Egypt Volume 2. (London; Chapman and Hall Limited, 1883). 337. [2] Silverman, David P. Ancient Egypt. (New York; Duncan Baird Publishers Limited, 1997). 227 [3] Solski, Ruth. Ancient Egypt. (Ontario; S&S Learning Material, 1993; revised 2006). 28 [4] Condra, Jill. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History (England; Greenwood Press, 2008). 30. [5] Bard, Kathryn A. Encyclopedian of the Archeology of Ancient Egypt. (London; Routledge, 1999). 387 done differently because it was a soft metal, therefore it was mailable and was easily shaped into any form by being hammered into a rounded shape or twisted into decorations [5].

Egyptians loved their jewelry and wore it in many ways. It was made exceptionally large and would seem overwhelming in the twenty-first century fashion. Evidence from tombs show that a wealthy person...
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