Ancient jewelry, as we term, to simplify the board category of paleolithic jewelry to roman jewelry consists of the oldest known jewelry. This jewelry is difficult to class as an overall style as it consists of a vast period of time and was very local specific. From bear claws to drilled shell beads the earliest jewelry is believed to stem from the caveman era. Fine jewelry however emerged a bit later. Bronze jewelry first surfaced in the ancient cities ruled by Kings in Mesopotamia around 3000-2500BC. This was the birth of the bronze era as well as the iron era. It is also during this time where gold jewelry became all to be desired as it was the highest regarded metal for jewelry purposes due to its exceptional color, its luster, and its malleability. Since, at this time, technology was quite geographic as were styles, there was one exception to the preference of gold and that was in Egypt where Egyptians favored silver to gold. We at Velvet Box Society call this broad period of time ancient jewelry as there are many, many sub categories. I will touch on a few just to simplify things:
- Sumerian jewelry- civilizations in Mesopotamia were the first to use techniques like filigree and more more prominently granulation, the techniques could be found ranging to the south and westerly into Africa
- Turkish jewelry- those same techniques spread to the north into turkey. Gold jewelry was now here to stay.
- Egyptian jewelry- As the Sumerian trend spread to the North it was in fact that Egyptians began to stylize jewelry and hone the craft. In fact, we saw the first use of simulated stones with Egyptians. Egypt became a hub
- Phoenician jewelry- As the trend spread further to the north and west it reached modern day Europe where Phoenicians along the Mediterranean brought the trend full circle. Crossing into Greece, Southern Spain, Italy, Ireland and so on. The Phoenicians had their own style of filigree and granulation and really the first repousse.
- Greek jewelry- Minoan and Mycenaean people brought the use the art of the sea into play and redefined filigree and granulation in a more detailed style
- Etruscan jewelry- Around the 8th century BC, the Etruscan civilization ran with the Greek style and added more filigree as well as early workings of enamel leaving their mark in craftsmanship
- Celtic jewelry- Celtic styles presented themselves a bit later but are notable as jewelry had spread over a vast land and sea base to reveal a ever changing style. These styles could more easily be seen as availability of materials and craftsman knowledge developed.
- Roman jewelry- The early Romans are so notable to their influence on jewelry that they could probably have an entire era devoted directly to them. Since they were to the east of the Etruscan civilization their desire to compete, and on much closer quarters than say the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, they pushed the crafted to a whole new level. Garnets, pearls, and even the first use of diamonds in jewelry came during this time period. They paved the way like those before them to advance jewelry in a way that is unforgettable.