Wear your pearls often. The natural texture of your skin helps to keep them lustrous and beautiful. Always take off jewellery to apply perfume or hair spray and don't expose pearls to solvents or detergent. Never use steam or ultrasonic cleaners, but wash them from time to time, with clean water, mild soap and a soft cloth. Hang them up to dry thoroughly before you put them away, but don't heat them.
Pearls are a product of nature, the only gemstones to grow organically within a living creature. Throughout history, people have always loved their mysterious, irridescent beauty. Until fairly recently, it was dangerous and difficult work to dive for pearls, and they were rare and very expensive. However, cultivation methods today produce excellent quality pearls at a price that puts them within reach of everyone.
We use Akoya pearls and cultured fresh-water pearls. There is no universal or scientific system for grading pearls. Quality is judged, by an experienced eye, according to shape, colour and lustre, and graded from A - AAA. For our higher-priced pieces, we use these especially fine pearls. However, ungraded pearls, although cheaper, are often very beautiful,and we use them to make exciting and glamorous jewellery at surprisingly low prices.
'Baroque' pearls are great fun. This is the word jewellers use to describe a gemstone or pearl that is asymmetrical or irregular in shape. We use them for many lower priced pieces. Each interesting, naturally-shaped pearl is unique and brings character to a design.
Black pearls are very rare in nature. They are seldom truly black, but usually subtly-coloured, with tones of green, purple, brown, blue, 'peacock' or bronze.
Knots: For most pieces, we hand-knot the silk 'string' between each pearl. This is a highly-skilled job and serves to prevent one pearl from rubbing against the next and causing friction damage. Also, in case a strand should break, they will not roll away and get lost.
We make pearl or gemstone jewellery to your design - usually at no extra charge!
Expert re-stringing, with individual hand-knotting where required.
Fast, personal service - all work guaranteed - and the best prices in the UK.
Please click here to see the 'Clasps Gallery'. Prices start from only £2.00
We can replace awkward or broken clasps with reliable magnetic fasteners -
no more fiddling and fumbling - from ony £3.00
You are welcome to call in to our shop, in Nairn, a lovely town on the Moray Firth, about 13 miles east of Inverness, Scotland.
'Shell pearls', 'Seashell' pearls, Majorica pearls, Red Sea pearls, Lotus pearls, etcera, are artificial beads dipped in a pearly coating. They are simulated, 'faux' or artificial 'pearls' that look nice - lots of people send them for re-stringing.
For most pieces, we hand-knot the silk 'string' between each pearl. This is a highly-skilled job and serves to prevent one pearl from rubbing against the next and causing friction damage. Also, in case a strand should break, they will not roll away and get lost.
Pearls (From Wikipedia)A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes of pearls (baroque pearls) occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries, and because of this, the word pearl has become a metaphor for something very rare, fine, admirable, and valuable.
The most valuable pearls occur spontaneously in the wild, but they are extremely rare. These wild pearls are referred to as natural pearls. Cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels make up the majority of those that are currently sold. Imitation pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewelry, but the quality of their iridescence is usually very poor, and often, artificial pearls are easily distinguished from genuine pearls. Pearls have been harvested and cultivated primarily for use in jewellery, but in the past they were also stitched onto lavish clothing. Pearls have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines, and in paint formulations.
Whether wild or cultured, gem quality pearls are almost always nacreous and iridescent, as is the interior of the shell that produces them. However, almost all species of shelled mollusks are capable of producing pearls (formally referred to as "calcareous concretions" by some sources) of lesser shine or less spherical shape. Although these may also be legitimately referred to as "pearls" by gemological labs and also under U.S. Federal Trade Commission rules, and are formed in the same way, most of them have no value, except as curiosities.
Evolutionary significancePearls are commonly viewed by scientists as a by-product of an adaptive immune system-like function.
EtymologyThe English word pearl comes from the French perle, originally from the Latin perna meaning leg, after the ham- or mutton leg-shaped bivalve.
A black pearl and a shell of the black-lipped pearl oyster
Saltwater pearl oyster farm, Seram, Indonesia
Almost any shelled mollusk can, by natural processes, produce some kind of "pearl" when an irritating microscopic object becomes trapped within the mollusk's mantle folds, but the great majority of these "pearls" are not valued as gemstones. Nacreous pearls, the best-known and most commercially-significant pearls, are primarily produced by two groups of molluscan bivalves or clams. A nacreous pearl is made from layers of nacre, by the same living process as is used in the secretion of the mother of pearl which lines the shell.
A "natural pearl" or "wild pearl" is one that forms without any human intervention at all, in the wild, and is very rare. Many hundreds of pearl oysters or pearl mussels have to be gathered and opened, and thus killed, in order to find even one wild pearl, and for many centuries that was the only way pearls were obtained. This was the main reason why pearls fetched such extraordinary prices in the past. A cultured pearl is formed in a pearl farm, using human intervention as well as natural processes.
One family of nacreous pearl bivalves – the pearl oyster – lives in the sea, while the other – a very different group of bivalves – lives in freshwater; these are the river mussels such as the freshwater pearl mussel. Saltwater pearls can grow in several species of marine pearl oysters in the family Pteriidae. Freshwater pearls grow within certain (but by no means all) species of freshwater mussels in the order Unionida, the families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae.
A pearl being extracted from an akoya pearl oyster.
Akoya pearl grafting shed in Xuwen, China.
The unique luster of pearls depends upon the reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light from the translucent layers. The thinner and more numerous the layers in the pearl, the finer the luster. The iridescence that pearls display is caused by the overlapping of successive layers, which breaks up light falling on the surface. In addition, pearls (especially cultured freshwater pearls) can be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple, or black. The very best pearls have a metallic mirror-like luster.
Because pearls are made primarily of calcium carbonate, they can be dissolved in vinegar. Calcium carbonate is susceptible to even a weak acid solution because the crystals of calcium carbonate react with the acetic acid in the vinegar to form calcium acetate and carbon dioxide.
Freshwater and saltwater pearls
Shell of one species of freshwater pearl mussel, Margaritifera margaritifera.
Freshwater and saltwater pearls may sometimes look quite similar, but they come from different sources.
Freshwater pearls form in various species of freshwater mussels, family Unionidae, which live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. These freshwater pearl mussels occur not only in hotter climates, but also in colder more temperate areas such as Scotland (where they are totally protected under law). However, most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China.
Saltwater pearls grow within pearl oysters, family Pteriidae, which live in oceans. Saltwater pearl oysters are usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls.
Creation of a pearl
Diagram comparing a cross-section of a cultured pearl, upper, with a natural pearl, lower
The difference between wild and cultured pearls focuses on whether the pearl was created spontaneously by nature – without human intervention – or with human aid. Pearls are formed inside the shell of certain mollusks as a defense mechanism against a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside its shell, or an attack from outside, injuring the mantle tissue. The mollusk creates a pearl sac to seal off the irritation.
The mantle of the mollusk deposits layers of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral aragonite or a mixture of aragonite and calcite (polymorphs with the same chemical formula, but different crystal structures) held together by an organic horn-like compound called conchiolin. The combination of aragonite and conchiolin is called nacre, which makes up mother-of-pearl. The commonly held belief that a grain of sand acts as the irritant is in fact rarely the case. Typical stimuli include organic material, parasites, or even damage that displaces mantle tissue to another part of the mollusk's body. These small particles or organisms gain entry when the shell valves are open for feeding or respiration. In cultured pearls, the irritant is typically an introduced piece of the mantle epithelium, with or without a spherical bead (beaded or beadless cultured pearls).
Natural pearlsNatural pearls are nearly 100% calcium carbonate and conchiolin. It is thought that natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk, and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, being irritated by the intruder, forms a pearl sac of external mantle tissue cells and secretes the calcium carbonate and conchiolin to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl. Natural pearls come in many shapes, with perfectly round ones being comparatively rare.
Typically, the build-up of a natural pearl consists of a brown central zone formed by columnar calcium carbonate (usually calcite, sometimes columnar aragonite) and a yellowish to white outer zone consisting of nacre (tabular aragonite). In a pearl cross-section such as the diagram, these two different materials can be seen. The presence of columnar calcium carbonate rich in organic material indicates juvenile mantle tissue that formed during the early stage of pearl development. Displaced living cells with a well-defined task may continue to perform their function in their new location, often resulting in a cyst. Such displacement may occur via an injury. The fragile rim of the shell is exposed and is prone to damage and injury. Crabs, other predators and parasites such as worm larvae may produce traumatic attacks and cause injuries in which some external mantle tissue cells are disconnected from their layer. Embedded in the conjunctive tissue of the mantle, these cells may survive and form a small pocket in which they continue to secrete their natural product: calcium carbonate. The pocket is called a pearl sack, and grows with time by cell division; in this way the pearl grows also. The juvenile mantle tissue cells, according to their stage of growth, produce columnar calcium carbonate, which is secreted from the inner surface of the pearl sack. With ongoing time the external mantle cells of the pearl sack proceed to the formation of tabular aragonite. When the transition to nacre secretion occurs, the brown pebble becomes covered with a nacreous coating. As this process progresses, the shell itself grows, and the pearl sack seems to travel into the shell. However, it actually stays in its original relative position within the mantle tissue. After a couple of years, a pearl will have formed and the shell might be found by a lucky pearl fisher.
Cultured pearlsMain article: Cultured pearl
Nuclei from Toba Pearl Island, Japan
Cultured pearls are the response of the shell to a tissue implant. A tiny piece of mantle tissue from a donor shell is transplanted into a recipient shell. This graft will form a pearl sac and the tissue will precipitate calcium carbonate into this pocket. There are a number of options for producing cultured pearls: use freshwater or seawater shells, transplant the graft into the mantle or into the gonad, add a spherical bead or do it non-beaded. The majority of saltwater cultured pearls are grown with beads. The trade name of the cultured pearls are Akoya, white or golden South sea, and black Tahitian. The majority of beadless cultured pearls are mantle-grown in freshwater shells in China, known as freshwater cultured pearls.
Cultured pearls can be distinguished from natural pearls by X-ray examination. Nucleated cultured pearls are often 'pre-formed' as they tend to follow the shape of the implanted shell bead nucleus. Once the pre-formed beads are inserted into the oyster, it secretes a few layers of nacre around the outside surface of the implant before it is removed after six months or more.
When a cultured pearl with bead is X-rayed, it reveals a different structure to that of a natural pearl. A beaded cultured pearl shows a solid center with no concentric growth rings, whereas a natural pearl shows a series of concentric growth rings. A beadless cultured pearl (whether of freshwater or saltwater origin) may show growth rings, but also a complex central cavity, witness of the first precipitation of the young pearl sac.
Imitation pearlsMain article: Imitation pearl
Some imitation pearls are simply made of mother-of-pearl, coral or conch shell, while others are made from glass and are coated with a solution containing fish scales called essence d'Orient. Although imitation pearls look the part, they do not have the same weight or smoothness as real pearls, and their luster will also dim greatly.
Gemological identificationA well equipped gem testing laboratory is able to distinguish natural pearls from cultured pearls by using a gemological x-ray in order to examine the center of a pearl. With an x-ray it is possible to see the growth rings of the pearl, where the layers of calcium carbonate are separated by thin layers of conchiolin. The differentiation of natural pearls from non-beaded cultured pearls can be very difficult without the use of this x-ray technique.
Natural and cultured pearls can be distinguished from imitation pearls using a microscope. Another method of testing for imitations is to rub two pearls against each other. Imitation pearls are completely smooth, but natural and cultured pearls are composed of nacre platelets, making both feel slightly gritty.
Value of a natural pearl
A brooch and a set of earrings from the 19th century made from gold and natural pearls
Quality natural pearls are very rare jewels. The actual value of a natural pearl is determined in the same way as it would be for other "precious" gems. The valuation factors include size, shape, color, quality of surface, orient and luster.
Single, natural pearls are often sold as a collector's item, or set as centerpieces in unique jewelry. Very few matched strands of natural pearls exist, and those that do often sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. (In 1917, jeweler Pierre Cartier purchased the Fifth Avenue mansion that is now the New York Cartier store in exchange for a matched, double strand of natural pearls that he had been collecting for years; valued at the time at $1 million USD.)
The Great Depression effectively slashed the value of the natural pearl, but there is no doubt that it had been some time coming. The introduction and advance of the cultured pearl hit the pearl industry hard; it had pearl dealers publicly disputing over the authenticity of these new cultured pearls, and left many consumers uneasy and confused about the much lower prices. Essentially, it damaged the image of both natural and cultured pearls alike. By the 1950s, an era of every woman being able to own her own pearl necklace had begun, and natural pearls were reduced to a small, exclusive niche in the pearl industry.
Origin of a natural pearlPreviously, natural pearls were found in many parts of the world. Present day natural pearling is confined mostly to seas off Bahrain. Australia also has one of the world's last remaining fleets of pearl diving ships. Australian pearl divers dive for south sea pearl oysters to be used in the cultured south sea pearl industry. The catch of pearl oysters is similar to the numbers of oysters taken during the natural pearl days. Hence significant numbers of natural pearls are still found in the Australian Indian Ocean waters from wild oysters. X-ray examination is required to positively verify natural pearls found today.
Types of cultured pearls
A blister pearl, a half-sphere, formed flush against the shell of the pearl oyster.
Keshi pearls, although they often occur by chance, are not considered natural pearls. They are a byproduct of the culturing process, and hence do not happen without human intervention. These pearls are quite small: typically a few millimeters in size. Keshi pearls are produced by many different types of marine mollusks and freshwater mussels in China. Keshi pearls are actually a mistake in the cultured pearl seeding process. In seeding the cultured pearl, a piece of mantle muscle from a sacrificed oyster is placed with a bead of mother of pearl within the oyster. If the piece of mantle should slip off the bead, a pearl forms of baroque shape about the mantle piece which is entirely nacre. Therefore, a Keshi pearl could be considered superior to cultured pearls with a mother of pearl bead center. In the cultured pearl industry, the resources used to create a mistaken all nacre baroque pearl is a drain on the production of round cultured pearls. Therefore, they are trying to improve culturing technique so that keshi pearls do not occur. All nacre pearls may one day be limited to natural found pearls. Today many "keshi" pearls are actually intentional, with post-harvest shells returned to the water to regenerate a pearl in the existing pearl sac.
Tahitian pearls, frequently referred to as black pearls,] are highly valued because of their rarity; the culturing process for them dictates a smaller volume output and they can never be mass produced because, in common with most sea pearls, the oyster can only be nucleated with one pearl at a time, while freshwater mussels are capable of multiple pearl implants. Before the days of cultured pearls, black pearls were rare and highly valued for the simple reason that white pearl oysters rarely produced naturally black pearls, and black pearl oysters rarely produced any natural pearls at all.
Mary, Queen of Scots by an unknown artist after François Clouet (c. 1559)
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
The Queen is shown wearing her rope of famous black pearls.
Since the development of pearl culture technology, the black pearl oyster found in Tahiti and many other Pacific Island areas has been extensively used for producing cultured pearls. The rarity of the black cultured pearl is now a "comparative" issue. The black cultured pearl is rare when compared to Chinese freshwater cultured pearls, and Japanese and Chinese akoya cultured pearls, and is more valuable than these pearls. However, it is more abundant than the South Sea pearl, which is more valuable than the black cultured pearl. This is simply because the black pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera is far more abundant than the elusive, rare, and larger south sea pearl oyster Pinctada maxima, which cannot be found in lagoons, but which must be dove for in a rare number of deep ocean habitats or grown in hatcheries.
Black pearls are very rarely black: they are usually shades of green, purple, aubergine, blue, grey, silver or peacock (a mix of several shades, like a peacock's feather).
Black cultured pearls from the black pearl oyster – Pinctada margaritifera – are not South Sea pearls, although they are often mistakenly described as black South Sea pearls. In the absence of an official definition for the pearl from the black oyster, these pearls are usually referred to as "black pearls". The correct definition of a South Sea pearl – as described by CIBJO and GIA – is a pearl produced by the Pinctada maxima pearl oyster. South Sea pearls are the color of their host Pinctada maxima oyster – and can be white, silver, pink, gold, cream, and any combination of these basic colors, including overtones of the various colors of the rainbow displayed in the pearl nacre of the oyster shell itself.
South Sea pearls are produced in various parts of the world. White ones tend to come from the Broome area of Australia while golden ones are from the Philippines. Pearls are also produced in the Cook Islands and one farm in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, from Concha Nácar the rainbow lipped oyster; these pearls fluoresce red under ultraviolet light.
Pearls from other species
A shell of the Indian volute, Melo melo, surrounded by a number of pearls from this species
Biologically speaking, under the right set of circumstances, almost any shelled mollusk can produce some kind of pearl, however, most of these molluscan pearls have no luster or iridescence. The great majority of mollusk species produce pearls which are not attractive, and are sometimes not even very durable, such that they usually have no value at all, except perhaps to a scientist, a collector, or as a curiosity. These objects used to be referred to as "calcareous concretions" by some gemologists, even though a malacologist would still consider them to be pearls. Valueless pearls of this type are sometimes found in edible mussels, edible oysters, escargot snails, and so on. The GIA and CIBJO now simply use the term 'pearl' (or, where appropriate, the more descriptive term 'non-nacreous pearl') when referring to such items and, under Federal Trade Commission rules, various mollusc pearls may be referred to as 'pearls', without qualification.
Pearl of Lao Tzu, the largest known pearl came from a giant clam
A few species produce pearls that can be of interest as gemstones. These species include the bailer shell Melo, the giant clam Tridacna, various scallop species, Pen shells Pinna, and the Haliotis iris species of abalone. Abalone, or Pāua are Mabe pearls unique to New Zealand waters and are commonly referred to as 'Blue Pearls'. They are admired for their incredible luster and naturally bright vibrant colors that are often compared to Opal. Another example is the conch pearl (sometimes referred to simply as the 'pink pearl'), which is found very rarely growing between the mantle and the shell of the queen conch or pink conch, Strombus gigas, a large sea snail or marine gastropod from the Caribbean Sea. These pearls, which are often pink in color, are a by-product of the conch fishing industry, and the best of them display a shimmering optical effect related to chatoyance known as 'flame structure'. In 1999, the world auction record for a Melo pearl was US$488,311 for a single pearl.
Somewhat similar gastropod pearls, this time more orange in hue, are (again very rarely) found in the horse conch Pleuroploca gigantea.
The largest pearl known was found in the Philippines in 1934 and is known as the Pearl of Lao Tzu. It is a naturally-occurring, non-nacreous, calcareous concretion (pearl) from a giant clam. Because it did not grow in a pearl oyster it is not pearly; instead the surface is glossy like porcelain. Other pearls from giant clams are known to exist, but this is a particularly large one, weighing 14 lb (6.4 kg).
Pearl huntingMain article: Pearl hunting
A 14th-century piece of clothing used by Kuwaiti divers searching for pearls in the Arabian Sea
For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean, in areas like the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and in the Gulf of Mannar.[Starting in the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), the Chinese hunted extensively for seawater pearls in the South China Sea. In the 14th-century Arabian Sea, the traveller Ibn Battuta provided the earliest known description of pearl diving by means of attaching a cord to the diver's waist.
Catching of pearls, Bern Physiologus (IX century)
When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Western Hemisphere, they discovered that around the islands of Cubagua and Margarita, some 200 km north of the Venezuelan coast, was an extensive pearl bed (a bed of pearl oysters). One discovered and named pearl, La Peregrina pearl, was offered to the Spanish queen] According to Garcilasso de la Vega, who says that he saw La Peregrina at Seville in 1607, (Garcilasso, "Historie des Incas, Rois du Perou," Amsterdam, 1704, Vol. II, P. 352.) this was found at Panama in 1560 by a slave worker who was rewarded with his liberty, and his owner with the office of alcalde of Panama.
Margarita pearls are extremely difficult to find today and are known for their unique yellowish color. The most famous Margarita necklace that any one can see today is the one that then Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt gave to Jacqueline Kennedy when she and her husband, President John F. Kennedy paid an official visit to Venezuela]
Before the beginning of the 20th century, pearl hunting was the most common way of harvesting pearls. Divers manually pulled oysters from ocean floors and river bottoms and checked them individually for pearls. Not all mussels and oysters produce pearls. In a haul of three tons, only three or four oysters will produce perfect pearls.[
Pearl farmingToday, the cultured pearls on the market can be divided into two categories. The first category covers the beaded cultured pearls, including Akoya, South Sea and Tahiti. These pearls are gonad grown, and usually one pearl is grown at a time. This limits the number of pearls at a harvest period. The pearls are usually harvested after one year for akoya, 2–4 years for Tahitian and South Sea, and 2–7 years for freshwater. This perliculture process was first developed by the British biologist William Saville-Kent who passed the information along to Tatsuhei Mise and Tokichi Nishikawa from Japan. The second category includes the non-beaded freshwater cultured pearls, like the Biwa or Chinese pearls. As they grow in the mantle, where on each wing up to 25 grafts can be implanted, these pearls are much more frequent and saturate the market completely. An impressive improvement in quality has taken place in the last ten years when the former rice grain-shaped pebbles are compared with the near round pearls of today. In the last two years large near perfect round bead nucleated pearls up to 15mm in diameter have been produced with metallic luster.
The nucleus bead in a beaded cultured pearl is generally a polished sphere made from freshwater mussel shell. Along with a small piece of mantle tissue from another mollusk (donor shell) to serve as a catalyst for the pearl sac, it is surgically implanted into the gonad (reproductive organ) of a saltwater mollusk. In freshwater perliculture, only the piece of tissue is used in most cases, and is inserted into the fleshy mantle of the host mussel. South Sea and Tahitian pearl oysters, also known as Pinctada maxima and Pinctada margaritifera, which survive the subsequent surgery to remove the finished pearl, are often implanted with a new, larger beads as part of the same procedure and then returned to the water for another 2–3 years of growth.
White pearl necklace
Despite the common misperception, Mikimoto did not discover the process of pearl culture. The accepted process of pearl culture was developed by the British Biologist William Saville-Kent in Australia and brought to Japan by Tokichi Nishikawa and Tatsuhei Mise. Nishikawa was granted the patent in 1916, and married the daughter of Mikimoto. Mikimoto was able to use Nishikawa's technology. After the patent was granted in 1916, the technology was immediately commercially applied to akoya pearl oysters in Japan in 1916. Mise's brother was the first to produce a commercial crop of pearls in the akoya oyster. Mitsubishi's Baron Iwasaki immediately applied the technology to the south sea pearl oyster in 1917 in the Philippines, and later in Buton, and Palau. Mitsubishi was the first to produce a cultured south sea pearl – although it was not until 1928 that the first small commercial crop of pearls was successfully produced.
The original Japanese cultured pearls, known as akoya pearls, are produced by a species of small pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata martensii, which is no bigger than 6 to 8 cm in size, hence akoya pearls larger than 10 mm in diameter are extremely rare and highly priced. Today, a hybrid mollusk is used in both Japan and China in the production of akoya pearls.
Recent pearl productionIn 2010, China overtook Japan in akoya pearl production. Japan has all but ceased its production of akoya pearls smaller than 8 mm. Japan maintains its status as a pearl processing center, however, and imports the majority of Chinese akoya pearl production. These pearls are then processed (often simply matched and sorted), relabeled as product of Japan, and exported.
In the past two decades, cultured pearls have been produced using larger oysters in the south Pacific and Indian Ocean. The largest pearl oyster is the Pinctada maxima, which is roughly the size of a dinner plate. South Sea pearls are characterized by their large size and warm luster. Sizes up to 14 mm in diameter are not uncommon. South Sea pearls are primarily produced in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Mitsubishi commenced pearl culture with the south sea pearl oyster in 1916, as soon as the technology patent was commercialized. By 1931 this project was showing signs of success, but was upset by the death of Tatsuhei Mise. Although the project was recommenced after Tatsuhei's death, the project was discontinued at the beginning of WWII before significant productions of pearls were achieved.
After WWII, new south sea pearl projects were commenced in the early 1950s in Burma and Kuri Bay and Port Essington in Australia. Japanese companies were involved in all projects using technicians from the original Mitsubishi south sea pre-war projects.
Freshwater pearl farmingIn 1914, pearl farmers began growing cultured freshwater pearls using the pearl mussels native to Lake Biwa. This lake, the largest and most ancient in Japan, lies near the city of Kyoto. The extensive and successful use of the Biwa Pearl Mussel is reflected in the name Biwa pearls, a phrase which was at one time nearly synonymous with freshwater pearls in general. Since the time of peak production in 1971, when Biwa pearl farmers produced six tons of cultured pearls, pollution has caused the virtual extinction of the industry. Japanese pearl farmers recently cultured a hybrid pearl mussel – a cross between Biwa Pearl Mussels and a closely related species from China, Hyriopsis cumingi, in Lake Kasumigaura. This industry has also nearly ceased production, due to pollution.
Japanese pearl producers also invested in producing cultured pearls with freshwater mussels in the region of Shanghai, China. China has since become the world's largest producer of freshwater pearls, producing more than 1,500 metric tons per year (in addition to metric measurements, Japanese units of measurement such as the kan and momme are sometimes encountered in the pearl industry).
Led by pearl pioneer John Latendresse and his wife Chessy, the United States began farming cultured freshwater pearls in the mid 1960s. National Geographic magazine introduced the American cultured pearl as a commercial product in their August 1985 issue. The Tennessee pearl farm has emerged as a tourist destination in recent years, but commercial production of freshwater pearls has ceased.
For many cultured pearl dealers and wholesalers, the preferred weight measure used for loose pearls and pearl strands is momme. Momme is a weight measure used by the Japanese for centuries. Today, momme weight is still the standard unit of measure used by most pearl dealers to communicate with pearl producers and wholesalers. One momme corresponds to 1/1000 kan. Reluctant to give up tradition, in 1891, the Japanese government formalized the kan measure as being exactly 1 kan = 3.75 kilograms or 8.28 pounds. Hence, 1 momme = 3.75 grams or 3750 milligrams.
In the United States, during the 19th and 20th centuries, through trade with Japan in silk cloth the momme became a unit indicating the quality of silk cloth.
Though millimeter size range is typically the first factor in determining a cultured pearl necklace's value, the momme weight of pearl necklace will allow the buyer to quickly determine if the necklace is properly proportioned. This is especially true when comparing the larger south sea and Tahitian pearl necklaces.
Pearls in jewelryThe value of the pearls in jewelry is determined by a combination of the luster, color, size, lack of surface flaw and symmetry that are appropriate for the type of pearl under consideration. Among those attributes, luster is the most important differentiator of pearl quality according to jewelers.
Ring of Tahitian pearl
All factors being equal, however, the larger the pearl the more valuable it is. Large, perfectly round pearls are rare and highly valued. Teardrop-shaped pearls are often used in pendants.
Pearls come in eight basic shapes: round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque, and circled. Perfectly round pearls are the rarest and most valuable shape. Semi-rounds are also used in necklaces or in pieces where the shape of the pearl can be disguised to look like it is a perfectly round pearl. Button pearls are like a slightly flattened round pearl and can also make a necklace, but are more often used in single pendants or earrings where the back half of the pearl is covered, making it look like a larger, rounder pearl.
Portrait of Empress Maria Fiodorovna in a Head-Dress Decorated with Pearls by Ivan Kramskoi (1880s)
Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum
Drop and pear shaped pearls are sometimes referred to as teardrop pearls and are most often seen in earrings, pendants, or as a center pearl in a necklace. Baroque pearls have a different appeal; they are often highly irregular with unique and interesting shapes. They are also commonly seen in necklaces. Circled pearls are characterized by concentric ridges, or rings, around the body of the pearl.
In general, cultured pearls are less valuable than natural pearls, whereas imitation pearls almost have no value. One way that jewelers can determine whether a pearl is cultured or natural is to have a gem lab perform an x-ray of the pearl. If the x-ray reveals a nucleus, the pearl is likely a bead-nucleated saltwater pearl. If no nucleus is present, but irregular and small dark inner spots indicating a cavity are visible, combined with concentric rings of organic substance, the pearl is likely a cultured freshwater. Cultured freshwater pearls can often be confused for natural pearls which present as homogeneous pictures which continuously darken toward the surface of the pearl. Natural pearls will often show larger cavities where organic matter has dried out and decomposed.
Lengths of pearl necklaces
Portrait of Caterina Sagredo Barbarigo by Rosalba Carriera, cir. 1740. The subject is wearing a single-strand pearl collar and pendant pearl earrings
Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, owned one of the most famous collections of natural pearls. She is wearing a multi-strand choker and a rope of pearls, possibly with matching bracelet and earrings
There is a special vocabulary used to describe the length of pearl necklaces. While most other necklaces are simply referred to by their physical measurement, pearl necklaces are named by how low they hang when worn around the neck. A collar, measuring 10 to 13 inches or 25 to 33 cm in length, sits directly against the throat and does not hang down the neck at all; collars are often made up of multiple strands of pearls. Pearl chokers, measuring 14 to 16 inches or 35 to 41 cm in length, nestle just at the base of the neck. A strand called a princess length, measuring 17 to 19 inches or 43 to 48 cm in length, comes down to or just below the collarbone. A matinee length, measuring 20 to 24 inches or 50 to 60 cm in length, falls just above the breasts. An opera length, measuring 28 to 35 inches or 70 to 90 cm in length, will be long enough to reach the breastbone or sternum of the wearer; and longer still, a pearl rope, measuring more than 45 inches or 115 cm in length, is any length that falls down farther than an opera.
Necklaces can also be classified as uniform, or graduated. In a uniform strand of pearls, all pearls are classified as the same size, but actually fall in a range. A uniform strand of akoya pearls, for example, will measure within 0.5 mm. So a strand will never be 7 mm, but will be 6.5–7 mm. Freshwater pearls, Tahitian pearls, and South Sea pearls all measure to a full millimeter when considered uniform.
A graduated strand of pearls most often has at least 3 mm of differentiation from the ends to the center of the necklace. Popularized in the United States during the 1950s by the GIs bringing strands of cultured akoya pearls home from Japan, a 3.5 momme, 3 mm to 7 mm graduated strand was much more affordable than a uniform strand because most of the pearls were small.
Colors of pearl jewelryEarrings and necklaces can also be classified on the grade of the color of the pearl. While white, and more recently black, saltwater pearls are by far the most popular, other color tints can be found on pearls from the oceans. Pink, blue, champagne, green, black and even purple saltwater pearls can be encountered, but to collect enough of these rare colors to form a complete string of the same size and same shade can take years.
Hindu scripturesThe Hindu tradition describes the sacred Nine Pearls which were first documented in the Garuda Purana, one of the books of the Hindu mythology. Ayurveda contains references to pearl powder as a stimulant of digestion and to treat mental ailments. According to Marco Polo, the kings of Malabar wore a necklace of 104 rubies and pearls which was given from one generation of kings to the next. The reason was that every king had to say 104 prayers every morning and every evening. At least until the beginning of the 20th century it was a Hindu custom to present a completely new, undrilled pearl and pierce it during the wedding ceremony.
The Pearl or Mukta in Sanskrit is also associated with many Hindu deities. The most famous being the Koustubha which Lord Vishnu wears on his chest. Apart from religious connotations, stories and folklore abound of pearls occurring in snakes, the Naaga Mani, and elephants, the Gaja Mukta.
Hebrew scripturesAccording to Rebbenu Bachya, the word Yahalom in the verse Exodus 28:18 means "pearl" and was the stone on the Hoshen representing the tribe of Zebulun. This is generally disputed among scholars, particularly since the word in question in most manuscripts is actually Yasepheh – the word from which jasper derives; scholars think that refers to green jasper (the rarest and most prized form in early times) rather than red jasper (the most common form). Yahalom is usually translated by the Septuagint as an "onyx", but sometimes as "beryl" or as "jasper"; onyx only started being mined after the Septuagint was written, so the Septuagint's term "onyx" probably does not mean onyx – onyx is originally an Assyrian word meaning ring, and so could refer to anything used for making rings. Yahalom is similar to a Hebrew word meaning hit hard, so some people think that it means diamond. The variation in possibilities of meaning for this sixth stone in the Hoshen is reflected in different translations of the Bible – the King James Version translates the sixth stone as diamond, the New International Version translates it as emerald, and the Vulgate translates it as jaspis – meaning jasper. There is a wide range of views among traditional sources about which tribe the stone refers to.
New Testament scriptures
Religious pendant showing Christ blessing, framed with rubies and pearls, from the Byzantine empire, 12th or 13th century
In a Christian New Testament parable, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a "pearl of great price" in Matthew 13: 45–46. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly (fine) pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
The twelve gates of the New Jerusalem are reportedly each made of a single pearl in Revelation 21:21, that is, the Pearly Gates. "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every gate was of one pearl: and the streets of the city were pure gold, as if transparent glass."
Holy things are compared to pearls in Matthew 7:6. "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you."
Pearls are also found in numerous references showing the wickedness and pride of a people, as in Revelation 18:16. "And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!"
Islamic scripturesThe Qur'an often mentions that dwellers of paradise will be adorned with pearls:
22:23 God will admit those who believe and work righteous deeds, to Gardens beneath which rivers flow: they shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and pearls; and their garments there will be of silk.
35:33 Gardens of Eternity will they enter: therein will they be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls; and their garments there will be of silk.
52:24 Round about them will serve, [devoted] to them, youths [handsome] as pearls well-guarded.
Other scripturesThe metaphor of a pearl appears in the longer Hymn of the Pearl, a poem respected for its high literary quality, and use of layered theological metaphor, found within one of the texts of Gnosticism.
The Pearl of Great Price is a book of scripture in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Pearl Maxima, one of the largest nacreous pearls ever found
- Ammolite – another organic gemstone formed primarily of fossil aragonite mollusk shells
- Broome, Western Australia, a pearling town
- Cave pearl
- Les pêcheurs de perles, The Pearl Fishers, an opera by Georges Bizet
- Precious coral
Jade is an ornamental stone. The term jade is applied to two different metamorphic rocks that are made up of different silicate minerals:
- Nephrite consists of a microcrystaline interlocking fibrous matrix of the calcium, magnesium-iron rich amphibole mineral series tremolite (calcium-magnesium)-ferroactinolite (calcium-magnesium-iron). The middle member of this series with an intermediate composition is called actinolite (the silky fibrous mineral form is one form of asbestos). The higher the iron content the greener the colour.
- Jadeite is a sodium- and aluminium-rich pyroxene. The gem form of the mineral is a microcrystaline interlocking crystal matrix.
EtymologyThe English word jade (alternative spellings "jaid", "jadeite") is derived (via French l'ejade and Latin ilia) from the Spanish term piedra de ijada (first recorded in 1565) or "loin stone", from its reputed efficacy in curing ailments of the loins and kidneys. Nephrite is derived from lapis nephriticus, the Latin version of the Spanish piedra de ijada.
Nephrite and jadeiteNephrite and jadeite were used from prehistoric periods for hardstone carving. Jadeite has about the same hardness as quartz, while nephrite is somewhat softer. It was not until the 19th century that a French mineralogist determined that "jade" was in fact two different minerals. Among the earliest known jade artifacts excavated from prehistoric sites are simple ornaments with bead, button, and tubular shapes. Additionally, jade was used for adze heads, knives, and other weapons, which can be delicately shaped. As metal-working technologies became available, the beauty of jade made it valuable for ornaments and decorative objects. Jadeite measures between 6.0 and 7.0 Mohs hardness, and nephrite between 6.0 and 6.5, so it can be worked with quartz or garnet sand, and polished with bamboo or even ground jade
Unusual varietiesNephrite can be found in a creamy white form (known in China as "mutton fat" jade) as well as in a variety of green colours, whereas jadeite shows more colour variations, including blue, lavender-mauve, pink, and emerald-green colours. Of the two, jadeite is rarer, documented in fewer than 12 places worldwide. Translucent emerald-green jadeite is the most prized variety, both historically and today. As "quetzal" jade, bright green jadeite from Guatemala was treasured by Mesoamerican cultures, and as "kingfisher" jade, vivid green rocks from Burma became the preferred stone of post-1800 Chinese imperial scholars and rulers. Burma (Myanmar) and Guatemala are the principal sources of modern gem jadeite. In the area of Mogaung in the Myitkyina District of Upper Burma (Myanmar), jadeite formed a layer in the dark-green serpentine, and has been quarried and exported for well over a hundred years. Canada provides the major share of modern lapidary nephrite. Nephrite jade was used mostly in pre-1800 China as well as in New Zealand, the Pacific Coast and Atlantic Coasts of North America, Neolithic Europe, and Southeast Asia. In addition to Mesoamerica, jadeite was used by Neolithic Japanese and European cultures.
Prehistoric and historic ChinaMain article: Chinese jade
Large "mutton fat" nephrite jade displayed in Hotan Cultural Museum lobby.
During Neolithic times, the key known sources of nephrite jade in China for utilitarian and ceremonial jade items were the now depleted deposits in the Ningshao area in the Yangtze River Delta (Liangzhu culture 3400–2250 BC) and in an area of the Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia (Hongshan culture 4700–2200 BC). Dushan Jade was being mined as early as 6000 BC. In the Yin Ruins of the Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1050 BC) in Anyang, Dushan Jade ornaments were unearthed in the tomb of the Shang kings. Jade was used to create many utilitarian and ceremonial objects, from indoor decorative items to jade burial suits. Jade was considered the "imperial gem". From the earliest Chinese dynasties to the present, the jade deposits most in use were not only those of Khotan in the Western Chinese province of Xinjiang but other parts of China as well, such as Lantian, Shaanxi. There, white and greenish nephrite jade is found in small quarries and as pebbles and boulders in the rivers flowing from the Kuen-Lun mountain range eastward into the Takla-Makan desert area. The river jade collection is concentrated in the Yarkand, the White Jades (Yurungkash) and Black Jade (Karakash) Rivers. From the Kingdom of Khotan, on the southern leg of the Silk Road, yearly tribute payments consisting of the most precious white jade were made to the Chinese Imperial court and there worked into objets d'art by skilled artisans as jade had a status-value exceeding that of gold or silver. Jade became a favourite material for the crafting of Chinese scholars' objects, such as rests for calligraphy brushes, as well as the mouthpieces of some opium pipes, due to the belief that breathing through jade would bestow longevity upon smokers who used such a pipe. Jadeite, with its bright emerald-green, pink, lavender, orange and brown colours was imported from Burma to China only after about 1800. The vivid green variety became known as Feicui (翡翠) or Kingfisher (feathers) Jade. It quickly became almost as popular as nephrite and a favorite of Qing Dynasty's nouveau riche, while scholars still had strong attachment to nephrite (white jade, or Khotan), which they deem as the symbol of a nobleman.
In the history of the art of the Chinese empire, jade has had a special significance, comparable with that of gold and diamonds in the West. Jade was used for the finest objects and cult figures, and for grave furnishings for high-ranking members of the imperial family. Due to that significance and the rising middle class in China, today the finest jade when found in nuggets of “mutton fat” jade — so-named for its marbled white consistency — can fetch $3,000 an ounce, a tenfold increase from a decade ago.
Prehistoric and early historic Korea
Jadeite Pectoral from the Mayan Classic period (195 mm/7.7 in high)
The use of jade and other greenstone was a long-term tradition in Korea (c. 850 BC – AD 668). Jade is found in small numbers of pit-houses and burials. The craft production of small comma-shaped and tubular "jades" using materials such as jade, microcline, jasper, etc., in southern Korea originates from the Middle Mumun Pottery Period (c. 850–550 BC). Comma-shaped jades are found on some of the gold crowns of Silla royalty (c. 300/400–668 AD) and sumptuous elite burials of the Korean Three Kingdoms. After the state of Silla united the Korean Peninsula in 668, the widespread popularisation of death rituals related to Buddhism resulted in the decline of the use of jade in burials as prestige mortuary goods.
MāoriNephrite jade in New Zealand is known as pounamu in the Māori language (often called "greenstone" in New Zealand English), and plays an important role in Māori culture. It is considered a taonga, or treasure, and therefore protected under the Treaty of Waitangi, and the exploitation of it is restricted and closely monitored. It is found only in the South Island of New Zealand, known as Te Wai Pounamu in Māori—"The [land of] Greenstone Water", or Te Wahi Pounamu—"The Place of Greenstone".
Tools, weapons and ornaments were made of it; in particular adzes, the 'mere' (short club), and the Hei-tiki (neck pendant). These were believed to have their own mana, handed down as valuable heirlooms, and often given as gifts to seal important agreements. Nephrite jewellery of Maori design is widely popular with locals and tourists, although some of the jade used for these is now imported from British Columbia and elsewhere.
MesoamericaJade was a rare and valued material in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The only source from which the various indigenous cultures, such as the Olmec and Maya, could obtain jade was located in the Motagua River valley in Guatemala. Jade was largely an elite good, and was usually carved in various ways, whether serving as a medium upon which hieroglyphs were inscribed, or shaped into symbolic figurines. Generally, the material was highly symbolic, and it was often employed in the performance of ideological practices and rituals.
JewelleryFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
JewelleryThe Queen Farida of Egypt red coral parure by Ascione manufacture, 1938, Neaples, Coral Jewellery Museum
Jewellery or jewelry is a form of personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
With some exceptions, 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. In British English the spelling can be written as jewelery or jewellery, while in U.S. English the spelling is jewelry.
Form and functionKenyan man wearing tribal beads
Jewellery has been used for a number of reasons:
- Currency, wealth display and storage,
- Functional use (such as clasps, pins and buckles)
- Symbolism (to show membership or status or religious affiliation)
- Protection (in the form of amulets and magical wards),
- Artistic display
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) Hamsa, or glyphs (such as stylised versions of the Throne Verse in Islamic art). Although artistic display has clearly been a function of jewellery from the very beginning, the other roles described above tended to take primacy. It was only in the late 19th century, with the work of such masters as Peter Carl Fabergé and René Lalique, that art began to take primacy over function and wealth. This trend has continued into modern times, expanded upon by artists such as Robert Lee Morris, Ed Levin, and Alberto Repossi.
Materials and methodsAnticlastic raised sterling bracelet.
In creating jewellery, gemstones, coins, 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.
Bead embroidery design.
Other commonly used materials include glass, such as fused-glass or enamel; wood, often carved or turned; shells and other natural animal substances such as bone and ivory; natural clay; polymer clay; and even plastics. Hemp and other twines have been used as well to create jewellery that has more of a natural feel. However, any inclusion of lead or lead solder will cause an English Assay office (the building which gives English jewellery its stamp of approval, the Hallmark) to destroy the piece
Beads are frequently used in jewellery. These may be made of glass, gemstones, metal, wood, shells, clay and polymer clay. Beaded jewellery commonly encompasses necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts and rings. Beads may be large or small; the smallest type of beads used are known as seed beads, these are the beads used for the "woven" style of beaded jewellery. Another use of seed beads is an embroidery technique where seed beads are sewn onto fabric backings to create broad collar neck pieces and beaded bracelets. Bead embroidery, a popular type of handwork during the Victorian era, is enjoying a renaissance in modern jewellery making. Beading, or beadwork, is also very popular in many African and indigenous North American cultures.
Advanced glass and glass beadmaking techniques by Murano and Venetian glassmasters developed crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (goldstone), multicoloured glass (millefiori), milk-glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. As early as the 13th century, Murano glass and Murano beads were popular.
Silversmiths, goldsmiths, and lapidaries methods include forging, casting, soldering or welding, cutting, carving and "cold-joining" (using adhesives, staples and rivets to assemble parts).
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.
Other gemstonesMany 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.
Spanish emerald and gold pendant at Victoria and Albert Museum.
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 as Amethyst 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.
An example of gold plated jewellery
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.
Some jewellery is plated to give it a shiny, reflective look or to achieve a desired colour. Sterling silver jewellery may be plated with a thin layer of 0.999 fine silver (a process known as flashing) or may be plated with rhodium or gold. Base metal costume jewellery may also be plated with silver, gold, or rhodium for a more attractive finish.
Impact on societyJewellery 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.
Conversely, the jewellery industry in the early 20th century launched a campaign to popularise wedding rings for men, which caught on, as well as engagement rings for men, which did not, going so far as to create a false history and claim that the practice had medieval roots. By the mid 1940s, 85% of weddings in the U.S. featured a double-ring ceremony, up from 15% in the 1920s. Religion has also played a role: Islam, for instance, considers the wearing of gold by men as a social taboo and many religions have edicts against excessive display. In Christianity, the New Testament gives injunctions against the wearing of gold, in the writings of the apostles Paul and Peter. In Revelation 17, "the great whore" or false religious system, is depicted as being "decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand." (Rev. 17:4)
HistoryThe history of jewellery is a long one, with many different uses among different cultures. It has endured for thousands of years and has provided various insights into how ancient cultures worked.
Early historyThe first signs of jewellery came from the people in Africa. Perforated beads suggesting shell jewelry made from sea snail shells have been found dating to 75,000 years ago at Blombos Cave. In Kenya, at Enkapune Ya Muto, beads made from perforated ostrich egg shells have been dated to more than 40,000 years ago.
Outside of Africa, the Cro-Magnons had crude necklaces and bracelets of bone, teeth, berries, and stone hung on pieces of string or animal sinew, or pieces of carved bone used to secure clothing together. In some cases, jewellery had shell or mother-of-pearl pieces. In southern Russia, carved bracelets made of mammoth tusk have been found. The Venus of Hohle Fels features a perforation at the top, showing that it was intended to be worn as a pendant.
Around 7,000 years ago, the first sign of copper jewellery was seen. In October 2012 the Museum of Ancient History in Lower Austria revealed that they had found a grave of a female jewellery worker - forcing archaeologists to take a fresh look at prehistoric gender roles after it appeared to be that of a female fine metal worker - a profession that was previously thought to have been carried out exclusively by men.
Amulet pendant (1254 BC) made from gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise and carnelian, 14 cm wide.
An Egyptian 18th dynasty pharaonic era princess' crown.
The first signs of established jewellery making in Ancient Egypt was around 3,000-5,000 years ago. The Egyptians preferred the luxury, rarity, and workability of gold over other metals. Predynastic Egypt had Jewellery in Egypt soon began to symbolise power and religious power in the community. Although it was worn by wealthy Egyptians in life, it was also worn by them in death, with jewellery commonly placed among grave goods.
In conjunction with gold jewellery, Egyptians used coloured glass, along with precious gems. The colour of the jewellery had significance. Green, for example, symbolised fertility. Although lapis lazuli and silver had to be imported from beyond the country’s borders, many other materials for jewellery were found in or near Egypt. Egyptian designs were most common in Phoenician jewellery. Also, ancient Turkish designs found in Persian jewellery suggest that trade between the Middle East and Europe was not uncommon. Women wore elaborate gold and silver pieces that were used in ceremonies.
Europe and the Middle East[
MesopotamiaBy approximately 4,000 years ago, jewellery-making had become a significant craft in the cities of Mesopotamia. The most significant archaeological evidence comes from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, where hundreds of burials dating 2900–2300 BC were unearthed; tombs such as that of Puabi contained a multitude of artefacts in gold, silver, and semi-precious stones, such as lapis lazuli crowns embellished with gold figurines, close-fitting collar necklaces, and jewel-headed pins. In Assyria, men and women both wore extensive amounts of jewellery, including amulets, ankle bracelets, heavy multi-strand necklaces, and cylinder seals.
Jewellery in Mesopotamia tended to be manufactured from thin metal leaf and was set with large numbers of brightly-coloured stones (chiefly agate, lapis, carnelian, and jasper). Favoured shapes included leaves, spirals, cones, and bunches of grapes. Jewellers created works both for human use and for adorning statues and idols. They employed a wide variety of sophisticated metalworking techniques, such as cloisonné, engraving, fine granulation, and filigree. Extensive and meticulously maintained records pertaining to the trade and manufacture of jewellery have also been unearthed throughout Mesopotamian archaeological sites. One record in the Mari royal archives, for example, gives the composition of various items of jewellery:
1 necklace of flat speckled chalcedony beads including: 34 flat speckled chalcedony bead, [and] 35 gold fluted beads, in groups of five.
1 necklace of flat speckled chalcedony beads including: 39 flat speckled chalcedony beads, [with] 41 fluted beads in a group that make up the hanging device.
1 necklace with rounded lapis lazuli beads including: 28 rounded lapis lazuli beads, [and] 29 fluted beads for its clasp.
Gold earring from Mycenae, 16th century BC.
The Greeks started using gold and gems in jewellery in 1600 BC, although beads shaped as shells and animals were produced widely in earlier times. By 300 BC, the Greeks had mastered making coloured jewellery and using amethysts, pearl, and emeralds. Also, the first signs of cameos appeared, with the Greeks creating them from Indian Sardonyx, a striped brown pink and cream agate stone. Greek jewellery was often simpler than in other cultures, with simple designs and workmanship. However, as time progressed, the designs grew in complexity and different materials were soon used.
Pendant with naked woman, made from electrum, Rhodes, around 630-620 BC.
Jewellery in Greece was hardly worn and was mostly used for public appearances or on special occasions. It was frequently given as a gift and was predominantly worn by women to show their wealth, social status, and beauty. The jewellery was often supposed to give the wearer protection from the “Evil Eye” or endowed the owner with supernatural powers, while others had a religious symbolism. Older pieces of jewellery that have been found were dedicated to the Gods. The largest production of jewellery in these times came from Northern Greece and Macedon. However, although much of the jewellery in Greece was made of gold and silver with ivory and gemstones, bronze and clay copies were made also.
Ancient Greek jewellery from 300 BC.
They worked two styles of pieces: cast pieces and pieces hammered out of sheet metal. Fewer pieces of cast jewellery have been recovered. It was made by casting the metal onto two stone or clay moulds. The two halves were then joined together, and wax, followed by molten metal, was placed in the centre. This technique had been practised since the late Bronze Age. The more common form of jewellery was the hammered sheet type. Sheets of metal would be hammered to thickness and then soldered together. The inside of the two sheets would be filled with wax or another liquid to preserve the metal work. Different techniques, such as using a stamp or engraving, were then used to create motifs on the jewellery. Jewels may then be added to hollows or glass poured into special cavities on the surface. The Greeks took much of their designs from outer origins, such as Asia, when Alexander the Great conquered part of it. In earlier designs, other European influences can also be detected. When Roman rule came to Greece, no change in jewellery designs was detected. However, by 27 BC, Greek designs were heavily influenced by the Roman culture. That is not to say that indigenous design did not thrive. Numerous polychrome butterfly pendants on silver foxtail chains, dating from the 1st century, have been found near Olbia, with only one example ever found anywhere else.
Roman Amethyst intaglio engraved gem, c. 212 AD; later regarded as of St. Peter.
Although jewellery work was abundantly diverse in earlier times, especially among the barbarian tribes such as the Celts, when the Romans conquered most of Europe, jewellery was changed as smaller factions developed the Roman designs. The most common artefact of early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing together. The Romans used a diverse range of materials for their jewellery from their extensive resources across the continent. Although they used gold, they sometimes used bronze or bone, and in earlier times, glass beads & pearl. As early as 2,000 years ago, they imported Sri Lankan sapphires and Indian diamonds and used emeralds and amber in their jewellery. In Roman-ruled England, fossilised wood called jet from Northern England was often carved into pieces of jewellery. The early Italians worked in crude gold and created clasps, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. They also produced larger pendants that could be filled with perfume.
Like the Greeks, often the purpose of Roman jewellery was to ward off the “Evil Eye” given by other people. Although women wore a vast array of jewellery, men often only wore a finger ring. Although they were expected to wear at least one ring, some Roman men wore a ring on every finger, while others wore none. Roman men and women wore rings with an engraved gem on it that was used with wax to seal documents, a practice that continued into medieval times when kings and noblemen used the same method. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the jewellery designs were absorbed by neighbouring countries and tribes.
Merovingian fibulae, Bibliothèque nationale de France.
6th century bronze eagle-shaped Visigothic cloisonné fibula from Guadalajara, Spain, using glass-paste fillings in imitation of garnets.
Post-Roman Europe continued to develop jewellery making skills. The Celts and Merovingians in particular are noted for their jewellery, which in terms of quality matched or exceeded that of Byzantium. Clothing fasteners, amulets, and, to a lesser extent, signet rings, are the most common artefacts known to us. A particularly striking Celtic example is the Tara Brooch. The Torc was common throughout Europe as a symbol of status and power. By the 8th century, jewelled weaponry was common for men, while other jewellery (with the exception of signet rings) seemed to become the domain of women. Grave goods found in a 6th-7th century burial near Chalon-sur-Saône are illustrative. A young girl was buried with: 2 silver fibulae, a necklace (with coins), bracelet, gold earrings, a pair of hair-pins, comb, and buckle. The Celts specialised in continuous patterns and designs, while Merovingian designs are best known for stylised animal figures. They were not the only groups known for high quality work. Note the Visigoth work shown here, and the numerous decorative objects found at the Anglo-Saxon Ship burial at Sutton Hoo Suffolk, England are a particularly well-known example. On the continent, cloisonné and garnet were perhaps the quintessential method and gemstone of the period.
Byzantine wedding ring.
The Eastern successor of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, continued many of the methods of the Romans, though religious themes came to predominate. Unlike the Romans, the Franks, and the Celts, however, Byzantium used light-weight gold leaf rather than solid gold, and more emphasis was placed on stones and gems. As in the West, Byzantine jewellery was worn by wealthier females, with male jewellery apparently restricted to signet rings. Woman's jewellery had some peculiarities like kolts that decorated headband. Like other contemporary cultures, jewellery was commonly buried with its owner.
The Renaissance and exploration both had significant impacts on the development of jewellery in Europe. By the 17th century, increasing exploration and trade led to increased availability of a wide variety of gemstones as well as exposure to the art of other cultures. Whereas prior to this the working of gold and precious metal had been at the forefront of jewellery, this period saw increasing dominance of gemstones and their settings. A fascinating example of this is the Cheapside Hoard, the stock of a jeweller hidden in London during the Commonwealth period and not found again until 1912. It contained Colombian emerald, topaz, amazonite from Brazil, spinel, iolite, and chrysoberyl from Sri Lanka, ruby from India, Afghan lapis lazuli, Persian turquoise, Red Sea peridot, as well as Bohemian and Hungarian opal, garnet, and amethyst. Large stones were frequently set in box-bezels on enamelled rings. Notable among merchants of the period was Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who brought the precursor stone of the Hope Diamond to France in the 1660s.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned as Emperor of the French in 1804, he revived the style and grandeur of jewellery and fashion in France. Under Napoleon’s rule, jewellers introduced parures, suites of matching jewellery, such as a diamond tiara, diamond earrings, diamond rings, a diamond brooch, and a diamond necklace. Both of Napoleon’s wives had beautiful sets such as these and wore them regularly. Another fashion trend resurrected by Napoleon was the cameo. Soon after his cameo decorated crown was seen, cameos were highly sought. The period also saw the early stages of costume jewellery, with fish scale covered glass beads in place of pearls or conch shell cameos instead of stone cameos. New terms were coined to differentiate the arts: jewellers who worked in cheaper materials were called bijoutiers, while jewellers who worked with expensive materials were called joailliers, a practice which continues to this day.
Mourning jewellery in the form of a jet brooch, 19th century.
Starting in the late 18th century, Romanticism had a profound impact on the development of western jewellery. Perhaps the most significant influences were the public’s fascination with the treasures being discovered through the birth of modern archaeology and a fascination with Medieval and Renaissance art. Changing social conditions and the onset of the Industrial Revolution also led to growth of a middle class that wanted and could afford jewellery. As a result, the use of industrial processes, cheaper alloys, and stone substitutes led to the development of paste or costume jewellery. Distinguished goldsmiths continued to flourish, however, as wealthier patrons sought to ensure that what they wore still stood apart from the jewellery of the masses, not only through use of precious metals and stones but also though superior artistic and technical work. One such artist was the French goldsmith Françoise Désire Froment Meurice. A category unique to this period and quite appropriate to the philosophy of romanticism was mourning jewellery. It originated in England, where Queen Victoria was often seen wearing jet jewellery after the death of Prince Albert, and it allowed the wearer to continue wearing jewellery while expressing a state of mourning at the death of a loved one. In the United states, this period saw the founding in 1837 of Tiffany & Co. by Charles Lewis Tiffany. Tiffany's put the United States on the world map in terms of jewellery and gained fame creating dazzling commissions for people such as the wife of Abraham Lincoln. Later, it would gain popular notoriety as the setting of the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. In France, Pierre Cartier founded Cartier SA in 1847, while 1884 saw the founding of Bulgari in Italy. The modern production studio had been born and was a step away from the former dominance of individual craftsmen and patronage.
This period also saw the first major collaboration between East and West. Collaboration in Pforzheim between German and Japanese artists led to Shakudō plaques set into Filigree frames being created by the Stoeffler firm in 1885). Perhaps the grand finalé – and an appropriate transition to the following period – were the masterful creations of the Russian artist Peter Carl Fabergé, working for the Imperial Russian court, whose Fabergé eggs and jewellery pieces are still considered as the epitome of the goldsmith’s art.
Art NouveauIn the 1890s, jewellers began to explore the potential of the growing Art Nouveau style and the closely related German Jugendstil, British (and to some extent American) Arts and Crafts Movement, Catalan Modernisme, Austro-Hungarian Sezession, Italian "Liberty", etc.
Art Nouveau jewellery encompassed many distinct features including a focus on the female form and an emphasis on colour, most commonly rendered through the use of enamelling techniques including basse-taille, champleve, cloisonné, and plique-à-jour. Motifs included orchids, irises, pansies, vines, swans, peacocks, snakes, dragonflies, mythological creatures, and the female silhouette.
René Lalique, working for the Paris shop of Samuel Bing, was recognised by contemporaries as a leading figure in this trend. The Darmstadt Artists' Colony and Wiener Werkstätte provided perhaps the most significant German input to the trend, while in Denmark Georg Jensen, though best known for his Silverware, also contributed significant pieces. In England, Liberty & Co. and the British arts & crafts movement of Charles Robert Ashbee contributed slightly more linear but still characteristic designs. The new style moved the focus of the jeweller's art from the setting of stones to the artistic design of the piece itself. Lalique's dragonfly design is one of the best examples of this. Enamels played a large role in technique, while sinuous organic lines are the most recognisable design feature.
The end of World War I once again changed public attitudes, and a more sober style developed.
Art DecoGrowing political tensions, the after-effects of the war, and a reaction against the perceived decadence of the turn of the 20th century led to simpler forms, combined with more effective manufacturing for mass production of high-quality jewellery. Covering the period of the 1920s and 1930s, the style has become popularly known as Art Deco. Walter Gropius and the German Bauhaus movement, with their philosophy of "no barriers between artists and craftsmen" led to some interesting and stylistically simplified forms. Modern materials were also introduced: plastics and aluminium were first used in jewellery, and of note are the chromed pendants of Russian-born Bauhaus master Naum Slutzky. Technical mastery became as valued as the material itself. In the West, this period saw the reinvention of granulation by the German Elizabeth Treskow, although development of the re-invention has continued into the 1990s. It is based on the basic shapes.
Royal earrings, India, 1st Century BC.
In Asia, the Indian subcontinent has the longest continuous legacy of jewellery making anywhere, with a history of over 5,000 years. One of the first to start jewellery making were the peoples of the Indus Valley Civilization in what is now predominately modern-day Pakistan. Early jewellery making in China started around the same period, but it became widespread with the spread of Buddhism around 2,000 years ago.
ChinaThe Chinese used silver in their jewellery more than gold. Blue kingfisher feathers were tied onto early Chinese jewellery and later, blue gems and glass were incorporated into designs. However, jade was preferred over any other stone. The Chinese revered jade because of the human-like qualities they assigned to it, such as its hardness, durability, and beauty. The first jade pieces were very simple, but as time progressed, more complex designs evolved. Jade rings from between the 4th and 7th centuries BC show evidence of having been worked with a compound milling machine, hundreds of years before the first mention of such equipment in the west.
Jade coiled serpent, Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD)
`Xin' Shape Jewellery from Ming Dynasty Tombs, (1368–1644)
In China,the most uncommon piece of jewellery was the earring, which was worn neither by men nor women. Amulets were common, often with a Chinese symbol or dragon. Dragons, Chinese symbols, and phoenixes were frequently depicted on jewellery designs.
The Chinese often placed their jewellery in their graves. Most Chinese graves found by archaeologists contain decorative jewellery.
Indian subcontinentThe Indian subcontinent (encompassing India, Pakistan and other countries of South Asia) has a long jewellery history, which went through various changes through cultural influence and politics for more than 5,000-8,000 years. India has the longest continuous legacy of jewellery making anywhere since Ramayana and Mahabharata times. Because India had abundant amount of jewellery resources, it prospered financially through export and exchange with other countries. While Western traditions were heavily influenced by waxing and waning empires, India enjoyed a continuous development of art forms for some 5,000 years. One of the first to start jewellery making were the peoples of the Indus Valley Civilization (encompassing present-day Pakistan and northwest India). By 1500 BC, the peoples of the Indus Valley were creating gold earrings and necklaces, bead necklaces, and metallic bangles. Before 2100 BC, prior to the period when metals were widely used, the largest jewellery trade in the Indus Valley region was the bead trade. Beads in the Indus Valley were made using simple techniques. First, a bead maker would need a rough stone, which would be bought from an eastern stone trader. The stone would then be placed into a hot oven where it would be heated until it turned deep red, a colour highly prized by people of the Indus Valley. The red stone would then be chipped to the right size and a hole bored through it with primitive drills. The beads were then polished. Some beads were also painted with designs. This art form was often passed down through the family. Children of bead makers often learned how to work beads from a young age. Persian style also played a big role in India’s jewellery. Each stone had its own characteristics related to Hinduism.
Jewellery in the Indus Valley was worn predominantly by females, who wore numerous clay or shell bracelets on their wrists. They were often shaped like doughnuts and painted black. Over time, clay bangles were discarded for more durable ones. In present-day India, bangles are made out of metal or glass. Other pieces that women frequently wore were thin bands of gold that would be worn on the forehead, earrings, primitive brooches, chokers, and gold rings. Although women wore jewellery the most, some men in the Indus Valley wore beads. Small beads were often crafted to be placed in men and women’s hair. The beads were about one millimetre long. A female skeleton (presently on display at the National Museum, New Delhi, India) wears a carlinean bangle (bracelet) on her left hand. According to Hindu belief, gold and silver are considered as sacred metals. Gold is symbolic of the warm sun, while silver suggests the cool moon. Both are the quintessential metals of Indian jewellery. Pure gold does not oxidise or corrode with time, which is why Hindu tradition associates gold with immortality. Gold imagery occurs frequently in ancient Indian literature. In the Vedic Hindu belief of cosmological creation, the source of physical and spiritual human life originated in and evolved from a golden womb (hiranyagarbha) or egg (hiranyanda), a metaphor of the sun, whose light rises from the primordial waters. The Mughal reign was the most significant period of time in relation to jewellery. A lot of jewellers prospered from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Jewellery had great status with India’s royalty; it was so powerful that they established laws, limiting wearing of jewellery to royalty. Only royalty and a few others to whom they granted permission could wear gold ornaments on their feet. This would normally be considered breaking the appreciation of the sacred metals. Even though the majority of the Indian population wore jewellery, Maharajas and people related to royalty had a deeper connection with jewellery. The Maharaja's role was so important that the Hindu philosophers identified him as central to the smooth working of the world. He was considered as a divine being, a deity in human form, whose duty was to uphold and protect dharma, the moral order of the universe.
A Navaratna ring.
Navaratna (nine gems)is a powerful jewel frequently worn by a Maharaja. It is an amulet, which comprises diamond, pearl, ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz, cat’s eye, coral, and hyacinth (red zircon). Each of these stones is associated with a celestial deity, represented the totality of the Hindu universe when all nine gems are together. The diamond is the most powerful gem among the nine stones. There were various cuts for the gemstone. Indian Kings bought gemstones privately from the sellers. Maharaja and other royal family members value gem as Hindu God. They exchanged gems with people to whom they were very close, especially the royal family members and other intimate allies. “Only the emperor himself, his intimate relations, and select members of his entourage were permitted to wear royal turban ornament. As the empire matured, differing styles of ornament acquired the generic name of sarpech, from sar or sir, meaning head, and pech, meaning fastener.”
India was the first country to mine diamonds, with some mines dating back to 296 BC. India traded the diamonds, realising their valuable qualities. Historically, diamonds have been given to retain or regain a lover’s or ruler’s lost favour, as symbols of tribute, or as an expression of fidelity in exchange for concessions and protection. Mughal emperors used the diamonds as a means of assuring their immortality by having their names and wordly titles inscribed upon them. Moreover, it has played and continues to play a pivotal role in Indian social, political, economic, and religious event, as it often has done elsewhere. In Indian history, diamonds have been used to acquire military equipment, finance wars, foment revolutions, and tempt defections. They have contributed to the abdication or the decapitation of potentates. They have been used to murder a representative of the dominating power by lacing his food with crushed diamond. Indian diamonds have been used as security to finance large loans needed to buttress politically or economically tottering regimes. Victorious military heroes have been honoured by rewards of diamonds and also have been used as ransom payment for release from imprisonment or abduction. Today, many of the jewellery designs and traditions are used, and jewellery is commonplace in Indian ceremonies and weddings.
North and South AmericaJewellery played a major role in the fate of the Americas when the Spanish established an empire to seize South American gold. Jewellery making developed in the Americas 5,000 years ago in Central and South America. Large amounts of gold was easily accessible, and the Aztecs, Mixtecs, Mayans, and numerous Andean cultures, such as the Mochica of Peru, created beautiful pieces of jewellery.
With the Mochica culture, goldwork flourished. The pieces are no longer simple metalwork, but are now masterful examples of jewellery making. Pieces are sophisticated in their design, and feature inlays of turquoise, mother of pearl, spondylus shell, and amethyst. The nose and ear ornaments, chest plates, small containers and whistles are considered masterpieces of ancient Peruvian culture.
Moche ear ornaments. 1-800 AD. Larco Museum Collection, Lima-Peru
Among the Aztecs, only nobility wore gold jewellery, as it showed their rank, power, and wealth. Gold jewellery was most common in the Aztec Empire and was often decorated with feathers from Quetzal birds and others. In general, the more jewellery an Aztec noble wore, the higher his status or prestige. The Emperor and his High Priests, for example, would be nearly completely covered in jewellery when making public appearances. Although gold was the most common and a popular material used in Aztec jewellery, jade, turquoise, and certain feathers were considered more valuable. In addition to adornment and status, the Aztecs also used jewellery in sacrifices to appease the gods. Priests also used gem-encrusted daggers to perform animal and human sacrifices. Another ancient American civilization with expertise in jewellery making were the Maya. At the peak of their civilization, the Maya were making jewellery from jade, gold, silver, bronze, and copper. Maya designs were similar to those of the Aztecs, with lavish headdresses and jewellery. The Maya also traded in precious gems. However, in earlier times, the Maya had little access to metal, so they made the majority of their jewellery out of bone or stone. Merchants and nobility were the only few that wore expensive jewellery in the Maya region, much the same as with the Aztecs. In North America, Native Americans used shells, wood, turquoise, and soapstone, almost unavailable in South and Central America. The turquoise was used in necklaces and to be placed in earrings. Native Americans with access to oyster shells, often located in only one location in America, traded the shells with other tribes, showing the great importance of the body adornment trade in Northern America.
Bai-De-Schluch-A-Ichin or Be-Ich-Schluck-Ich-In-Et-Tzuzzigi (Slender Silversmith) "Metal Beater," Navajo silversmith, photo by George Ben Wittick, 1883
Native American jewellery is the personal adornment, often in the forms of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, pins, brooches, labrets, and more, made by the Indigenous peoples of the United States. Native American jewellery reflects the cultural diversity and history of its makers. Native American tribes continue to develop distinct aesthetics rooted in their personal artistic visions and cultural traditions. Artists create jewellery for adornment, ceremonies, and trade. Lois Sherr Dubin writes, "[i]n the absence of written languages, adornment became an important element of Indian [Native American] communication, conveying many levels of information." Later, jewellery and personal adornment "...signaled resistance to assimilation. It remains a major statement of tribal and individual identity."[
Metalsmiths, beaders, carvers, and lapidaries combine a variety of metals, hardwoods, precious and semi-precious gemstones, beadwork, quillwork, teeth, bones, hide, vegetal fibres, and other materials to create jewellery. Contemporary Native American jewellery ranges from hand-quarried and processed stones and shells to computer-fabricated steel and titanium jewellery.
PacificJewellery making in the Pacific started later than in other areas because of recent human settlement. Early Pacific jewellery was made of bone, wood, and other natural materials, and thus has not survived. Most Pacific jewellery is worn above the waist, with headdresses, necklaces, hair pins, and arm and waist belts being the most common pieces.
Jewellery in the Pacific, with the exception of Australia, is worn to be a symbol of either fertility or power. Elaborate headdresses are worn by many Pacific cultures and some, such as the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, wear certain headdresses once they have killed an enemy. Tribesman may wear boar bones through their noses.
Island jewellery is still very much primal because of the lack of communication with outside cultures. Some areas of Borneo and Papua New Guinea are yet to be explored by Western nations. However, the island nations that were flooded with Western missionaries have had drastic changes made to their jewellery designs. Missionaries saw any type of tribal jewellery as a sign of the wearer's devotion to paganism. Thus many tribal designs were lost forever in the mass conversion to Christianity.
A modern opal bracelet
Australia is now the number one supplier of opals in the world. Opals had already been mined in Europe and South America for many years prior, but in the late 19th century, the Australian opal market became predominant. Australian opals are only mined in a few select places around the country, making it one the most profitable stones in the Pacific.
The New Zealand Māori traditionally had a strong culture of personal adornment, most famously the hei-tiki. Hei-tikis are traditionally carved by hand from bone, nephrite, or bowenite.
Nowadays a wide range of such traditionally-inspired items such as bone carved pendants based on traditional fishhooks hei matau and other greenstone jewellery are popular with young New Zealanders of all backgrounds – for whom they relate to a generalized sense of New Zealand identity. These trends have contributed towards a worldwide interest in traditional Māori culture and arts.
Other than jewellery created through Māori influence, modern jewellery in New Zealand is multicultural and varied.
Early Twenty-first Century American woman wearing a decorative necklace and earrings.
Contemporary jewellery design
Diamond International Awards1994 from Brazil
The modern jewellery movement began in the late 1940s at the end of World War II with a renewed interest in artistic and leisurely pursuits. The movement is most noted with works by Georg Jensen and other jewellery designers who advanced the concept of wearable art. The advent of new materials, such as plastics, Precious Metal Clay (PMC), and colouring techniques, has led to increased variety in styles. Other advances, such as the development of improved pearl harvesting by people such as Mikimoto Kōkichi and the development of improved quality artificial gemstones such as moissanite (a diamond simulant), has placed jewellery within the economic grasp of a much larger segment of the population.
The "jewellery as art" movement was spearheaded by artisans such as Robert Lee Morris and continued by designers such as Gill Forsbrook in the UK. Influence from other cultural forms is also evident. One example of this is bling-bling style jewellery, popularised by hip-hop and rap artists in the early 21st century, i.e. grills, a type of jewellery worn over the teeth.
The late 20th century saw the blending of European design with oriental techniques such as Mokume-gane. The following are innovations in the decades straddling the year 2000: "Mokume-gane, hydraulic die forming, anti-clastic raising, fold-forming, reactive metal anodising, shell forms, PMC, photoetching, and [use of] CAD/CAM." Artisan jewellery continues to grow as both a hobby and a profession. With more than 17 United States periodicals about beading alone, resources, accessibility, and a low initial cost of entry continues to expand production of hand-made adornments. Some fine examples of artisan jewellery can be seen at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The increase in numbers of students choosing to study jewellery design and production in Australia has grown in the past 20 years, and Australia now has a thriving contemporary jewellery community. Many of these jewellers have embraced modern materials and techniques, as well as incorporating traditional workmanship.
A Padaung girl in Northern Thailand.
Jewellery used in body modification is usually plain. The use of simple silver studs, rings, and earrings predominates. Common jewellery pieces such as earrings are a form of body modification, as they are accommodated by creating a small hole in the ear.
Padaung women in Myanmar place large golden rings around their necks. From as early as five years old, girls are introduced to their first neck ring. Over the years, more rings are added. In addition to the twenty-plus pounds of rings on her neck, a woman will also wear just as many rings on her calves too. At their extent, some necks modified like this can reach 10-15 inches long. The practice has obvious health impacts, however, and has in recent years declined from cultural norm to tourist curiosity. Tribes related to the Paduang, as well as other cultures throughout the world, use jewellery to stretch their earlobes or enlarge ear piercings. In the Americas, labrets have been worn since before first contact by Innu and First Nations peoples of the northwest coast. Lip plates are worn by the African Mursi and Sara people, as well as some South American peoples.
In the late 20th century, the influence of modern primitivism led to many of these practices being incorporated into western subcultures. Many of these practices rely on a combination of body modification and decorative objects, thus keeping the distinction between these two types of decoration blurred.
In many cultures, jewellery is used as a temporary body modifier, with, in some cases, hooks or even objects as large as bike bars being placed into the recipient's skin. Although this procedure is often carried out by tribal or semi-tribal groups, often acting under a trance during religious ceremonies, this practice has seeped into western culture. Many extreme-jewellery shops now cater to people wanting large hooks or spikes set into their skin. Most often, these hooks are used in conjunction with pulleys to hoist the recipient into the air. This practice is said to give an erotic feeling to the person and some couples have even performed their marriage ceremony whilst being suspended by hooks.