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From October 31 to November 2, Scheherazade Jewelers will once again host its biannual Great Estate jewelry event. Every fall and the weekend before Mother’s Day, Scheherazade’s invites the estate jewelry and jewelry appraisal experts from Geolat & Associates to bring their latest collections of estate jewelry sourced from across the country to the Galleria-based jewelry store.
A Brief History of Jewelry
Many mistakenly think jewelry was first worn by well-known royalty of ancient kingdoms, but the timeline of wearing jewelry dates back considerably further. According to archeologists, the first recorded piece of jewelry was dated around 110000 BC. In Morocco archeologists discovered shell beads that were used as decorative objects that may have also served as amulets, making these the oldest jewelry known to man.
Many centuries later the ancient Thracian civilization produced the oldest worked-gold objects. Discovered at a burial site in Varna, Bulgaria, it’s estimated these very ancient jewelry items dated back to 4400 B C. Not surprisingly, the ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to use colored gemstones in jewelry. From 3000 BC to 2800 BC lapis lazuli, turquoise and green feldspar (amazonite) were fashioned into jewelry by the Egyptians. And, the Egyptians and Mesopotamians were some of the first to use early soldering techniques.
Significant advances were made in 1500 BC with the first use of lost wax casting used in the Near East to produce jewelry. A few centuries later the earliest examples of true cloisonné enamel were being done. But the large strides came with the ancient Greeks that made intaglios and cameos. In the same millennia, the Iron Age (1100 BC) brought about specialized hand tools such as chisels, saws, awls, hammers, and pliers.
In 800 BC a groundbreaking find happened in India. Diamonds were discovered then and four centuries later historical evidence suggests the first exports of diamonds occurred from 300 to 400 BC. India would soon become the world’s leading source for diamonds for many centuries.
As jewelry history travels down the centuries many gemstones were discovered throughout the world along with precious metal sources. It wasn’t until the age of the Roman Empire that diamonds in their natural crystal form were set into gold rings in roughly 100 AD.
Moving Toward Modernization
By the Middle Ages huge advancements were made in jewelry making and gemstone production. The Chinese had developed methods for culturing pearls. Goldsmiths in London created precious metal guilds. The Italians began cutting diamonds, then later the French. And, in 1477 the first diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy by Emperor Maximilian I.
Throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods more gemstone discoveries were made, precious metal mines came online, metallurgical techniques were refined, and jewelry was fashioned to take on certain symbolism. In the 1600’s human hair was used in mourning jewelry. This tradition continued for two centuries with mourning jewelry from the 1800’s the oldest jewelry available for sale during Scheherazade’s Great Estate jewelry event.
During the Georgian Period, Paul Revere put the New World on the jewelry history timeline as a noteworthy silversmith that made jewelry. The Georgian Period (1714 to 1830) was also another century-plus of gemstone discoveries and advances of precious metals production. As the Romantic Period transitioned to the early Victorian Era, important milestones in jewelry history occurred from commercial mining of precious metals to large scale production of jewelry.
The reign of Queen Victoria was an influential period of cultural and technological advances as the Industrial Ages got into gear. Diamonds were discovered in South Africa, gold of varying grade of purity was produced in Great Britain, gemstone settings still used today were patented and important jewelry designing houses (most notable Cartier, Tiffany’s and Bulgari) opened their doors, making profound influences on jewelry designing and production starting in the late 1800’s on through to today.
In the waning decades of the Victorian Era came the most influential periods of jewelry design – Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Jewelry encompassed many distinct features including a focus on the female form and an emphasis on color, most commonly rendered through the use of enameling techniques. Motifs included orchids, irises, pansies, vines, swans, peacocks, snakes, dragonflies, mythological creatures, and the female silhouette were defining design elements from this period.
Growing 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 jewelry. When Queen Elizabeth died and her son Edward became king, the Edwardian Period ushered in a new century and with it one of the last period of influence from royal families of Great Britain.
Periods and eras gave way to decades defined by major cultural icons, political leaders and industrial magnates as major influences, from Coco Chanel to Jackie Kennedy. From the 1970’s onward, jewelry trends moved in tandem with fashion trends. In the Information Age these fashion trends move in much faster cycles.
When looking back at jewelry history, the time-honored classics live on. And, fashion and jewelry trends of the past become present-day retro revivals from the cameo jewelry worn by your mother and grandmother to solid gold chains, all of which are very much on trend for 2014.