Updated: Jan 27
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The word jewellery comes from jewel, from the old French jouel, which in turn comes from the latin jocale, which means ‘plaything’.
The Americans call it jewelry, everyone else calls it jewellery.
In many cultures jewellery is supposed to ward off evil, for example the famous Egyptian ankh.
Through history live insect jewellery has been popular. The Egyptians may have been the first to do so, wearing scarab beetles into battle. But the Mexican Maquech Beetle and Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach have also been used in jewellery. In Britain the Victorians loved it, often sporting huge, vivid live beetles attached to their clothing by tiny, fine gold chains.
Diamonds were first mined in India.
The British crown jewels include the massive Cullinan Diamond, a chunk of the biggest ever gem-quality rough diamond ever found. It was discovered in 1905 and weighed 3,106.75 carats, which translates to 621.35g in weight. Blimey, that’s what we call bling!
Engagement rings date back to 1477, first popularised by the marriage of Maximilian the 1st to Mary of Burgundy.
Amethyst is just a version of quartz, but its beautiful purple colour makes it a popular semi-precious gem for jewellery. Rose quartz, smoky quartz and citrine are also popular.
Emeralds were mined by the Egyptians as early as 3500 BC.
Jade is sometimes called ‘the stone of heaven’.
The most popular form of sapphire is blue, but you can get ‘fancy’ sapphires in other colours.
Turquoise is only found in only a few places, the biggest region being the south western USA. Turquoise is associated with traditional Native American jewellery as well as modern jewellery.
What is an organic gemstone? Organic means substances like pearls, coral and amber, all made by living organisms rather than created through natural geological processes.
Throughout history, jewellery has often been about status. In ancient Rome, for example, only some high ranking people were allowed to wear rings.
In the west, men wearing earrings were seen as effeminate in the 19th and most of the 20th centuries. Now, it’s perfectly acceptable.
In some African cultures enormous earrings are a sign of masculinity, prowess, power and status.
Wedding rings for men are a 20th century thing, a practice launched by the jewellery industry to increase sales and double their market reach.
By the mid 1940s, 85% of north American weddings involved rings for both partners.
In traditional Islam, the wearing of gold by men is a social taboo and women can only wear ear jewellery.
More beads, made from ostrich egg shell, have been found in Kenya’s Enkapune Ya Muto and date back more than 40,000 years.
The ancient Chinese loved silver much more than gold, using the metal to craft beautiful pieces studded with blue kingfisher feathers and various blue gemstones. But their main obsession was with jade, which they loved for its alleged human qualities: hardness, durability and beauty