The jewelry is as old as human history, dating back to the cave days of South Africa around 100,000 years ago in the form of seashells tied around the neck. The man’s original jewelry was also made up of teeth, carved stone, wood, and bone. Function follows form, as this type of jewelry was probably used to tie loose clothing to the body and progressed to become a type of aesthetic adornment. Throughout much of jewelry history, the wearer displayed status and wealth by adorning the body with jewelry. The Cro-Magnon man began making jewelry when the migration to Europe from the Middle East occurred, 40,000 years ago. Metallurgy, the use of metals to make jewelry, appeared 7,000 years ago in the form of copper ornaments.
The ancient Egyptians along the Nile Delta began using gold for thousands of years, dating back 5,000 years. Jewelry was a symbol of authority and religious supremacy for many kings, queens, and empires. Egyptian men and women began using scarabs as sacred items and protection against evil spirits. The beetles represented rebirth, beginning with the behavior of the dung beetle rolling its dung and incubating its young in this ball of dung. The Egyptians used jewelry to adorn corpses that helped the dead travel to the afterlife, providing comfort and protection. Many tomb raiders recycled jewelry by looting jewelry from tombs and adorning new kings. Pharaoh Tuntankhamun (King Tut) stands in history as the most famous bejeweled king, although his reign of 9 years between 1336 and 1327 B.C. C. was quite insignificant and most likely his tomb was forgotten when the Egyptians cleaned the tombs of other kings. The Egyptians attached symbolic meaning to the color of precious stones. Green glass or gemstones were the symbols of fertility and were used to ensure abundance of new crops. In the Book of the Dead it is written that the god Isis must be represented by a red stone or crystal, worn as a figurative ornament on a necklace to supply Isis with blood. The Egyptians imported silver and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, which was used in many forms of jewelry. Queen Cleopatra was in love with the emeralds that were mined in the Red Sea area.
In the ancient city of Ur, located in southern Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, jewelry became an important commodity for crafts and trade. The people of Ur created amulets, necklaces, anklets, and cylinder seals made of fine gold leaf and set with brilliantly colored agate, carnelian, lapis lazuli, and jasper stones. This jewelry was very popular and both men and women made jewelry. Gem carving or glyphic art became popular when children and women wore rings with beautifully carved stones. Mesopotamian jewelers invented some of the techniques still used in jewelry making and metalworking today, such as granulation, filigree, cloisonné, and engraving. Motifs and designs depicted on Mesopotamian jewelry included cones, spirals, grapes, and leaves. The jewelry of the time was worn by humans and was also used to embellish idols and statues in reverence.