Jewelry for the body has been present throughout history and throughout history the main reason that jewellery is worn is to signify a message to others. For example a simple ring placed on your left hand on the finger next to your pinkie signifies to others that you are married. In some villages in Kenya, wearing neck rings to lengthen your neck signifies beauty to the other members of the tribe. It appears that jewellery has been worn for centuries with even some paintings from the Stone Age showing the people wearing necklaces and bracelets. However, it can be said that the jewellery that we know of today was first developed in Ancient Egypt. It has been said that when Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922, hundreds of pieces of gold items were found inside from rings, to head ornaments and necklaces of pure gold.
In the instance of the Pharaohs of Egypt, these pieces of jewelry for the body signified their status in society as well as their wealth. This symbolism can still be found in other cultures as well, just think of the English Monarchy and the Royal Jewels. The crown signifies the Queen’s status in society and symbolises power and authority. However, the manufacturing of jewellery developed and no longer were precious metals and stones only available to the wealthy but the masses which led to the masses producing jewellery that could be worn by all and afforded by the majority.
What is more is that the demand for jewellery increased and jewellery became something that every lady should have. In the 17th century, jewellery was so popular that people began looking for other substances with which to make it and as a result fake pearls and paste earrings were developed. As the world become more technologically advanced, so did the production of jewellery and as a result body jewellery has now come to include unconventional materials such as plastics.
Because of this you can now classify jewellery in to two basic categories:
- Jewellery: This includes all kinds of body jewellery made from the traditional materials of gold, precious and semi precious stones, and other materials that come from the earth. Although many people can afford gold and silver now, this type of jewellery continues to signify some degree of wealth to others.
- Accessories: Accessories on the other hand can be defined as “fake jewellery” that can be made from a number of different materials such as plastic and glass. Accessories are also more accessible to the masses as the costs of developing such products are low.
Another development in the history of jewellery is that as more and more women began wearing jewellery, less and less men were seen wearing it as they felt that this had now become something that was associated with women. This however had begun to change with a wide range of public figures openly wearing jewellery such as earrings and necklaces.
With popular culture, the demand for producers of male jewellery has increased as some of the biggest stars such as David Beckham and Kanye West are setting the standard for people who aspire to be like them. So no longer is jewellery a woman’s thing but rather has claimed back is right as something for all. The wearing of jewellery by men in today’s culture additionally has become a way in which for others to determine the culture or personality of the man wearing it. For example, many gangs use jewellery to signify that their membership and Hip Hop stars wear bling bling jewellery to portray their personality and style to the rest of the world.
If you think about it, we live certain lifestyles and wear certain clothes in order for people to identify what kind of people we are so why wouldn’t we use jewellery to signify this too.