Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Jewelry of the World: Egypt

Egypt was the birthplace to one of the first dynasties in the world. The Nile River created a paradise of wealth, power, and beauty. The area wasn't only good for fertile land and trade; it was rich with gold. This gold became the center of Egyptian jewelry design.


Gold became the perfect metal for jewelry design in Egypt; it was soft and easy to shape into incredible designs. Fine workmanship with gold became demanded by nobles and the Pharaohs. The fame of Egyptian gold work was highly valued throughout the ancient world from Rome to Turkey.

Other precious metals would be imported from surrounding areas. Lapis Lazuli was often sought after. Semiprecious stones would be inlaid into the gold to create beautiful mosaics in necklaces, bracelets, and belts. Often, colored glass was preferred over gems as they were much harder to work with. Although, softer semiprecious stones were used extensively. Blue was the royal color of Egypt and Lapis Lazuli was often sought after.


Often jewelry held a religious significance. Gems would be carved into sacred symbols like eagles and scarab beetles. Jewelry was used in religious ceremonies and became a necessary part of the religious cast.

Jewelry was usually worn by both men and women. As well as being connected to religion and wealth, jewelry was often simply worn aesthetically. Ancient Egyptians of both genders often wore make up, wigs, and had tattoos to enhance their appearance; jewelry was worn the same way.

One of the most important uses of jewelry in Ancient Egypt was saved for the afterlife. Pharaohs and rich nobles would be buried with their jewelry and other riches for their use in the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians believed that the things buried with their loved ones would travel with them to the world after this one. Pharaohs were often buried with furniture, food, mummified pets, slaves, chariots, and even a boat to ensure they would be as well off in the next world as they were in this one.    

Colors were symbolic in Egyptian jewelry. Each color had a meaning, often connected to religion or superstition. Green often symbolized fertility.

The most recognizable piece of Egyptian jewelry is the pectoral collar. These were vast, semicircular pieces of gold detailed with engravings, gems, glass, and beads. These huge necklaces were often connected by chain or ribbon around the neck and would often need a counter weight to hang down the wearer's back. These collars were decorated copiously and became works of art all on their own.


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