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Why do we wear jewelry  

What does wearing jewelry mean to people

I have always loved jewelry. Not any kind or style of jewelry, but only the ones that reflected me, my way of thinking, feeling or seeing myself. And it all started when I was just a little girl who was bedazzled by the colorful trinkets that she saw while shopping with her mum. Later on I started making my own jewelry and every piece that I have made tells a different story, sometimes it is my own story, other times it is a story that I wish I could have been part of. And that made me wonder – Why do we wear jewelry? Why did ancient people started wearing jewelry and when did all happen? I started reading and came across really inspiring information.

Stories from the Past

Jewelry has been made before history was written. It is even older than humans because the first known jewelry artefacts were made not by Homo sapiens but by Neanderthals and Denisovans. These were the human species that lived before us and for a certain time at the same time with us, the Homo sapiens. Jewelry is one of the oldest types of archaeological artefact. 100,000-year-old beads made from small sea shells called Nassarius are thought to be the oldest known jewelry. To be more precise, perforated beads made from these sea shells have been found dating to 115,000 years ago in the Cueva de los Aviones, a cave along the southeast coast of Spain. Later in Kenya, at Enkapune Ya Muto, beads made from perforated ostrich egg shells have been dated to more than 40,000 years ago. In Russia, a stone bracelet and marble ring are attributed to a similar age. There are also other ancient jewelry artefacts that undoubtedly show how important jewelry was to the people in the past. They started wearing different kinds of adornment probably even before they started wearing clothes. Amazing, isn’t it? And that tells us something very deep about our perception and understanding of life and personality in general.

Our stories

The need to express ourselves, to feel accepted and to belong can be as important as the need to protect and care for our body. Being warm and having food was not enough. Having a sense of identity and self-esteem reflected a need, too. The first people were hunters so the first adornments were derived from the hunt; teeth, claws, horns, and bones. Hunting was very important so the hunters believed that wearing trophies would bring them good luck for the next hunt. The village depended on the skills of the good hunters and they deserved respect and privileges. One of the ways of showing the best hunters’ courage and prowess was by wearing some kind of distinctive adornment. Later on, as way of living changed, so the reasons for wearing jewelry changed. In prehistoric times, as well as in contemporary cultures, jewelry is not only ornamentation for the body, but also a means of communication. People started wearing jewelry for a number of different reasons:

The list goes on. What remains the same is that jewelry can be attached to the body or the clothes, but what never changes is our attitude towards it. Whether coming from a primitive culture or modern civilization of the West or East, and regardless of material and style, humans of both genders and all age groups have the need for self-adornment. The significance of jewelry transcends time limits and geographic boundaries and it is one of our oldest forms of self-expression, self-help and self-esteem booster.

Stories from the Depth

Wearing jewelry and seeing our aesthetically upgraded version in the mirror, however small step that may be, helps us through life. It is something that even animals do, but in a much less evolved way. Nonetheless, it tells a lot about how living creatures on this planet perceive nature and life, as well as themselves. We may not see perfect beauty in ourselves, but we see perfect beauty in the world around us and we strive to achieve that standard. We are not narcissistic, or shallow, or egotistical as some may think because we want to look beautiful. It is just that we see beauty around us and we just want to fit in and become part of that world.

Present Day Stories

Jewelry has played an important role in human life for thousands of years. We learn from history that ancient civilizations appreciated jewelry and it was used to highlight the natural beauty of its wearers, outward and inward. Today, jewelry is universally appreciated for its rarity, beauty and monetary value. It is also prized as something more than just a decoration – it has a value as an art form which can be interpreted as an expression of man’s inner nature. Whether you are a maker or a wearer, your jewelry conveys messages of your wisdom, elegance and prosperity. And again, your design and creativity will tell the story to future generations – the story of the people who wanted to find love for themselves through loving the world around them.

Isabella Clara Eugenia, infante of Spain (1566-1633). Wife of Archduke Albrecht of Austria. Painted in the 17th Century. Provided by Rijksmuseum, Netherlands
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