Jewelry has always played a vital role in the history of humankind. In fact, there’s evidence that both Neanderthals and homo sapiens made jewelry. Jewelry was used to identify tribal leaders or members, for religious purposes and for trade with other cultures.
Here are 17 things you may not know about the history of jewelry, courtesy of jewelryshoppingguide.com.
1. The oldest jewelry dates back to ancient times
The oldest known pieces of jewelry date back to about 100,000 years ago. Our early ancestors made jewelry out of bones, stone, sea shells—anything they could find that they considered appealing. These organic pieces from the earth probably served decorative and symbolic purposes.
2. The first diamond …
The very first diamond found was in India back in the 4th century. They quickly became highly valued because of their amazing durability and sparkle. Until the 18th century, people thought that India was the only source of diamonds but then in 1866, a diamond over 21 carats was found in South Africa, which grew to become one of the leading diamond suppliers.
3. Opals and literature
In 18th century, opals were highly valued and one of the most popular gemstones in Europe until Sir Walter Scott wrote a novel called Anne of Geierstein, where the fire of an opal, owned by the protagonist, was quenched when touched by holy water. The lady died soon after. The publication of this book led to huge decrease in the popularity of opals as being an unlucky stone. Even today, opals are associated with bad luck and misfortune.
4. The first engagement ring
We’re so used to the idea of engagement rings in the West that it seems strange to think of a time when this tradition wasn’t around. Well it wasn’t, until romantic Maximilian of Austria gave his beloved Mary of Burgundy a ring as a promise of the impending nuptials back in 1477. This caught on and today engagement rings are a multi-billion-dollar industry.
5. Engagement ring go-to
Since the 20th century, diamonds have grown to become the most popular gemstone. Over 80% of couples choose a diamond engagement ring today, compared to just 10% in 1939! All the other gemstones combined only come to about 13% of the total engagement ring output.
6. Roach jewelry — for real
It’s true that sometimes we use parts of animals (shell, bone, and coral — yes, corals are in fact animals) to create beautiful pieces of jewelry. But did you know that there’s such a thing as live insect jewelry? What’s more, this is a tradition that’s existed in certain cultures for centuries! Live insect jewelry is when live insects, such as beetles and cockroaches are accented with rhinestones and other elements, and are worn as fashion accessories attached to your clothes. Each one is fixed with a chain and pin that serves as a leash, so that the bedazzled bug can walk around your shirt.
7. Pearls are almost always cultured
In the early 20th century, the process of culturing pearls began on a commercial basis, making it possible to farm pearls. This made pearls readily accessible to everyone. Even today, almost all pearls you find on the market are cultured pearls. Unlike natural pearls formed organically in nature, cultured pearls are cultivated by man.
8. Pearls: nature’s living gemstone
Pearls are the only gemstone that come from a living organisms, known as mollusks. While most gemstones come from minerals, which are inorganic materials, pearls belong to a very select group of gemstones that come from organic sources. Organic gemstones are created by or formed from living organisms.
9. Amber is tree sap
Did you know that amber is made from the fossilized resin of trees over millions of years, commonly pine? Genuine amber is warm to the touch with a faint smell of pine.
10. Red sapphires are rubies
Sapphires come in every color under the sun, except red. That’s because red sapphires are known as rubies. Rubies and sapphires are the same mineral (corundum), but differ in color. They get their respective colors from trace elements present during crystal growth. Ruby gets its red from chromium, and sapphire from titanium and iron.
11. Only two gems formed in the earth’s mantle
There are several hundred types of gemstones out there, but only two are formed in the earth’s mantle. These are diamonds and peridot. Although they’re formed deep within the mantle, these gemstones are mined in the crust. That’s where all other gemstones are mined too.
12. Platinum is rare
Platinum is much rarer than all other precious metals, with the annual output being 15 times less than that of gold and 100 times less than that of silver. In fact, it’s said that all the platinum every mined would fit in an average American living room.
13. The largest diamond
The largest diamond ever found is known as the Star of David or Cullinan I. It weighs a massive 530 carats (in its uncut state, it weighed an astonishing 3016.75-carats) and is the largest colorless cut diamond in the world. Where is it, you ask? The Cullinan was presented to King Edward VII and is now part of the Crown Jewels of the UK.
The honor of being given the world’s most expensive engagement ring falls to Mariah Carey. The ring, given to Carey by James Packer, cost a stunning $10 million! On a side note, the couple ended their engagement, proving that the price of the ring isn’t a guarantee for the success of the relationship.
15. The most recognizable piece of jewelry
Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring is often cited as being the most recognizable piece of jewelry of the 20th century. The iconic blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by a halo of diamonds is now worn by Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
In the 1950s, scientists were able to successfully grow diamonds in labs, providing an eco-friendly, inexpensive and quick alternative to mined diamonds. Today, the synthetic diamond market is burgeoning and poses a threat to natural diamonds.
17. The rebirth of vintage
Jewelry styles tend to cycle in and out of fashion. The beautiful designs from the Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian, Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods are in huge demand today and highly popular especially for engagement rings. This goes to show that a well-designed piece of jewelry is a classic and will never go out of style.
If you’re in the market for vintage or antique jewelry, visit Adina by Empire Jeweler’s eBay store. You’ll find exquisite fine antique, vintage and estate jewelry at true wholesale prices, and a buying experience beyond your expectations!