Egypt, the cradle of civilization, led the ancient world in many things, including science, math, and art. The sophistication of ancient Egyptians is evident in the way their communities were structured, the way their political system was arranged, and also the methods they used to construct their art. Relative to other civilizations of the ancient world, Egyptians were unmatched.
It is thus no surprise that this great civilization also had the best and the most valued jewelry in all of the ancient world. In this article, we shall be discussing extensively ancient Egyptian jewelry, their value, how they were made, what they were used for, and how ancient Egyptian jewelry designs are still in our current time trendy and fashionable.
Who Wore Jewelries in Ancient Egypt
In ancient Egyptian societies, pieces of jewelry were considered a crucial part of any dressing. People of all classes and gender wore jewelry to adorn their clothes. Although, as expected, the value and the quality of the jewelry worn by a person reflected the social and financial strength of that person. Jewelry worn by commoners was mostly made of copper, which was cheap and readily available, while more expensive jewelry made of gold was common among Egyptian nobility.
Pharaohs also wore a special kind of necklace called Menat, which served as an exclusive attribute of divinity and was also closely associated with the goddess Hathor a sky deity in Egypt. The jewelry was not only used to adorn the living alone; they were used for the deceased too. When a person dies, jewelry was used to decorate the body before the person was buried. Again, the jewelry used also reflected the social class of the deceased. This is why archeologists today often find a lot of jewelry in ancient Egyptian tombs.
Materials used in Making Ancient Egyptian Jewelry
Although gold and copper were the most common materials used in the production of jewelry, other materials such as clay, obsidian, garnet, rock crystals, and carnelians were also used. The price of each piece of jewelry depended on the type of materials used in making them; thus, copper jewelry was the most readily available and common to the general public. More prosperous people opted for golden jewelry, while the top class in the social hierarchy often wore jewelry made from rare gems and rock crystals.
As observed from jewelry found in ancient tombs, ancient Egyptians often mixed copper and gold with colorants, giving the jewelry the characteristic color of precious gems. Most of these materials were locally sourced, but as centuries passed and Egyptians started to interact and trade with other countries, they were able to obtain and make jewelry with some materials which could only be obtained from foreign countries. Pieces of jewelry made from these types of materials, including diamonds, Magok rubies, sapphire, green emeralds, were usually the most expensive.
Significance of Jewelry to the Egyptians
Jewelry was an essential part of Egyptian culture; it is significant in various aspects of ancient Egyptian society. Apart from wearing jewelry to beautify the wearer, jewelry was also popularly worn because they were believed to have protective functions and good luck to those wearing them. They believed that the jewelry they wore got the attention of the gods and that the more jewelry one wore, the more attractive such person was to the gods and thus the more blessings such person received.
Another major significance of ancient jewelry to ancient Egyptian society was the wealth it brought to Egypt. These pieces of jewelry, since they were intricately made with outstanding skills and rare stones, were highly demanded in most regions of the world.
Merchants from various places travel to Egypt to buy these pieces of jewelry, and those who got them were considered very lucky. Due to the high demand, the Ancient Egyptian empire made a lot of money from it; thus, contributing to the fast pace at which this civilization grew.
Symbols used in Egyptian jewelry
Since jewelry was worn to get the attention of the gods, Egyptians usually engrave symbols into these pieces of jewelry to make them even more “attractive” to the gods.
Depending on the god or goddess an Egyptian worshiped, the symbol on his jewelry might range from Scarab, ankh, the eye of Horus, pyramids, the healing sign, and Temple Gates.
Other symbols include the Phoenix, Papyrus, Mountain, Knot of Isis, Gold, Baboon, and Ankh. These signs represent different exciting concepts related to life and the universe, like soul, stability, truth, beauty, water, sun, power, and the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptian Icons who were Fond of Wearing jewelry
Although most, if not all, Egyptians loved wearing pieces of jewelry, some prominent people were recorded to be fond of wearing jewelry.
For example, in the rooms of King Tut’s tomb, a large number of jewelry items and treasures were found to be buried with him. These numerous treasures suggest that kings and nobles were fond of wearing expensive and numerous jewelry to display their wealth and power.
Also, the significance of jewelry to religion and spirituality also suggests that religious leaders priests wore a lot of jewelry.
Are Egyptian Ancient Jewelry Designs still Fashionable today?
Even though the ancient Egyptian empire crumbled over one thousand years ago, the intricate designs and mastery used on these pieces of jewelry are still in very high demand today. Due to its significance to Egyptian culture, many jewelers today still try to imitate the designs used on this jewelry. Because of their rarity, quality Egyptian-themed jewelry is costly today.
The everlasting beauty of these types of jewelry makes them the most trendy and fashionable type of jewelry anyone can get today.
As you have seen for yourself, jewelry was a vital part of Egyptian culture and tradition. Its beauty was appreciated throughout the ancient world and is still highly rated even now in the fashion world. The skill and techniques used in making this jewelry, even at a time of primitive technology, make ancient Egyptian even more puzzling.