Today, most people know of Ancient Egypt because of the great pyramid, the Egyptian tombs, and probably the Egyptian gods. Although these are critical parts of the ancient Egyptian culture, there is one vital aspect of the ancient Egyptian society that we often overlook: the precious stones and metals used in ancient Egypt. The precious stones and gemstones used in ancient Egypt were very diverse and beautiful. They influenced the economic, socio-economic, and even engineering aspects of ancient Egyptian society. In this article, we shall discuss some of the precious stones, how they were used, and their influence on Egyptian culture.
Types of Precious metals in Ancient Egypt
Although ancient Egypt was located in the desert, it had a vast deposit of precious metals and gemstones in various ancient kingdom parts. However, the largest deposits of these precious stones were deposited in the rocks of the east Egyptian deserts near the red sea. These deposits were often controlled by the royal house and other wealthy nobility. Some of the precious metals deposited in ancient Egypt are listed below.
Since early civilization has formed a significant part of cultures worldwide, being the first metal known to early hominids. Ancient Egypt was not exempted from the influence of these "yellow nuggets" as they were initially called. Ancient Egyptians believed that gold was a heavenly indestructible metal that was handed over to them by the gods. They thought the flesh of the gods was made of gold. Ancient Egypt was richly blessed in gold, with most of the gold coming from mines along the river Nile and Nubia's gold-rich city. Even though the king and the nobility controlled the gold mines, other citizens could still access the precious stones since their deposits could be found all over the empire. Traditional miners did not always purify the gold mined. The gold was often melted and poured into molds.
While the gods' flesh was believed to be made from gold, the ancient Egyptians believed that the gods' bones were made of silver. While gold was available in large deposits in Egypt, the "white metal" as the Egyptian popularly called sliver was not available. It was introduced into the empire through trade with foreign kingdoms that had it in large deposits. When sliver was first introduced, it had more value than gold, but by the middle kingdom, more than enough sliver had been brought into the kingdom, and the value of silver had significantly dropped to about half the value of gold.
Unlike gold and silver, copper in ancient Egypt was ubiquitous and cheap. It contained substantial arsenic traces; therefore, it was perfect for producing agricultural tools, household utensils, and even weapons of war. The copper was mined from locations all over the kingdom, and it was melted with traditional melting techniques. It often contains impurities.
Lead was also used extensively in ancient Egypt. Although some archeologists believed that the lead was imported from Syria, recent evidence shows that it was locally sourced and used for makeup. As a part of the precious metals above, ancient Egyptians were also fond of alloys of metals such as bronze, electrum, and brass.
Precious stones used in Ancient Egypt
Even though precious metals were highly valued in Ancient Egypt, gemstones held even higher value. Gems were rarer than precious metals as they were not so plentiful in natural deposits. Most of the gemstones used were gotten mainly from trade with foreign countries and loot from conquered nations. Below are some of the most popular gemstones used in ancient Egypt.
Lapis Lazuli was a symbol of royalty and power in ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians believed that the stone came from heaven and that the stone could offer dead protection in the afterlife journey.
Turquoise was also commonly used in ancient Egypt. It was locally sourced from mines around the Sinai peninsular. The gen stone was closely associated with Hathor, the goddess of joy and fertility, and is believed that the goddess blessed those who wore jewelry made from the material. The Turquoise was often thoroughly processed to expose its brilliant sky-blue color.
Diamonds were also available in ancient Egypt. It was one of the rarest gemstones and could only be afforded by society's wealthiest. The diamond represented the sun, which was believed to be the source of all life. Carnelian, quartz and jasper are other examples of the precious stones used in Ancient
Uses of Precious Metals and Gemstones in Ancient Egypt.
As earlier mentioned, some of the precious stones used in ancient Egypt were believed to have originated from the gods and goddesses; therefore, the ancient Egyptians used these materials to worship these gods and the heavenly bodies they represented. The precious stones and metals were used to decorate temples, religious rituals, and prepare the dead for the afterlife.
- Manufacture of Jewelry
Probably the most popular use of gemstones and precious metals was the manufacturing of jewelry. Armlets, necklaces, rings, and bracelets were made from these materials. The jewelry was mostly made with unique gemstones that the Egyptians believed will protect them from evil forces and spirits.
Not all the precious materials mentioned above were available in ancient Egypt, so the ancient Egyptians sometimes traded their precious materials for those they wanted. Foreign exchange also provided revenue for the empire.
Significance of Precious Stones and Metals in Ancient Egyptian Jewelry
Ancient Egyptians were very skilled in making jewelry; archeological evidence had shown that their jewelry was trendy in the ancient world. Traders from the middle east often traveled to Egypt to purchase these precious materials. The rarer the material used in making the jewelry, the more valuable and expensive they were.
Even in the 21st century, jewelry made from these precious materials still held value. Golden and diamond-laden jewelry made from Egypt remains one of the most valuable things you can ever come across.