When you put on a piece of jewellery, you probably focus on how it looks with your outfit or what it says about your style
That is the reason for the majority of us, custom, bespoke, statement pieces that talks about us, about who we are , sometimes even exposing our personality. Perhaps some jewellery pieces have sentimental value to you, such as a ring passed down from your mother or grandmother. While jewellery has always been a way to adorn the body, it also has significant meaning, purposes and symbolism. The meaning of jewellery varies based on the piece, materials used and even the country as it is all about our history, and legacy, a symbol of identity.
Explore the symbolism of jewellery from cultures around the world to better understand your own jewellery pieces.
Jewellery has existed throughout millenniums, from ancient times (Prehistoric people, Sumerian, Egyptians…) to the present, some of the pieces dating back over 90,000 years . Early jewellery often consisted of found materials, such as shells, wood, stones, feathers and other natural items, but many of those pieces had significant meaning behind them as they were used as an important part of rituals.
Particular cultures constructed those found objects in particular ways to represent different beliefs or affiliations. As jewellery progressed through the ages, many of the purposes and symbols remain important. Despite the difference in materials and methods of making pieces (we have technology but the concept behind still pretty much the same), jewellery still shares some of the same roles as those early types of jewellery.
The most common purposes of jewellery include:
At various periods throughout history, jewellery served as a type of currency or as a tool used in trading. Some cultures still use jewellery as a form of currency based on the value of the materials that go into it.
Valuable jewellery provides owners a source of wealth security. Even today, a valuable piece of jewellery can be an investment for the owner. On a larger scale, royal jewellery provides wealth security for entire countries.
Jewellery often represents a person’s status, both in today’s society and throughout history. People of higher social status or wealth often own and wear jewellery that is more valuable. They may own more jewellery than others as well.
Many pieces of jewellery serve a religious purpose. They may represent a particular achievement or position within the religion. Jewellery sometimes commemorates a religious event, such as a first communion or a baptism. Other symbols, such as a cross, carry a general religious meaning.
In historical times, many pieces of jewellery served a specific purpose while adding a decorative element. A brooch, for example, was used functionally in addition to the adornment of the outfit. There are other examples like hair pins, cuff links…
Many people use jewellery solely as a fashion accent. They select their pieces based on how well they match particular cloths or outfits.
Others use jewellery as a form of self-expression. The jewellery might show your own personality or style, for example. You might choose pieces to make a bold statement.
There are many styles out there, some of them sparkle , some of them not. But when it comes to jewellery, everything is possible and there is nothing wrong.
A popular purpose for jewellery is to represent relationships. Wedding bands and engagement rings are examples of this type of jewellery. The jewellery represents your love and commitment to the relationship for both yourself and others to see.
Rites of Passage:
Some jewellery symbolises a rite of passage in a person’s life.
Jewellery has a long-standing tradition of serving as a talisman, bringing good luck to the person who possesses it. This is an other of the jewellery purposes. Many people still use jewellery to feel protected or safe in cultures around the world.
Many families pass jewellery down through the generations as an heirloom. This practice helps connect families to the past while remembering their heritage.
Now we know a bit more about some of the meanings behind jewellery. But, I am sure you still having some
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