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7000 Years of Self-Adornment

In my last blog post about Sustainability, I mentioned silver mining happening as early as the 5th century BC. Mined metals were considered very valuable and were used for coins and trade, but also for jewelry. Personal adornment can be traced back 7000 years!

“Jewelry was man’s answer to the profound human need for self-adornment and, consequently, is one of the oldest forms of decorative art."

(Annotation: 7000 Years of Jewelry, Edited by Hugh Tait. Copyright 1986, 2006 The Trustees of the British Museum)

Fascinating Fact:

Man’s recognition of the intrinsic beauty of certain materials and minerals, especially gold, has led to their constant use in totally unconnected civilizations separated by vast barriers of time and space.

Jewelry has had many functions beyond adornment over the centuries; amulets to ward off superstitious and other frightening ills, to proclaim the wearer’s wealth and social status, and, of course, pure decoration. Jewelry was so popular that gold and high value minerals like Lapis Lazuli and Obsidian so desired that ‘imitations’ were made:

“From the earliest times, both in Mesopotamia and Egypt, the production of substitutes for the more valuable and rare materials seems to have been a surprisingly well-established feature of the Jewelry trade - and, to have persisted more or less without a break to the present day.”

Jewelry’s popularity has continued to grow over the years. I find it fascinating that today, some items, while rare and expensive and once highly coveted, have fallen out of ‘fashion'. For some, its personal preference (gold vs silver), for others, its social and environmental impact reasons. It even comes down to trendiness or a favorite designer for some. Materials in jewelry fabrication go way beyond treasured minerals and metals today. Often times, the materials are based on a social statement the artist and wearer wish to make - recycled paper wrapped into beads, clear glass instead of blood diamonds, recycled silver instead of environmentally impacting mined silver.

How does this impact my jewelry making?

When I make jewelry art, I am focused on the environment and nature - sustainability in addition to being the earth’s adornments. I often use lab grown gemstones (which I sometimes find to be works of art in themselves - have you seen lab grown opals???) instead of the mined versions. Someday though, I would like to go with my sister to dig tourmalines out of the ground in San Diego, CA. I only use Cubic Zirconias, never diamonds. My work is often created using ancient jewelry making techniques: Viking knit chain making, Byzantine chain maille, fused glass (ooooh, the history of glass is FASCINATING) to name a few. Ancient history is present in my work not only in techniques, but in the continuation of the profound human need for self-adornment.

It is my desire to not only make, but to wear jewelry that is a reflection of what is important to me. An extension of things I care about. It is my desire that you feel the same when you wear a piece that I have made: that the work speaks to you, that it says what you want to quietly express about yourself.

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