Monday, 5 December 2011

A History of Jewelry

Man's appearance has always been of great concern. Since the beginning of time, mankind has sought to improve his appearance through the use of physical modification such as, piercings, foot binding, head boarding, and tattooing. These types of physical modifications are present in nearly every culture from the Celtic and Germanic peoples of Western Europe, and the world-renowned Chinese dynasties to the various Native American tribes who called the Western Hemisphere home, long before the age of Exploration. Although physical modification is common, there is yet another development, which has assisted humanity in always looking their best. The development of mining technology and specially designed tools throughout the world has led to the development of jewelry. Despite the fact that the construction of jewelry takes both skill and technological machinery, it serves no other purpose than setting the wearer a part from his or her fellows. Jewelry constructed out of precious metals such as silver, gold, and platinum has been used by nearly every culture both modern and the ancient to demonstrate differences in wealth, social status, occupation, and political power. The use of jewelry as a ranking system stays with us to this very day. For instance, during the winter and summer games, which allow international athletes to compete with one another, gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded to the top three performers in each event.

While modern jewelers traffic in sterling silver earrings and necklaces, rings are also quite a lucrative item for those in the retail industry. The importance of a ring to Western culture should be obvious, considering the fact that rings are awarded were given as gifts at stages in people's lives. For example, high school and university graduates are given class rings following their graduation. Furthermore, newlyweds often exchange rings the prior to their engagement and during the wedding ceremony. The importance of rings to Western and Eastern societies is as old as these aforementioned societies. For example, feudal lords in Western Europe, who served under their respective kings, were often given weapons and armor as well as silver ring to alert any passerby to the wearer's high political rank and social status. Similarly, ancient Chinese and Japanese scholars were also given either sterling silver rings or copper rings based on their level of education and experience.

The gift of a ring can be also observed in religious ceremonies within the Christian and Catholic traditions. For example, young men are usually gifted a small sterling silver ring upon their confirmation day, while young women often receive either gold or platinum jewelry on this auspicious occasion. In conclusion, jewelry has played a major role in continued development of human society throughout the world. Pendants, hairpins, broaches, necklaces, and rings have been warned to differentiate wealth, political power, and social status. However, these things serve no real purpose except for improving the wearer's self image.