From the dawn of civilization it appears that humans have treasured the beauty of natural stones and metals. Early in mankind’s history the most precious materials were used to adorn places of worship and to enhance the apparel of the leaders of communal groups. Common citizens often used handmade beads, shells, seeds, and other materials to satisfy their longing for embellishment and beauty.
The earliest surviving evidence of the existence of highly skilled artisans who were able to produce beautiful pieces of jewelry has been found in Egypt, India, and China. Egypt and Mesopotamia first set the standards of craftsmanship and beauty which later European cultures would emulate. The pyramids spilled over with magnificent pieces crafted from bronze, copper, gold, and precious gems which were created to pay homage to the pharaohs and their families in both life and in death. Dating back in time 5,000 years, in both India and China there were individuals who crafted pieces of jewelry that rivals anything created today. These civilizations perfected the use of gold as it was both the most beautiful metal and the easiest to work with because of its softness. In both of these cultures, artisans crafted intricately beautiful designs of animals and plant life encrusted with precious stones that remain appealing to our modern eyes and are often copied. Who has grown into adulthood without at least one piece of costume jewelry that incorporated a golden dragon?
The love of beautiful jewelry continued to be an important part of life for the Greeks and later the Romans. The Romans were particularly fond of coiling snakes, carnelian jasper, lapis lazuli, and onyx. They also mined diamonds and harvested pearls. Settlements dedicated to pearl production were set up across the Roman Empire.
As Europe awoke from the long period of war, famine, and plagues and entered the Renaissance, the demand for a more beautiful way of life was a welcome change. Both men and women embraced the use of gold and precious stones to enhance themselves personally and to adorn their homes and places of worship. Lavish display became a way of life that would continue for several generations. Nowhere was this trend more evident than among the royal families throughout the world where there seemed to be no limit on the ways jewels could be incorporated into their lives. Queen Elizabeth was reported to have had 3,000 gowns decorated with pearls and 80 wigs adorned with them.
Among the most beautiful and most treasured of all gemstones is the pearl. It alone is produced by a living creature, the mollusk. Pearls emerge from the ocean perfectly made. Their pure iridescence requires no intervention from man. The harvesting of pearls dates back to prehistoric times with their appeal never waning. In the Bible Jesus tells the parable of a man who found a pearl of great value and went and sold all he had to purchase it. Perhaps it is, then, not so surprising that in 2013 Christie’s Geneva sold a seven strand pearl necklace set with 614 natural pearls and a few diamonds for 9.1 million dollars.
In today’s world the lavish display of rare and costly jewelry, among the very wealthy, is not unusual. However, most of us settle for a few expensive pieces that we hold dear because of the extrinsic value or for personal reasons. We fill in our collection with semi-precious pieces and costume jewelry to complete our wardrobes and to make us look and feel pretty. We love the look and feel of sparkle near our faces and generally have special stones that we prefer.
Often a favorite color will be a factor in selecting a stone or perhaps the fact that it is our birth stone. I love the Paris blue topaz because of its wonderful vibrant color and the pure clarity of the stone. The ones that I own and wear also have a great deal of sentimental meaning to me as they were gifts from the special people in my life. Among them, a ring, was made for me by one of my dearest friends, Sonya Haynie. I also love pearls and rely on them to complement almost any outfit at any time of the day or night.
My suggestion is to find pieces of jewelry you like and that are flattering to your size and the shape of your face. Experiment and love the results when you find those special pieces that enhance your beauty. Then wear them and enjoy.
Remember to always smile. A smile is an instant face lift.