Antique jewellery is something we like to think we know a thing or two about but the pieces we see are generally a few hundred years old, tops. When most people think about very old jewellery, or perhaps the oldest jewellery, they tend to think in terms of thousands of years and maybe imagine items from Ancient Egypt. The truth is that the oldest jewellery is so much older than the pieces we sell and even older than items a few thousand years old found in the Pyramids. The oldest pieces of jewellery are actually believed to be over 100,000 years old. Here is a bit about the oldest examples of jewellery in the world.
After some items found in a Neanderthal site in Croatia were re-examined recently, a professor discovered that some eagle claws found with other items were marked in such a way to suggest they had been used as jewellery. Imagine that! Neanderthal jewellery. They were dated at around 135,000 years old.
The first sort of jewellery created by modern man were essentially a type of bead made of sea snail shells. Early examples of these were discovered in a cave in Israel where the snail shells had holes made in them in such a way to suggest they were strung together and worn as jewellery. They were dated around 110,000 with slightly more recent examples discovered in Morocco (80,000 years old) and South Africa (75,000 years old).
Similar beads discovered in South Africa dating around 70,000 years old showed signs of red ochre on them which suggests they could have been dyed (or could have been worn or kept near something with red ochre on it).
Around 40,000 years ago, scientists believe that human beings underwent a cognitive ability change which resulted in a surge of creativity and abstract thinking so it makes sense that the jewellery dating from this era is slightly more sophisticated than holes in snail shells. Instead, these were pieces of ostrich egg shell which had been drilled and shaped to be strung together and worn around the neck.
Dated as roughly the same age, a stone bracelet found in Siberia was believed to have been made by a member of the Denisovan species who were a species of man that developed earlier than both modern man and Neanderthals.
Jewellery made from gold didn’t properly emerge until around 4560 BC when the Varna civilisation, near the Black Sea in Bulgaria, developed goldsmithing. They weren’t the only civilisation to do so at the time but the abundant waterways in that area allowed them to trade their gold goods widely.
Feeling relatively modern after all that, we finally get to Ancient Egypt around 5,000 years ago where jewellers made items of stained glass rather than gems to create much more variety in shapes and styles. They also used a great deal of silver which was plentiful in the area.
This is some seriously old jewellery and we don’t claim to be able to source items quite this old but it’s cool to be part of a tradition dating back through essentially the entirety of human history. If you would like to talk to us about some rather modern, in comparison, pre-owned or antique jewellery, please give us a call on 01273 239763 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.