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The civilization of ancient Egypt spans about 5,000 years. That’s a long period of time to be lumped together as if nothing changed. Many aspects of Egyptian culture did remain the same, primarily because religion dominated everyday life; but also because there were few outside influences and because these people were so advanced at such an early time. Egyptian jewelry is not only fascinating in its beauty, it also gives us many clues about the development of the Egyptian people. Some of the earliest evidence of man’s ingenuity and creativity is found in personal ornamentation and Egyptian jewelry is the earliest on record. It is not difficult to imagine someone thousands of years ago picking up an article from nature, admiring it and wanting to keep it – we have all done that as children. In the beginning, natural objects, such as small shells, dried berries, small perforated stones, and feathers of variegated colors were combined by stringing or tying them together to ornament the head, neck, arms, legs, fingers, and even toes. Ancient Egyptians had no word for art; it emerged as just one element in a complex system of religious rites. Their jewelry reflects their beliefs about the world and their attempts to understand it. The Ancient Egyptians believed in an eternal afterlife, and filled their tombs with objects intended to ensure the safety, well being and happiness of the deceased. The discovery of those tombs, well preserved in the dry desert, provides us with extraordinary examples of the developing artistry and craftsmanship of ancient Egyptians. Jewelry found in the tomb of Queen Zer (5500BC) includes the oldest pieces of gold jewelry in existence. Zer’s bracelets were turquoise and gold. Gold is easy to shape into forms used for jewelry and its color would have been meaningful to early Egyptians as well. We know that it later became associated with the sun god because of its radiance. Egyptians were also the first to mine turquoise, which is native to the mountains of Sinai. Turquoise is still considered the most valuable opaque mineral used in jewelry. Egyptians were also the first to work with glass, creating steatite (a mineral composed by filosilicate) beads during the Badari civilization between the years 5500 and 3500 BC. In addition, they made beads, bangles and finger rings from copper. One piece recovered from this period is made out of small beads strung by several blue colored threads. This was worn around the knees. Glass and vitreous composition were called “iner en wedeh”, which means ‘flowing rock’ or ‘pouring rock’. The earliest glass substance is known as Egyptian faience when distinguished from silica-based glass; however Egyptians didn’t make any distinction. Egyptians fashioned amulets as early as 4,000 BC. These creations expressed a religious faith charged with mystical force. Much more than good luck charms, they were believed to have magical powers, first for the journey of the dead and later for the living as well. Amuletic magic became an actual science as Egypt’s civilization developed. Almost everyone, including infants, wore at least one amulet. An amulet made from a particular stone with a specific motif engraved on it would encircle the wearer with the magic of that amulet. As jewelry making developed, these symbols were incorporated into a wide range of pieces. In the Naqada period stone working and coloring were refined further, bringing jewelry to more sophisticated forms. The Ankh, which represents eternal life, dates back to this time. The use of gold increased after 3100BC. Artisans were learning to take advantage of the malleable nature of gold to create more complex shapes. In addition natural materials including shells, horns, tusks, claws, and stones were still used. Some of the most popular stones were turquoise, carnelian (a translucent form of silica) and lapis lazuli. Lapis is a brilliant blue with flecks of pyrite that twinkle like little stars. It is native to Afghanistan, and was traded extensively in Ur in 4000BC. It was considered a sacred stone and the term “lapis blue” is not only a reference to the color. Before it was possible to replicate the color the stone was crushed and used in paint for many of the world’s great masterpieces. From the first dynasty (2920-2770 BC) bracelets were found on a wrapped arm in the tomb of Djer at Abydos (the third king of the first dynasty) in 1901. We don’t know for certain if the arm and its bracelets belonged to the king because the bones were thrown away. One bracelet had lapis lazuli, hollow gold balls, turquoise beads, gold bead spacers, and a hollow gold rosette at the center strung onto a plait of gold wires and animal hair. One of them included gold plaques cast in the form of a crouched falcon atop a rectangular serekh, a very early symbol of Egyptian kingship in the shape of a palace. The serekh usually contained the Horus name of the king, associating him with the falcon-form sky-god (this is a time when hieroglyphics were expanding). The craftsmanship in gemstone polishing and the innovative design of figures is amazing for such an early time. The cults of the dead were established during this period, so jewelry for burial became even more elaborate. The amulet found most often throughout Egyptian history and still used today is the scarab, usually referred to as a scarabee in Egypt now. The most ancient scarab beetle amulets, elaborately detailed and finished with a layer of glaze, appeared during the III and IV dynasties. The scarab, or dung beetle, became a symbol of spontaneous generation, new life, and resurrection. The cycle of the scarab was related to the cycle of the sun which was imagined to burrow into the ground (the land of the dead) in the west at the end of the day and then emerge again from the ground in the east. Early Egyptians saw the scarab beetle roll a ball of dung (manure), plant it in the ground and then later a young scarab emerged. They thought that all scarabs were male and did not need a female to reproduce, but that the old beetle went into the ground and was then transformed for rebirth. In fact, the female lays one egg in the ball of dung and the young beetle eats its way out of the ball to emerge from the ground. Scarabs often had inscriptions on the bottom and were later used as stamps or seals; the form of the beetle with a hollow base below it with the name of the seal’s owner inscribed around the base. While there may be no inscription, today’s scarabees still usually have a base below the scarab. Soldering dates back to at least the 4th dynasty. The work of Egyptian gold and silversmiths also included hammered, engraved, incised and chased work. Layers of gold plates with colored stones were also used. Gold was also widely used in gilding other less precious materials such as wood and stone. The cloisonné technique, which also originated in Egypt, was used in pectorals and pendants. Outlines of figures and symbols were created with gold wires then soldered to sheets of beaten gold and later inlaid with colored stones or glass (faience). Filigree, a delicate, lacelike ornamental work of gold or silver wire, was used in buckles and clasps of gold. Granulation was also developed: creating various designs by soldering very tiny gold balls to the surface of gold sheets. By 2500 BC, Egyptian jewelry makers had developed copper working to such a level that they were creating crowns and headdresses with the metal. Of the many crowns made by Egyptian artists, one of the earliest was discovered in a tomb dating from the 4th dynasty (2575–2465 BC). It consists of a gold band supported by another band made of copper, to which three decorative designs are applied. In the center is a disk embossed with the form of four lotus buds in a radial pattern flanked by two papyrus flowers linked horizontally at the base by a disk with a carnelian, while the upper line of the flowers comes together to create a kind of nest in which two long-beaked ibis crouch. Keep in mind that in a Biblical timeline reference we still haven’t reached the time of the flood and Noah’s arc. Also from the 4th dynasty are the silver armlets of Queen Hetepheres inlaid with carnelian, turquoise, and lapis lazuli. Some writers indicate that at one time the value of silver was equal to or greater than gold; we have not found a specific time period that this can be attributed to, however gold is less predominant during this time. We know that jewelry was used as a form of payment. The payment of dancers reflected the status of their patron as well as the skill of individual performers, and the esteem in which entertainers were held by society. Dancers during the fourth dynasty (2680-2560 BC) were rewarded with gold necklaces and precious jewels. One funerary necklace still remaining from the VI dynasty is that of Impy (2345-2300BC). This necklace is finely detailed in blue with 63 beetle shaped pendants hanging from it and the incised prename of ‘Impy’ on both terminals. The crown of rosettes has inlayed vitreous composition in the copper center. During the Merenra (2283-2278BC) period of the VI dynasty scarab beetles were produced in a new color, ‘indigo blue’, with the use of vitreous materials. As early as the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640BC) little pieces of jewelry were welded together. Glass came into even wider use during the prosperous 12th dynasty (1991-1786BC). Glass was used as an enamel glaze to take the place of stones (eliminating the need for laborious grinding) and to cover stones, eliminating the need to import non-native stones. Egyptians also popularized a method of bundling tubes of glass to form flower-like mosaics to be placed in rings. With the increased use of glass, jewelry became more colorful. Color was extremely important in Egyptian jewelry with specific meanings for different chromatic sets. The colors were related to natural elements or minerals which were identified with specific deities and specific spiritual and therapeutic values. Green represented life, growth, vegetation, and fertility. The power of green to guarantee new life or resurrection is why many depictions of Osiris show him with green skin, referring to his resurrection and power over vegetation. The Book of the Dead (the name Egyptologists have given to a collection of spells and formulas written on papyrus to help the deceased make their journey through the underworld) makes reference to the deceased becoming a falcon "whose wings are of green stone", referring to new life and rebirth. Also, the common Eye of Horus (Heru) amulet is often green characterizing the color as one of healing and well-being in its association with the eye. But the most important green amulet was the heart scarab, which was placed in the heart cavity in case something happened to the deceased person’s actual heart. Wadj, the word for green, also meant to flourish or be healthy and was used for the papyrus plant as well as for the stone malachite. Green malachite was a symbol of joy and was associated with Hathor (copper was also associated with Hathor). The phrase "field of malachite" was used when speaking of the land of the blessed dead. Green qualities were also attributed to turquoise and when turquoise was not available, glazed quartz was used as a substitute. It was the representation of the color, more than the actual material itself that mattered. Red was a powerful color symbolizing two extremes: Life and victory as well as anger and fire. Red also represented blood, and in the Book of the Dead protection is sought through the blood (power) of Isis. In its negative context of anger and fire, red was the color of the god Set, who was the personification of evil and the powers of darkness, as well as the god who caused storms. Some images of Set are colored with red skin. In addition, red-haired men as well as animals with reddish hair or skins were thought to be under the influence of Set. A person filled with rage was said to have a red heart. For some reason, the red stone carnelian eventually came to be considered an ill-omened stone. Its name, herset, meant sadness. Another word for red, dachret, was used for infertile soil. Dark blue, also called "Egyptian" blue, was the color of the heavens, water, and the primeval flood, and it represented creation or rebirth. The favorite blue stone was lapis lazuli, or khesbed, which also meant joy or delight. It is thought that blue may have had solar symbolism because some objects made from blue faience carry a solar theme. There is also a theory that blue may have been symbolic of the Nile representing the sacred, purification, life, and eternity. Because the god Amen (also spelled Amon or Amun) played a part in the creation of the world, he was sometimes depicted with a blue face; therefore, pharaohs associated with Amen were shown with blue faces also. In general, it was said that the gods had hair made of lapis lazuli. Yellow designated the eternal and the indestructible, also considered to be qualities of the sun and of gold. Gold symbolized Ra, the great deity of the sun. Early Egyptians believed the gods’ skin and bones were made from gold. Tomb paintings showed gods with golden skin. The Book of the Dead required that funerary jewelry be made from gold. At times the color yellow was used interchangeably with white, and at those times it took on the symbolism of white. White denoted purity and omnipotence, and because it had no real color, it represented things sacred and simple. White was especially symbolic in religious objects and ritual tools used by priests. Many of these were made of white alabaster. Hedj, one of the words for white, was also a word used for silver. When silver was used together with gold, they symbolized the moon and sun. Because red and white were opposites in meaning, they were at times placed together to symbolize completeness. Black was symbolic of death, the underworld, and the night. We see this reflected in Osiris, who was referred to as "the black one" because he was king of the afterlife, and also for the god of embalming, Anubis, who was portrayed as a black jackal or dog. Because Queen Ahmose-Nefertari was the patroness of the necropolis, she was often shown with black skin. To really confuse us, black could also represent fertility and resurrection. Egypt was known as Kemet, or "the black land", because of the dark soil of the Nile Valley left by silt from the annual Nile flood; therefore, the color black symbolized Egypt itself. When used to represent resurrection, black and green were interchangeable. The finest work of the Middle Kingdom is in XII dynasty jewelry. Although they aren’t luxurious, these pieces show great symmetry and beauty; the materials and colors carefully chosen to enhance the finishing touches. Some examples are pieces found at Dahshur and al-Lahun—circlets of Princess Khnumet (1911-1877 BC), pectorals of Princess Sithathor and Queen Meret and girdles of Princess Sithathor-iunet. One of the most outstanding pieces is Khnumet’s pendant, with grind gold and inlayed with vitreous composition. The medallion in the center is designed with a blue frit and decorated with a miniature painting of a cow. To highlight the main detail a rock crystal layer was placed on top. Grind gold work is typical of the Middle Kingdom and even though it can be found in later times the detailing would never be matched. The jeweler's skill was as near perfection as is possible in an imperfect world. For technical skill, delicacy of handling and love of nature there is nothing more fascinating than the two coronets of Queen Khnemit, representing floral garlands used at festivals and including most of the flowers and fruits grown in Egyptian gardens. The small pectoral or pendant that belonged to Sesostris III (1938–1756 BC) has superbly rhythmic coloring with carnelian, turquoise, and lapis lazuli inlays, while the gold separating these materials merely creates the design. The victorious pharaoh is represented by two symmetrical lions with the plumed heads of falcons in the act of trampling conquered Nubians and Libyans. Over the scene is the protective vulture of Upper Egypt with wings outspread. These memorial pendants, as well as other small jewels such as earrings, bracelets, and rings, consist exclusively of symbols. Queen Weret was esteemed as the mother of King Senwosret III, the wife of King Senwosret II and the daughter of Amenemhet II. Her limestone burial chamber and red granite sarcophagus reflect this esteem, but what shines more is the discovery of her gold jewelry, hidden in a niche in one of the tomb's passages. The artifacts were in many pieces; there were some 7000 beads of various sizes. The cache includes two beautiful amethyst scarabs that look like finger rings. Each scarab bears the two names of King Amenemhet III surrounded by what appear to be two snakes. Two finely detailed gold lions once formed part of a bracelet and reveal the skilled craftsmanship of the Middle Kingdom artisans. They stand among seven gold beads that were crafted in the shape of cowry shells and two amulets in the shape of leopard's claws that might have been worn around Weret's ankles. The New Kingdom, which began around 1550 BC, was a time of great wealth and power. Domesticated pets became common in households that could afford them. Considerable evidence shows that some cats were treated like royalty. A number of statuary pieces of cats survive, and they tend to show sleek, well-groomed, well-fed felines, frequently adorned with elaborate jewelry, including nose rings, ear rings, collars and pectoral plates. During the reign of Thutmosis II (1481-1479BC), small beads made in dark blue indicate the beginning of a new era. Jewelry of very high quality was produced during the reign of Thutmosis III (1479-1425BC) such as the jewelry found in the tomb of his wives in Thebes. Among the most outstanding pieces are bracelets of fine detail and beauty and an elegant necklace decorated with fish-shaped figures combined with glass beads, a beautiful headdress almost fully covered with rosettes inlayed with colored glass and a crown with the ureus (sacred cobra). The use of silica-based glass increased dramatically with the arrival of the New Kingdom. During the rule of Amenhotep III (1382-1344BC) and Akhnaton (1352-1336BC), the art of glazing underwent a significant improvement with the development of new colors and applications. Colors developed were violet-blue, a bright apple-green, chrome and lemon yellow, red, dark red and white. Vitreous composition in beads and scarab beetles were used in many amulets, pendants and ornaments made for necklaces and accessories. In this period there are more than 250 known shapes of items and symbols used in molds and flat plaques engraved with names. Faience and glass paste inlaying became a strong architectural trend. Big columns in the capitals were inlayed with red and blue palm designs separated by small rectangles and bands. They later applied the elaborate art of inlaying on the walls of the temple of Luxor, continuing the tradition on the mortuary temple of Ramesses III (1184-1153BC). The architectural decorations with vitreous composition and glass paste were reproduced in jewelry and there are still a large number of fine samples. The climax of glass applications in jewelry took place during the XVII dynasty and this effect is seen in the magnificent jewels with vitreous inlaying designed by the artisans from that period. The thoroughness of the work and the balance in the use of colors show how jewelry from the New Kingdom reaches its highest point in beauty and perfection. The Book of the Dead prescribed specific jewelry with stones which would carry the powers of their composition with them and produce magical qualities for the wearer, ensuring eternal life. Gold was almost always used since it was the color representing the gods, and by the New Kingdom period glass was also thought to carry the mystical properties of gemstones because of its mineral origins. Stones imitated in glass were agate and opal in white, turquoise and lapis lazuli in blue, carnelian in red, malachite in green and obsidian in black. Artisans achieved perfect imitation of semiprecious stones, developing extraordinary skills in cutting and polishing details where embedding required precision to the millimeter. Their work reached such perfection that, when running your hand over the surface, the sensation of continuity is so incredible that it could be mistaken for enamel. Egyptian artisans became so adept at crafting glass bead versions of precious stones that it was difficult to distinguish from the authentic. Jewelers were called goldsman, and gold artisan. Several artisans’ tombs have been located. The titles “Chief of the Goldworkers on the State of Amun” and “Chief of the Goldworkers” imply that they might have been royal artisans. “Overseer of the Treasury of Gold and Silver”, “Overseer of the Gold Land of Amun” and “Weigher of Amun” indicate a highly organized industry. Among the treasures discovered in the tomb of Queen Ashhotep from the XVIII dynasty is a typical Egyptian bracelet. It is rigid and can be opened by means of a hinge. The front part is decorated with a vulture, whose outspread wings cover the front half of the bracelet. The whole figure of the bird is inlaid with lapis lazuli, carnelian, and vitreous paste. Her gold chain is a masterpiece. Jewelry from the XVIII dynasty reaches its highest point during the reign of Tutankhamen and there is no better example of the ultimate artistic skills than the jewelry found in his tomb. Its treasures include gold filigree and granulated gold work, and you hardly know what to admire most: the gold mask of the adolescent king, the headdress and collar inlaid with colored glass, or the smaller specimens of the ancient jewelers' art including the pectoral ornaments with an inlaid background of cloisonné. Tutankhamen’s collection is the most complete royal treasure ever discovered. Tutankhamen’s jewels were made of gold and semiprecious stones depicting shapes and designs from nature, animals and plants. At least twenty-six inlayed pectorals were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, some dressing the mummy and others placed on different objects of the funerary equipment. Even though most of them show glass inlaying, semiprecious stones like quartz, jasper and carnelian were occasionally used and, in a few cases, lapis lazuli and turquoise. One pectoral displays a full moon resting on a gold barge that floats on a base in the form of lotus buds and flowers. The pectoral, in addition to being a very beautiful piece, combines to perfection semiprecious stones with glass. A vulture shaped pectoral is fashioned in gold inlayed with glass; the vulture is spread-winged and his head shows a left profile. This work is truly masterful, on the surface it is embedded with three hundred pieces of dark glass in different shades of blue and red, and the chased feathering on the underside shows the same craftsmanship. Several authors state that the piece is actually enameled but there is still no evidence that enameling was carried out during the pharaonic period. If it were true, it would be the most ancient sample of enameling. The necklaces have two distinct forms. One, called menat, was the exclusive attribute of divinity and was therefore worn only by the pharaohs. Tutankhamen's menat is a long necklace composed of many rows of beads in different shapes and colors, with a pendant and a decorated fastening that hung down behind the shoulders. The other, much more widely used throughout the whole period, was the usekh (Egyptian collar), which, like the vulture-shaped necklace, also has many rows and a semicircular form. Because of the great detail shown by most of the metal pieces used as jewel settings, it is very likely that lost-wax technique was used in their production. To carry out this procedure, a wax model was created to highlight the detailing, and then it was covered with a layer of clay bearing two cavities, one to pour out the flowing metal and the other to drain lost wax. This process allows for fine detailing in the pieces but has the disadvantage of not being suitable for mass or serial production like the open cast technique, which was used in the making of most amulets. Egyptian jewelry was free from outside influence until the 18th dynasty when earrings with imported jewels, unknown in classical Egyptian production, were first seen. Other evidence of the influence of foreign styles in some of the jewelry of the 18th dynasty is a headdress that covered nearly all of the hair, made of a network of rosette-shaped gold disks forming a fabric. In the XIX dynasty there is an abundance of inlayed glass pieces, like those found in Serapeum. One which stands out for its elegance and colorfulness is a falcon-shaped pectoral that belonged to Ramesses II. There are also bracelets, anklets and pendants which show great technical detail in the design and final polishing; even the grooves are very fine, which indicates that the tools used were of great quality. In the third intermediate period, at the end of the pharaonic era, glass continued to be generously used and we have the jewelry belonging to the famous Pharaoh mentioned in the sacred scriptures called Psusennes. Among the pectorals from this period are two outstanding pieces. One is pylon-shaped with a winged beetle in the center made out of gold and glass inlaying, the other is beetle-shaped, decorated in green jasper, and considered one of the most beautiful pieces from this period because of its coloring and symbolism. The gold wings are meticulously inlayed with glass pieces arranged in vertical lines. Above the head of the beetle the royal cartouche is found, with the name of the Pharaoh inlayed with glass and jasper pieces. From the Sheshonq reigning period, during the XXII dynasty, we can mention the conic shaped bracelets with lapis lazuli and glass embedding and the beautiful pectoral of a lapis lazuli beetle rising from the horizon with the solar disk above his head, flanked by two ureus serpents bearing the white crown. The consistency of symbolic colors, materials and forms gave the jewelry of ancient Egypt—which long remained uncontaminated in spite of contact with other civilizations—a magnificent, solid homogeneity, infused and enriched by magical religious beliefs. Foreign influence increased to an ever greater extent during the last dynasties and with the arrival of the Persians. Like all other forms of artistic expression the great artistic tradition of Egyptian jewelry slowly died out, and the introduction first of Persian influence and then Greek and Roman domination led to the decline of the most monumental cultural and artistic structure known throughout all history. Cheaper jewelry was made and scarab amulets were popularized to the extent that they became merely good luck charms. The first record of coins dates to 800 BC. The first coins were minted in Lydia, situated in the western part of Asia Minor, on the river Galis. Coins were made of gold, silver and electrum (a mixture of gold and silver that was available naturally in the silt of the river Paktolos which flows through Sardis). We know that coin jewelry was popular in the Roman Empire. Coins were hand-hammered, as there were no minting machines in those days and one example featured the emperor's head in profile and, on the reverse, two soldiers with battle standards. Coin jewelry was widely worn both by warriors who participated in the battle commemorated by the coin and by others hoping to flatter the person on the coin. Dancers who performed in the market-place were rewarded with coins tossed at their feet by passers-by. Having nowhere safe to stow their earnings, the dancers incorporated them into their dresses, sewing the coins onto the material itself as part of a bodice or head covering, and onto the shawls which they wore around their hips. Another solution was to convert the money into jewelry which could be worn at all times (a contrast to earlier times when dancers were paid with jewelry). As the use of coins spread, this also became a method for nomadic women to carry their wealth with them. Bedouin women are said to have worn their dowry in the form of silver and coin jewelry. Dowry and bride price were not traditions from pharonic times when Egyptian women were entitled to own, inherit and bequeath land, but first appear in Egypt during Greek and Roman times. Under Islam there are restrictions against wearing gold jewelry for men although they are allowed to wear silver. Not only are women allowed to wear gold, there is traditionally a large gift of gold jewelry from the groom when a woman marries. This often makes it difficult for men to marry at a young age and the tradition is diminishing somewhat. As in pharaonic times, jewelry in Egypt today is more likely to be of higher quality gold and semi-precious stones rather than precious stones. The hardness of diamonds and the malleability of high quality gold make them incompatible. The most common gold in Egypt today is 18K and jewelry is weighed to determine the price at the time of sale. While today’s craftsmen may not equal the artisans of the pharaohs, there are incredible replications of the finest jewelry in the history of mankind.