Ancient Egyptian Jewelry
For many people, jewelry is a good way to express who we are and what we think of as attractive. Our wedding bands symbolize our devotion, and maybe we have a lucky ring or pendant that we always wear to job interviews.
From Nose Rings To Anklets
The ancient Egyptians had much the same relationship with jeweler that we do; the only difference is that they have been doing it for a great deal longer than we have.
Ancient Egypt gives us what might be the first evidence for worn jewelry, and through the long dynasties, it can be seen that jewelry was very much a part of Egyptian culture. Ancient Egypt was not defined by a single style or fashion; Egyptian culture grew and evolved over a span of thousands of years, and no matter who or what something is, it is not likely to stay the same over such a lengthy period of time.
Think about some of the jewelry changes that we have seen. We've gone from delicate Victorian cameos to the long strands of beads worn by flappers to the hemp and bead combinations sported during the late nineties. Given that sort of variety over just a century, it is easy to see that Egyptian jewelry has gone through changes that are just as radical. Take a look at a few pieces of jewelry that were seen often in Egypt, even if the styles changed a great deal.
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry - Bracelets
One of the places that Egyptians loved to wear jewelry were the wrists and the ankles, and very frequently their anklets and bracelets came in matching sets. The earliest bracelets found were simply various stones and beads that were strung on a string and then wrapped around the wrist or ankle.
These beads were originally not very even, as they were made using relatively crude means, but they were still quite striking. Some early examples include bracelets that were strung with golden balls, lapis beads, turquoise beads and thin hollow tubes that were used to space the more precious beads.
These beads were strung on gold wires or animal hair, and the whole bracelet would close with a ball that was pushed through a loop of cord. One of the most famous designs featured small plaques of turquoise and gold, where the gold was impressed with the design of a falcon.
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry - Anklets
While men and women both wore bracelets, it seems that the women were the ones who most often would wear anklets, or at least, they were the ones who were known for it! As mentioned above, anklets and bracelets often came in matching sets, using similar materials that were meant to complement one another. Of course the quality of the material used would vary on the wealth of the wearer; a member of a fine household could expect to wear anklets made of gold or strung with valuable lapis or malachite, while a poor person might have to make do with dried berries or clay beads.
It was fairly common for the anklets to have small metal dangling bits or bells, causing the wearer to jingle wherever they went; one piece of Egyptian folklore states that a woman can be easily identified by the way she jingles her anklets and how coyly she makes them sound.
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry - Rings
Like bracelets, rings started out as strings of beads that were strung with gold beads or wound with wires of copper or silver. Stringing a scarab bead onto the wire before twisting it closed created a very popular kind of ring, a design which remained popular for thousands of years, even if the method to make it and the materials changed. Scarab rings were found in a variety of different graves and tombs, and they have been made with materials as various as gold wire, turquoise, carnelian, amethyst, and the highly prized lapis.
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry - Earrings
Though some say that it was the great pharaoh Ahkhenaten who first introduced concept of earrings to Egypt, there is evidence that it goes back even further. Egyptian earrings started out as simple wire hoops and then evolved continuously. Thick rings that would stretch the earlobe were common, as were small plugs that would rest directly in the ear.
When you think of Egyptian earrings, though, you are likely thinking of the long and elaborate strands of gold beads and plaques that nearly touched the shoulder. Earrings were fairly unisex, and it was as common to see a man with long, elegant earrings as it was to see a woman with simple hoops.
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry Pendants and Charms
For the Egyptians, jewelry was as likely to have a spiritual meaning as it was to have a decorative one. Pendants and charms could be powerful amulets to ward off the evil eye, and they often conformed to shapes that were thought of as lucky or protective. Scarabs were quite popular, as were falcons and cows.
The people of a certain city might prefer certain charms that represented their patron deity; for example, people who felt an affinity for the goddess Hapi would wear a hippopotamus, while people who felt more for Sobek and the city of Arsinoe might wear a crocodile. With all of that information in mind, how can you get a more authentic Egyptian look through jewelry?
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry - Stones
Start by looking for the stones that the Egyptians would have prized. You'll find that Egyptians largely preferred the stones that we consider semiprecious. In addition to the lapis, amethyst and turquoise listed above, you'll often find carnelian, feldspar, garnet and beryl were used.
Remember that faceting gems is largely a new thing, and look for jewelry that uses cabochons, that is, stones that have been rounded. Gold and silver were both used, but remember that no one would have worn silver when they could have afforded gold.
There are many different things to think about when it comes to wearing ancient Egyptian jewelry, but you'll find that simply by looking at good pictures that you'll be in a great place to get started to add the right pieces to your Egyptian costumes. The slide show above shows good examples of Ancient Egyptian and Assyrian jewelry, rings, ear rings, bracelets, anklets, amulets, necklaces, arm bracelets, nose rings, and pendants.
Enjoy, Ancient Egyptian Jewelry