History of Jewellery Making: The Evolution of Adornment

History of Jewellery Making: The Evolution of Adornment

History of Jewellery Making: The Evolution of Adornment

Posted on June 11th, 2024

Jewellery has played a significant role in human culture for thousands of years, serving as symbols of status, power, and beauty.

The history of jewellery making is a fascinating journey that showcases how these adornments have evolved over time, reflecting changing tastes, technologies, and cultural significance.

From early natural materials to modern innovations, let's take a closer look at the rich history of jewellery.

Ancient Beginnings

The earliest forms of jewellery date back to prehistoric times. Early humans adorned themselves with natural materials such as shells, bones, and stones.

For example, seashell necklaces found in Africa, dating back around 75,000 years, are some of the earliest known jewellery items.

As human societies evolved, so did the complexity and craftsmanship of their jewellery.

The ancient Egyptians, known for their sophisticated culture, crafted jewellery from gold, turquoise, and lapis lazuli.

Egyptian jewellery often depicted religious symbols and deities, signifying the wearer's connection to the divine.

Classical Antiquity

Classical antiquity, encompassing ancient Greece and Rome, marked a significant leap in the history of jewellery making.

Greek jewellery makers excelled in crafting intricate designs using gold and gemstones.

Techniques like filigree and granulation, involving tiny beads or twisted threads, were introduced to create detailed patterns.

Roman jewellery, influenced by the Greeks, became more elaborate and ostentatious. Wealthy citizens adorned themselves with gold rings, brooches, and necklaces.

Gemstones such as emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds were highly prized, and the art of engraving gemstones, known as glyptics, became popular.

Medieval Period

During the mediaeval period, jewellery continued to signify wealth and power, but it also took on new religious meanings.

Christian symbols became prevalent in jewellery designs, reflecting the deep religious convictions of the time.

Crosses, saints, and biblical scenes were commonly depicted in jewellery, serving as both personal adornment and expressions of faith.

The mediaeval period also saw the rise of enamelwork, a technique that involves fusing powdered glass to metal to create colourful, intricate designs.

Cloisonné and champlevé were popular enamel techniques, used to decorate brooches, pendants, and reliquaries.

Renaissance and Baroque Periods

The Renaissance period marked a revival of classical art and culture, and this was reflected in the jewellery of the time.

Jewellery designs became more elaborate and ornate, inspired by ancient Greek and Roman motifs.

The use of precious metals and gemstones reached new heights, and the techniques of enamelling and gemstone cutting advanced significantly.

Baroque jewellery, which followed the Renaissance, was characterised by its extravagant and theatrical style.

Baroque artists favoured large, bold pieces adorned with pearls, diamonds, and coloured gemstones.

The use of symmetry and elaborate detailing became prominent, creating pieces that were both visually striking and technically complex.

Georgian and Victorian Eras

The Georgian era, spanning the early 18th to the early 19th century, continued the tradition of elaborate jewellery.

Georgian jewellery often featured intricate metalwork, and gemstones were set in closed-back settings to enhance their brilliance.

Popular motifs included bows, flowers, and scrolls, reflecting the romantic and ornate tastes of the time.

The Victorian era, named after Queen Victoria, saw significant changes in jewellery styles.

Queen Victoria's love for jewellery influenced fashion trends, and her mourning period following Prince Albert's death led to the popularity of mourning jewellery.

These sombre pieces, often made of jet and onyx, featured motifs such as weeping willows and urns.

Victorian jewellery also embraced sentimental themes, with lockets, brooches, and rings often containing hair or portraits of loved ones.

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Movements

The turn of the 20th century brought about the Art Nouveau movement, characterised by its flowing, organic designs inspired by nature.

Art Nouveau jewellery featured intricate enamelwork, as well as motifs of flowers, insects, and mythical creatures.

Following World War I, the Art Deco movement emerged, bringing a stark contrast to the flowing lines of Art Nouveau.

Art Deco jewellery was defined by its geometric shapes, bold colours, and use of new materials like platinum and Bakelite.

The movement embraced modernity and glamour, with pieces often featuring diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires arranged in symmetrical patterns.

Modern Innovations and Wearable Art

The history of jewellery making continues to evolve in the modern era, with innovations in technology and design pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Contemporary jewellers experiment with a wide range of materials, including unconventional ones like plastic, wood, and textiles.

This era of jewellery making is marked by a fusion of traditional craftsmanship and modern aesthetics.

Customisation and personalisation have become significant trends, allowing clients to create bespoke pieces that reflect their unique tastes and stories.

Ethical and sustainable practices have also influenced modern jewellery making.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchases, leading to a demand for responsibly sourced materials and fair-trade practices.

Cultural Significance

Throughout history, jewellery has held profound cultural significance, serving as more than just adornment.

In many cultures, jewellery is worn to mark important life events, such as weddings, births, and religious ceremonies.

It often carries deep symbolic meanings, representing love, power, protection, and identity.

About Kellerwood Jewellers

At Kellerwood Jewellers, located in Sussex, we take immense pride in providing the highest quality jewellery using the finest materials sourced globally.

Specialising in bespoke jewellery, we tackle any design challenge.

Our custom designs include diamond and gemstone rings, unique necklaces, earrings, and gemstone studs.

Whether refreshing an older piece or creating something new, we ensure personalised service and exceptional craftsmanship.

Experience the luxury of our jewellery with a free consultation and join our family of satisfied clients.


The history of jewellery making is a journey through time, showcasing the evolution of adornment from ancient shells and stones to the sophisticated designs of today.

At Kellerwood Jewellers, we are passionate about sharing this journey with our clients, offering exquisite pieces that reflect both tradition and innovation.

If you're interested in adding a piece of history to your collection or creating a bespoke design, we invite you to get in touch with us.

Call us at 020 3713 7757 or email us at [email protected].

Let us help you find or create the perfect piece of jewellery that tells your unique story.

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