A Brief History of Jewellery

The history of jewellery dates back to prehistory. Jewellery was not invented as mere ornament of secondary value to our basic needs. Nor was it created as a superfluous good. Jewellery was created to meet the needs of prehistoric Man. The first examples of ornamentation date to before the Paleolithic era: animal teeth, fish scales, and pebbles strung together to allow them to be worn. The reason for these primitive pieces of jewellery was the need to distinguish their owner.

The need to show rank, or membership of a particular class, such as hunters or the clergy. Thus, to the hunter, a necklace of animal teeth became symbolic of physical strength and hunting prowess. Another value of such ornaments was their apotropaic powers: in ancient Egypt, shells with a vulva-like shape were used to ward off sterility.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the wine-red colour of amethysts led to their being used as a remedy against drunkenness. From jewellery worn in the past, to today, we can reconstruct the history of our species through their use and clothing: our beliefs, technical knowledge, and economy.

To Salvadori, the reasons for wearing jewellery does not come from a need to appear, or prove, ones wealth. Whatever the precious materials used, Salvadori believes wearing jewellery is symbolic. Symbolic of love, of faithfulness and affection. A target achieved. A memory. An object that can be handed down.