Jewelry

The whole idea of jewelry has an allure that is hard to describe. The word jewelry comes from the Old French word jouel, which in turn comes from the Latin jocale, which means “plaything.” The British spelling is jewelry, while most other countries use the American spelling, which is jewelry.

They are decoration for the body and may be attached to a body part or on clothes. These include rings, necklaces, earrings, brooches, and bracelets, and normally refers to something that is durable, so real flowers or bugs are not considered jewelry.

Metal with gemstones are the most popular type of jewelry for many centuries, as  evidenced by archaeological artifacts. However, some cultures use corals, beads and shells as well, and most have survived thousands of years intact.  The strongest influence on jewelry design comes from Asia.

Uses of Jewelry

While most jewelry is for decoration, it has other uses. They can be functional, such as hair clips to keep hair in place, or belt buckles to keep pants up. There are also brooches to keep a scarf in place, or watch pieces to keep time. Jewelry is also  used to denote someone’s social status, such as an engagement or wedding rings, and  as a mark of financial status. Jewelry can also denote religious affiliation, such as a cross pendant for Christians, or the Star of David for the Jews.  Some people use jewelry as  a talisman, to  protect them from  harm or to bring the wearer luck. It may also be a symbol of mourning, or love.  However,  perhaps the most universal use of jewelry is as a way to store wealth. Most cultures have the practice of amassing large amounts of jewelry. It has also been used in commerce, such as in the form of coins or beads.

Materials

As mentioned earlier, precious metals and gemstones are the most popular materials for jewelry.  Any metal can and has been used in various combinations. Bronze, a combination of copper and some other metal such as nickel or manganese, was popular during Roman times, for example.  Modern jewelry,  however,  uses precious metals can be gold, silver, platinum, or palladium,

Most gold and silver jewelry are made with alloys, because gold is too soft, and silver tarnishes. Most precious metal alloys are expressed as parts per one thousand. Sterling silver, for example, has 92.5% silver, and the mark of purity says 925. Platinum is the same, which is often 95% pure, marked 950.  Gold purity,  however,  is expressed in karats. Pure gold is 24 karats or 24K, so gold jewelry can be anything down to 10K, which means 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metal.

Gemstones, on the other hand may be semi precious or precious stones. Precious stones are diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, but some semi precious stones such as garnets and opals can be more valuable if they are rare enough.

Jewelry in history

There was a time when jewelry could only be worn by people with status. In Rome, for example, rings were only worn by a person with rank. Laws were in effect that limited the use of luxury items, called sumptuary laws.  Back in the day  men wore earrings, but in the 19th and 20th century it was considered effeminate. Today, it is again acceptable for men to wear earrings.  Body jewelry has also become popular as body piercings became a badge of courage.

Gold is the most popular metal for wedding rings in the Western world, but that isn’t true for all cultures for religious reasons. Back in the day, Christians considered  the wearing of gold as sinful. Islam considered gold as socially taboo for men.

Only women get engagement rings, and back in the day, that was also the case for wedding rings before 1940s.  The jewelry industry made wedding rings for men popular, and then finally required. By the middle of the 1940s, most US weddings (85%) had rings for both men and women. It was a pretty smart move, doubling their sales by the simple expediency of making double-ring ceremonies mandatory. They tried it for engagement rings, too, but that didn’t catch on. Three-quarters of women get gold-and-diamond engagement rings.

Market of Jewerly

Jewelry is popular all over the world, but the biggest markets are in Asia-Pacific (59%), of which China (31%) and India (15%) predominate in 2015. The US is only second at 22%, and Western Europe at 9%. Nearly half (43%) of  the  jewelry sales in the US was from specialty jewelers and there is a growing demand for branded jewelry I.e. Tiffany’s because of “new” money consumers. The global jewelry industry is worth $310 billion, but the demand for gold for use in jewelry is declining slowly. Half of all jewelry bought online are diamonds.

Trivia

  • The first diamonds were discovered in India more than 2,400 years ago
  • South America is the biggest supplier of diamonds in the modern world
  • The first engagement ring was given by Maximilian of Austria to his fiancee Mary of Burgundy in 1477
  • Mesopotamia and Egypt are where the first to organize the jewelry trade, leading to advancements in jewelry making
  • Jewelry was the root of many changes in fashion and civilization
  • The Cullinan is the largest diamond ever mined, weighing in ta 1.3 pounds
  • The first artistic pieces of jewelry began with the metal age
  • Pearls are not technically a gem because it is not a mineral; however, it is considered a semi precious gemstone
  • Platinum used to be discarded by the Spaniards because they thought it was unripe gold
  • Diamonds are made of pure carbon, and each one took 3 million years to form under intense heat and pressure
  • Amber is fossilized tree sap, while obsidian is volcanic glass; both are often used in jewelry
  • Precious stones with rich colors are more expensive, except when it’s a diamond, where the absence of color is considered a plus
  • Clarity is the most important factor affecting the value of a precious gem