A Timeline of Jewellery

110.000 – 73.000 BC – Decorative sea shell beads found in the archaeological digs in Morocco. They were probably used as amulets. Drilled shells have also been found in Israel, Algeria and South Africa.

38.000 BC – Beads made from bone and animal teeth found in France.

28.000 BC – Fossilized shells and ivory beads found in the East Gravettian culture, located in modern Czech Republic.

4400 BC – Around the time of first domesticated animals and invention of wheel, ancient Thracian civilization produced oldest known objects made from gold.

5000- 30 BC – Use of copper starts a new era in jewellery production, and secrets of alluvial gold gathering arrives in Egypt around 4000 BC. They quickly start producing glazed steatite beads and countless jewellery designs based on scarab beetles, scrolls, winged birds, tigers, jackals and antelopes. Popular gemstones of that time were carnelian, feldspar, amethyst, chalcedony, lapis lazuli and turquoise.

2750 – 1200 BC – Ancient Mesopotamia produced wide range of jewellery based on the design of lives, grapes, cones and spirals. Gemstones that they used were agate, lapis, jasper and carnelian.

1400 – 30BC – Greek jewellery was made in the style of animals and shells and was infused with the amethysts, pearls, chalcedony, cornelian, garnet and emeralds.

500 BC – 400 AD – Ancient Roma preferred seal rings, brooches, amulets and talismans that were infused with the designs of animals and coiling snakes. Most popular gemstones were sapphires, emeralds, pearls, amber, garnets, jet and diamonds.

400 – 1000 AD – In European Dark Ages use of jewellery was not common, except among higher nobility and royalty.

1066 – 1485 – Medieval jewellery finally become widespread by the help of religion. The most famous designs of that time were hair and cloth jewellery that was worn during religious ceremonies. They were adorned with gemstones such as rubies, sapphires, pearls, emeralds, semi-precious stones and diamonds.

1500 -1830 – Arrival of Renaissance and Georgian time period brought rise of jewellery use in entire Europe. Necklaces (single or multi strand), earrings (ordinary or with chandeliers), and many other designs were decorated with the images of animals. Intricately designed gemstones became very popular to the point that diamond jewellery became commonly used as a part of evening attire.

1835 – 1900 – Reign of English Queen Victoria had a profound effect of fashion and jewellery tastes in Europe.

Early 1900s – These years were remembered for the Art Noveau and Edwardian styles.

1920 – 1935 – Roaring Twenties brought the rise of the Art Deco, which introduced jewellery of vibrant colours, filled with geometrical shapes, abstract designs, cubism, modernism and oriental art. It also popularized wearing of wristwatches.

1939 – 1949 – Because of influence of World War II and widespread embargoes on gemstones, popular jewellery shifted to the more metal based designs adorned with patriotic motifs and semi-precious and synthetic gemstones.

1950s – Post war years saw the return of brightly coloured jewellery, heavy use of rhinestones and big beads. Diamonds solidified its spot as the most popular gemstone.

 

 

Where do precious and semi-precious stones come from?

Precious and Semi Precious Gemstones:

Myth and Reality

Precious Blue Sapphire

The idea that some gemstones are precious and others are only semi-precious is familiar to every buyer of colored stones. Precious stones like diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds – traditionally command high prices due to their extraordinary color or brilliance and extreme rarity.

While the precious stones are deservedly famous, the conventional distinction between precious and semi-precious gems is laden with myth and misconceptions. Let’s try to sort out some of the myths from the reality.

One common misconception is that the distinction between precious and semi-precious gemstones is traditional, going back many centuries. In fact it is a recent innovation, dating only to the nineteenth century. The first use of “semi-precious” to mean “of less commercial value than a precious stone” can be traced back to only 1858.

Tsavorite Garnet

Another misconception is that the list of four precious gems has a long history. In fact the traditional list of precious gemstones is rather longer and includes some surprising members. Pearl was considered to be precious; so was opal. One of the most traditional precious stones with a history going back to ancient Greece is amethyst. Amethyst was reclassified as semi-precious after large deposits were found in Brazil and Uruguay in the first half of the nineteenth century. The introduction of the term semi-precious into the English lexicon corresponds with the new amethyst discoveries.

Of all the precious stones, diamond is the most subject to myth. It is interesting that the myths are of modern rather than ancient origin. Historically, colored gemstones such as ruby and sapphire were more highly valued than diamond, mainly because diamond was not particularly rare. But the twentieth century saw a major change. The first thing that happened is that very large finds in South Africa created an even more abundant supply of gem-quality diamond. At the same time, the perceived value of diamond has risen to the point where it’s fair to say that diamond is at the top of the list of the precious stones in the mind of the buying public. What happened? Aren’t precious gems valued particularly for their rarity?

Rare Red Spinel

In the 19th century, the collective worldwide production of diamond only amounted to a few pounds per year. After the discovery of the huge South African diamond mines in 1870, diamonds were being dug out of the ground literally by the ton. There was such a glut of supply and so little demand that the British financiers of the South African mines were in danger of losing their investment. Their solution was to create the powerful De Beers cartel that to this day controls worldwide diamond production and supply. Quality diamonds are actually not scarce at all. But De Beers controls how much supply comes on the market and that keeps prices high.

The De Beers consortium also mounted a concerted advertising campaign that spanned decades, in order to create an association of diamonds with love, courtship and marriage, under the now familiar slogan “Diamonds are Forever”. The diamond engagement ring, once unknown in most parts of the world (including Europe), is now considered an essential part of the ritual of marriage. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that diamond’s special position as a precious stone is largely due to monopoly economics and social engineering.

Natural African Tourmaline

These days a number of rare semi-precious stones such as alexandrite, demantoid garnet, tsavorite garnet and tanzanite can be just as expensive as ruby and sapphire. Very fine tourmaline, spinel and large aquamarine gems also command very high prices. It is fair to say that we have now reached the point where the distinction between precious and semi-precious gemstones has become meaningless. The US Federal Trade Commission periodically considers banning the use of the terms altogether to reduce consumer confusion. Indeed, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) has already added the following text to their Code of Ethics; “Members should avoid the use of the term ‘semi-precious’ in describing gemstones”.

Excert:  Gemselect