Jewellery and Accessories

The jewellery and accessories we wear are a part of our personal style and expression. They can highlight our personality or draw attention to certain regions of the body – from bold and colourful designs to delicate and minimal pieces. However, there is more to wearing jewellery than just its aesthetics, it can also bring healing and spiritual energy.

The word ‘Jewellery’ means something made or fashioned with great care, especially of gold and silver. Jewellery can be functional (as in fixing clothing or hair), artistic/decorative, or a marker of social status. It can also be used as a symbol of commitment or love, such as a wedding ring or a crucifix.

Many materials have been used to create jewellery over the centuries. These include precious metals, stones and gemstones; glass, particularly fused-glass; wood, often carved; shells; bones and other animal substances; pearls and other natural animal products; vegetal fibres such as nettles, grasses and hemp; and ceramics. All of these have undergone some mechanical, physical or chemical treatment to transform them into forms that are suitable for jewellery. Metals have been refined through casting, annealing, hardening and tempering, and the use of electro-plating or etching techniques to produce decorative effects. Other substances, such as bone and ivory have been carved or turned into beads, and glass has been cut, ground and shaped into vessels.

Enameling, which preceded polychromy and was widely used in Egypt, Greece and the Sasanian period in Iran, is a technique for decorating metals with coloured enamel. Enameling is done by cutting grooves in the surface of a piece of jewellery with a graver and filling these with a powder composed of red copper, silver, lead, sulfur and borax which is heated until it melts, adhering to the grooves and leaving a black design on the surface. Another way that colours are added to jewelry is by the niello technique. This consists of cutting grooves in the surface of a gold or silver piece, and then filling them with niello powder that is mixed with other ingredients to form different shades.

Throughout the world, men and women have been adorned with jewellery to enhance their appearances. For centuries, it was considered to be a feminine practice to wear earrings and necklaces. Nowadays, however, men are also sporting more jewellery, such as chains, bangles and leather bracelets.

The Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements of the early 20th century brought the focus of jewellery back to its roots in artistry. Rene Lalique was a major contributor to this movement, and the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony and Wiener Werkstatte in Germany also contributed. In the United Kingdom, the work of Charles Robert Ashbee, Liberty & Co and Georg Jensen helped to promote this trend. In addition to focusing on the artistic nature of jewellery, these movements introduced new materials and processes that increased the variety and cost of styles. Precious stones were used in a greater quantity, and more emphasis was placed on the design of the jewellery rather than its practical functions.