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Fashion has gone through incredible changes in each era of history, some of which have been repeated and some hopefully, never will be. Jewellery is a unique part of fashion and it illustrates the tastes of the particular time offering an insight into the lifestyle of these bygone ages. The different cultures throughout history had their own ideas of what was or wasn’t beautiful jewellery whether it was gold, silver or encrusted with gemstones, and we can learn a lot from these items about particular period in history.
Jewellery has always being created using both imagination and personal choice but the actual use of an item also plays a big part in the design – whether it was for decorative use or practical use, for fastening a garment for example. The social position of the wearer also played a part in the design.
The brooch has been an essential part of clothing throughout history. In Medieval times, they were an integral part of the wardrobe being used to fasten cloaks and tunics. Similarly in the middle ages when so many items of clothing needed to be securely fastened. At this time jewelled belts were also common, the brooches were often of Celtic design and usually made from pewter or sterling silver.
Early Roman brooches were also mainly for fastening togas but were usually in the form of a pin or bow and catch plate, very like large safety pins of today. These pins/brooches were made in Britain but were also popular in Europe, the basic design originating from the Celts.
Early Celtic jewellery were large rings, worn as a necklace called a Torc. The Celts wore these torcs into battle, as a good luck charm to bring them through the battle safely. They wore no other armour so they certainly needed a lucky charm of some sort. Similar items are worn today although they are more often worn as bangles than choker type necklaces.
Mediaeval jewellery was often designed and made by monks in the monasteries, who developed their skills to become skilled craftsmen. Although a lot of the jewellery was specifically for the church, what was worn was designed to show status and power. The aristocracy and royalty wore quite ostentatious wedding and engagement rings with precious stones embedded whereas those of a lower social standing wore copper and pewter based pieces.
Members of royal families and the aristocracy wore ostentatious gold or silver wedding rings and engagement rings, encrusted with precious stones, while those from a lower social class lower social wore their jewellery fashioned from pewter and copper.
The professional jewellers of all ages used casting, filigree, inlaying and granulation for example and often included garnets, rubies, cornelian stones, pearl jewellery and emeralds for their more socially elevated clients.
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