Jewellery or jewelry is a form of personal adornment, manifesting itself as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Jewellery may be made from any material, usually gemstones, precious metals, beads, or shells. Factors affecting the choice of materials include cultural differences and the availability of the materials. Jewellery may be appreciated because of its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols. Jewellery differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to look appealing. Items such as belts and handbags are considered to be accessories rather than jewellery.
The word jewellery is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicized from the Old French “jouel” circa the 13th century.Further tracing leads back to the Latin word “jocale“, meaning plaything. Jewellery is one of the oldest forms of body adornment; recently-found 100,000-year-old beads made from Nassarius shells are thought to be the oldest known jewellery.
Jewellery is sometimes regarded as a way of showing wealth and might also possess some minimal functionality, such as holding a garment together or keeping hair in place. It has from very early times been regarded as a form of personal adornment. The first pieces of jewellery were made from natural materials, such as bone, animal teeth, shell, wood and carved stone. Some jewellery throughout the ages may have specifically been as an indication of a social group. More exotic jewellery is often for wealthier people, with its rarity increasing its value. Due to its personal nature and its indication of social class, some cultures established traditions of burying the dead with their jewellery.
Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings and many more types of jewellery. While traditional jewellery is usually made with gemstones and precious metals, such as silver or gold, there is also a growing demand for art jewellery where design and creativity is prized above material value. In addition, there is the less costly costume jewellery, made from lower value materials and often mass-produced. Other variations include wire sculpture (wrap) jewellery, using anything from base metal wire with rock tumbled stone to precious metals and precious gemstones.
Jewellery has been used to denote status. In ancient Rome, for instance, only certain ranks could wear rings; Later, sumptuary laws dictated who could wear what type of jewellery, again based on rank. Cultural dictates have also played a significant role. For example, the wearing of earrings by Western men was considered effeminate in the 19th century and early 20th century. More recently, the display of body jewellery, such as piercings, has become a mark of acceptance or seen as a badge of courage within some groups but is completely rejected in others. Likewise, hip hop culture has popularised the slang term bling-bling, which refers to ostentatious display of jewellery by men or women.
Conversely, the jewellery industry in the early 20th century launched a campaign to popularise wedding rings for men, which caught on, as well as engagement rings for men, which did not, going so far as to create a false history and claim that the practice had medieval roots. By the mid 1940s, 85% of weddings in the U.S. featured a double-ring ceremony, up from 15% in the 1920s. Religion has also played a role: Islam, for instance, considers the wearing of gold by men as a social taboo, and many religions have edicts against excessive display. In Christianity, the New Testament gives injunctions against the wearing of gold, in the writings of the apostles Paul and Peter. In Revelation 17, “the great whore” or false religious system, is depicted as being “decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand.” (Rev. 17:4)