Jewelry as Ritual
The importance of jewelry in history rests in its ritualistic nature.
In ancient Egypt, a cartouche, an oval or oblong pendant, was often placed on the neck of the deceased person so they could be identified in the afterlife.
Jade has been a part of Chinese culture for over 7,000 years and is said to protect the wearer from bad luck, illness, or evil spirits.
The Celtic torque was a symbol of high rank and symbolized divine or magical protection. They were believed to protect one from curses or harm in battle.
The Navajo people of the American Southwest believe turquoise symbolizes happiness, health, and luck. Its colors in shades of blue, green, black and white connect to the natural world.
Jewelry as Pop Culture
As for the importance of jewelry in modern culture, perhaps Marilyn Monroe said it best, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Elizabeth Taylor no doubt believed that. Who wouldn’t if presented with the 69.42-carat pear-shaped stone, eventually called the Taylor-Burton Diamond? Then there are celebrities like Audrey Hepburn wearing that multi-strand pearl necklace in breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Heart of the Ocean worn by Rose (Kate Winslet) in Titanic, that ruby and diamond heart necklace Richard Gere presented to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. These jewels have become part of pop culture and the stuff of movie legend.
Jewelry as Celebration
The importance of jewelry is clear. From birthstone, to our first pearl necklace, our wedding ring and later gifts, jewelry often marks significant passages in our lives.
Personally, I’ve always been drawn to red and blue gemstones, but I went through a turquoise phase that would have made Millicent Rogers proud. For me, jewelry has always been special, whether a gift from a parent, significant other or friend. A certain piece can bring back memories, evoke a certain mood, or touch my heart. The diamond ring (really a diamond chip) given to me by my first real boyfriend; the silver cross necklace my mother presented to me before I moved away; the anniversary band my husband gave me; the bracelet with a charm engraved with “Mom” from my stepsons. To me, the importance of jewelry doesn’t lie in its cost, but in its personal story.
What do your favorite pieces say to you?
Read Choosing Your Gemstone Jewelry to learn more about jewelry and precious metals.