Grace Lee: Ancient Egyptian Jewelry

In ancient Egypt, jewelry played a larger part in their society in culture rather than just as beautiful adornments upon one's body. Royalty and those in higher positions wore larger, more luxurious items. Some of these included gold, which was said to represent the gods, the sun, and eternity, as well as precious gems, including turquoise and emerald. Gold was reserved for the highest of the highs due to its great significance and what it represents. Pectoral pieces for the pharaohs, wrist cuffs, and brooches were often reserved for the nobility due to the fine material they were created with. Necklaces or rings that were created with multiple types of stones and metals were also more for the noble. These jewels were beautifully crafted by the finest craftsmen, making pieces with different stones and metals. Those that were mass-produced were more for the common people, as jewelry was a common item to be worn in everyday life. They were also quite smaller in size. Jewelry worn by the lower class were often simple necklaces, bracelets, or possibly even stones hung on a piece of string. Yet, jewelry held such high importance that even the lowest class of people could still be adorned with them in death, even if it were as simple as a small ring. It was believed that certain types of jewelry, such as amulets, would benefit them in the afterlife, such in the way that deceased pharaohs are given gold and other valuables in their tombs. The idea was that having these items in the tomb would help the deceased be fruitful and prosper in the afterlife. This can still be seen today, as many discoveries have been found of sarcophagi of past pharaohs filled with these extravagant jewels. Aside from the afterlife, jewelry held another spiritual aspect as well. According to Lauren Alexrod’s article, “The Art and History of Ancient Egyptian Jewelry,” ancient Egyptians wore jewelry as a way to guard themselves from spiritual forces. In the way that we, today, hold different items for good luck, like a rabbit’s foot, and such, ancient Egyptians believed the same with their jewelry. Different stones were believed to hold different powers as they represented nature; for example, turquoise was believed to represent the green of spring, lapis lazuli, a beautiful bright blue stone, represented the sky, and carnelian, a red-orange stone, represented the orange of the desert (Axelrod). Possibly, these stones would help ward off unwanted, mysterious forces or even bring good luck to the owner. In today’s world, jewelry is still very important and extremely valuable, just not to the extent that the ancient Egyptians viewed it as. The amount of detail and care that was put into these divine pieces is truly a work of art, so much so that it is still an inspiration in today’s society. Axelrod, Lauren. "The Art and History of Ancient Egyptian Jewelry." Knoji. n.d. Web. 

The importance of the signet ring, also known as a "seal," was far more than just a seal for a document or such. The signet ring was used in the same way that written signatures are used today. Having a signet ring signified high authority, often because having one meant owning property, or for business transactions among the high class. Due to the personalization of each signet ring, those in high positions had recognizable inscriptions. No signet ring was identical. In ancient Egypt, the flat side displayed beautifully made carvings and inscriptions. Hieroglyphics were often seen, as were drawing of beetles, which were very valuable to the ancient Egyptians. Some signet rings were made of gold, mainly for the nobility, whereas more common ones were made form porcelain or clay. Tefft, Daniella Olivia. "The Fascinating History of Signet Rings." Found In The Jewelry Box Blog. 14 April, 2011. Web. 12 May, 2016.
The Necklace with Fly Pendant is made of gold and lapis lazuli, both of which are very valuable now and especially during the time of ancient Egypt. This specific necklace, according to the Brooklyn Museum, is from the age of the New Kingdom. The necklace is a type that was very common during that time as the fly represented great importance to the Egyptians. According to Menna El-Dorry’s article, “Jewels of Honour,” El-Dorry writes of the Golden Fly of Valour, another fly focused necklace, in hieroglyphics, flies were portrayed as the “determinator,” most likely in the context of war and the military, a representation that became apparent during the New Kingdom period. The Necklace with Fly Pendant is adorned with six golden flies and one larger one in the center. El-Dorry states that the fly was used for the word “determination” because of its ability and persistence to come back no matter the amount of times it is forced away, similar in the way the enemies of the New Kingdom were persistent in war. However, this is just one theory as to what the significance the fly actually holds. Another theory, according to El-Dorry, is that because women were often found wearing necklaces adorned with flies, and due to the fact that women were not active in the military, these necklaces belonged to their husbands who may have died in service. These necklaces adorned with flies were also found in tombs of those who were not in the military. El-Dorry, Menna. Jewels of Honour. Arab World Books. n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
This gold pendant brooch was actually not from ancient Egypt; it is inspired by the ancient Egyptian style. Made by the Phillips Brothers, jewelers from London, it incorporates very obvious Egyptian style adornments. The cobras on either side of the pendant are a clear influence from Egyptian jewelry, as the cobra represented protection (Crawford). Crawford, Benna. The Significance of Cobras to Ancient Egypt. n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
The Gold Taweret necklace is a fine example of jewelry made for not just the noble, but for all social groups as well. Created during the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt, it is made completely out of gold and in the form of Taweret, the ancient Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility. This necklace was very important to women of ancient Egypt, especially for the wives of kings. According to the British Museum, it was believed that wearing this necklace, or even in the form of a bracelet, would protect those during childbirth and help the owner during fertility.
The Broad Collar necklace was one of the most common pieces of jewelry that was worn among the royalty and elite of ancient Egypt. Not exclusive in style, the broad collar necklace could be seen with many different types of stones, jewels, and metals. Though it is unknown what the exact material was used for this particular necklace, it features the common modular, teardrop beads, as is shown in the Brooklyn Museum official website. It was believed that the gods would also wear these types of necklaces as well, thus why kings and other nobility wore them as well.
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