The jewel in the history of human societies.
The first traces of rings, bracelets, necklaces and jewels date back to the Bronze Age, but it cannot be ruled out that objects that have not reached our days were already used in previous times. Numerous jewels in various materials have been found at archaeological sites of the time, which testify how, over 5,000 years ago, man had developed an aesthetic taste and sought elements capable of enhancing the physical appearance.
In Ancient Rome, the double Hellenic and Etruscan influence gave birth to valuable creations especially with an aesthetic intent but also to reaffirm belonging to a high rank, especially among the military and priests.
During the Middle Ages, with the introduction of the Christian canon, the goldsmith’s art went into crisis until it almost disappeared completely, but it made a strong comeback starting from the Renaissance, where it was elevated to the rank of art and the workings became real artisan excellence.
It is the history of man who clearly tells us that the jewel is much more than an object. Since prehistoric times, men have developed objects for personal use that had a high symbolic value in their private and social relationships. The jewel has marked all human societies as an artifact that, beyond its intrinsic value, is thanks to its symbolic value that rises from the concept of a common object to become something precious.
Throughout history, the concept of jewelery has not always necessarily been accompanied by an “economic” value, rather with a symbolic value. So for example the eagle feathers in Indian tribes, much more simply the bones or teeth of animals, the lion in particular, beyond their potential exchange value, were symbols of strength and power.
In advanced societies, jewelery has acquired new and different characteristics, inevitably associating itself with the use of increasingly rare and precious materials. But above all it was characterized by a further indicator of value, namely the manual ability of the craftsmen to create unique objects, a plastic expression of desire and at the same time a catalyst of admiration for those who owned them.
Etymology of the term jewel
From fr. ancient joel, from Lat. vulg. * iocāle ‘related to the game’, combined with joie ‘joy1’ • sec. XIII.
The jewel between memory and feeling.
Joy or happiness represented plastically in the object that becomes a jewel. The jewel raised as a symbol of the bond between people. Legacy to be handed down from one generation to another and a symbol of a love that is renewed.
A jewel thus takes on a value as a function linked to memory. A jewel therefore becomes a treasure, which allows you to always carry someone’s memory with you, beyond the limits of space and time.
Handed down from generation to generation, jewels play a fundamental role in keeping a tradition alive through a ritual to be handed down to posterity. Wearing them is therefore a way to activate and perpetuate memory and cultural identity.
The ring, which in itself contains perfection and the concept of infinity of the circle, becomes the shared symbol of love or fidelity in the couple relationship.
Think for example of the wedding promise ring or the engagement ring, represented par excellence by the solitaire, embellished with a diamond, emblem of eternal love.
The jewels have become the symbolic gift to express feelings and bonds, not only the ring therefore, but bracelets and necklaces take on great importance in defining the relationship between people.
The symbolic value of identical rings or bracelets to seal a bond of deep friendship and belonging, even between men, has a tradition that sinks into time.
The jewel is the gift par excellence to underline the importance of the recipient for the donor. It attributes value to the other. Giving a unique jewel means attributing the same uniqueness to the person who will wear it.
The symbolic value certainly exceeds the value of the object itself. It is the occasion that defines the value of a jewel. A thread of colored rope can be worth a gold and diamond ring if it is linked to a solemn promise and the exceptional nature of a moment.
But love has always pushed men to look for a unique jewel to define an equally unique relationship.
A jewel as a gift allows you to enhance the person and give him importance: ideal in seduction, it also becomes a distinctive element of the role assumed within a company.
In the evolution of human societies and the concept of power, the jewel indicated the desire to highlight one’s role within society: the distinctive element of the established members of the community, in fact, was represented by jewels, which all others they didn’t have at all.
A jewel is transformed into a communication code in society and an expression of one’s status for those who wear it. It is a transition from a simple object of goldsmith art to a means of communication. A jewel is a work of art and at the same time of decoration, with undeniable intrinsic qualities: it enhances the one who receives it.
Even in the definition of their social role, jewelry has historically defined the role of the wearer within the social body. The display of jewelry is inevitably linked to self-esteem and the desire to demonstrate one’s worth and social role within the community.
This definition of the public self has brought together lay people and religious, the crown, the tiara, the ring, up to the scepter, are symbols of power that become a jewel.
The precious object that defines the power of the wearer. The hallmark par excellence. The ring worn by bishops and cardinals, the ring with the function of seal of the confidential communications of medieval nobles, the very rich necklaces worn by princesses and queens, the eagles pinned on the uniforms. There are many examples of functional jewels that define a social role.
Today in a society no longer linked to monarchical symbolism, the value of the jewel as a symbol has not lost its function.
We no longer see the display of crowns studded with precious stones, except for Elizabeth II, but still wearing jewels defines us within a social group.
Over time the same objects change their function but acquire new meaning.
Fibulae and brooches with relative engravings have represented and still represent in a visual way the belonging of a member to a particular community, or more simply to an aggregation of people, linked by a socio-cultural bond.
They are no longer an essential part of our wardrobe as they could have been in Greek, Etruscan or Roman times, they do not serve us to stop the drape that dresses us, but indicate belonging to specific social groups or communities.
Colliers, bracelets, earrings, rings define today as always the taste, style and status of a woman, and often now also of a man.
In our society, jewelery is still a distinctive sign even for men who increasingly casually wear earrings, rings or bracelets.
Even American football, a decidedly masculine sport, celebrates the super bowl winners with the ring, the ultimate symbol of success. The multiple champion proudly wears his rings as a symbol of his prowess on the pitch.
The magical and thaumaturgical function of jewels.
Some cultures attribute particular thaumaturgical and propitiatory powers to jewels. It is a phenomenon that was also very strong in Europe, especially in the medieval period, think of the relics, which in some cases are jewels in all respects.
Even today, for many Christians, wearing the symbol of the cross is a way to protect themselves from adversity. Why not do it with a certain aesthetic taste?
Because of their intrinsic value, jewels often cross the centuries passing from hand to hand and it is common to attribute magical powers to these particular objects.
There are real mythologies about the powers of some objects that belonged to illustrious or controversial personalities in history.
When an object of particular value is worn by public figures who attract the interest of a large public due to their personal history, it is common for them to be invested with metaphysical connotations, which are not always positive.
Then there are people who would never buy a used jewel, however beautiful, because it indicates the decline of a family and a bearer of misfortune.
But the magic of a jewel cannot be confused with gullibility or rumors. The indisputable magic of a jewel is in its hypnotic beauty, evocative of desire.
The magic of a worn bracelet or ring is in its play with light and space. A jewel naturally attracts the observer’s gaze, accentuating the elegance of the gesture of a hand, the beauty of a face, the charm of a bearing.
The real magic of the jewel is in its history that starts from the work of a craftsman who models it in an exact shape and in the elegance of those who manage to wear it naturally.