In the ancient world and certainly prior to 3000 years B.C. gold was the preferred metal for making jewellery. It had all the key requirements, it was rare, it didn’t tarnish easily and best of all it was a soft metal being malleable therefore was easily worked with.
Of all the ancient civilizations perhaps it was the Egyptians who really put gold on the map, so to speak. The land of the pharaohs produced a breathtaking array of bracelets, pendants, necklaces, rings and head ornaments.
In what was possibly the most famous of all excavations of ancient Egyptian society, the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in 1922, the full extent all gold artefacts made by the Egyptians was plain to see.
The Greeks took gold and were really the first people to start adding other rare gems and stones to make more ornamental jewellery. In the Third century B.C. the Greeks were making multicoloured jewellery using emeralds, amethysts, garnets and pearls. Taking influences from all across both the Middle East and Asia Greek jewellery was certainly to be treasured.
The Romans were the one ancient civilization who took gold up to the next level and all so sponsored to use gold for coins. For their coins, the Romans used 18 and 24 carat gold. Again, like the Greeks, the Romans were also using additional precious stones such as sapphires from Sri Lanka and Indian diamond crystals.
Gold and silver jewellery and indeed other forms continued to be designed and made in an ad-hoc manner that it really took until the 16th Century when jewellery started to be manufactured in any serious regular manner. It was not until 1700s that large amounts of fake jewellery began to emerge.
It was the French jeweller, Jaquin of Paris who first patented a method of making fake pearls. He coated blown glass hollow balls with varnish mixed with iridescent ground fish scales! The hollow glass balls were filled with wax to give them more substance and also to strengthen them.
It was this technique and procedure that made address the main producer of fake pearls for 200 years or so.
The French then took the practice of manufacturing fake jewellery and fake pearls especially to the next level and then started to make them out of paste. The past they used was a compound of glass containing white lead oxide and potash. The French had the manufacture of making fake jewellery down to a fine art and at the end of the century could make just about any kind of fake gem including fake opals.
By the mid-18th century the production of fake jewellery spread to London and also to Birmingham.
Down through history certain designs of jewellery are closely associated with particular eras and personalities. For example, the snake rings, became very popular in the mid 1800s after Queen Victoria received one as an engagement ring from Prince Albert.
Today’s costume jewellery has had a long and convoluted journey to reach the position it is in now and only looking back can you see the influence history has on design.