Ancient Egyptian Jewelry: History and Spiritual Significance
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry History
Ancient Egyptians loved to adorn their bodies with jewelry. Due to the hot, Dry climate, most clothing was simple and lightweight, so jewelry allowed the ancient Egyptians to display their wealth and status as well as protect themselves from evil spirits.
Jewelry has played various roles in ancient Egypt. In addition to man’s natural attraction to beautiful items, jewelry had a religious and magical significance in the Egyptian ancient world by protecting the wearer from evil.
Ancient Egyptians began making their jewelry during the Badari and Naqada eras from simple natural materials; for example, plant branches, shells, beads, solid stones or bones. These were arranged in threads of flax or cow hair. To give these stones some brilliance, Egyptians began painting them with glass substances. Since the era of the First Dynasty, ancient Egyptians were skilled in making handmade silver and gold jewelry featuring solid semiprecious stones. The art of goldsmithing reached its peak in the Middle Kingdom, when Egyptians mastered the technical methods and accuracy in making pieces of jewelry. During the New Kingdom, goldsmithing flourished in an unprecedented way because of regular missions to the Eastern Desert and Nubia to extract metals. These substances were processed and inlaid with all sorts of semiprecious stones found in Egypt; for example, gold, turquoise, agate, and silver.
Spiritual Significance of Ancient Egyptians Jewelry
Egyptians were deep believers in Jewelry‘s spiritual significance. It was worn to ward off evil spirits, protect their wealth, as well as bring good luck. Certain colors, designs and materials were associated with supernatural powers and deities.
Gemstones of the Pharaohs
Although the Pharaohs favored the use of glass and the restoration of the dye instead of the gemstones because it is difficult to cut, there is a collection of precious stones in the era of the Pharaohs such as garnet, lapis lazuli, alabaster, rock crystal and turquoisealso Emerald which was loved by Queen Cleopatra.
The colors of the Jewelry of the Pharaohs
The color of the jewelry and gemstones was very important to the Egyptians, since certain colors were thought to provide protection against evil and good luck. In many ancient cultures royalty was represented by the color blue, and this was especially true in ancient Egypt, making lapis lazuli one of the most prized of all gemstones.
Turquoise is another opaque gemstone that was favored by the Egyptians. The coloring is similar to that of the tropical sea and it was used to represent joy, cleanliness and pleasure. The infamous golden burial mask of King Tut was inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli and carnelian.
Protective amulets could be worn as independent pieces, but they were often fused into Egyptian Jewelry. These amulets were talismans or charms that were believed to either infuse the amulet with power, or to protect the wearer. The amulets were carved into various shapes and forms, including symbols, humans, animals and gods. Additionally, the amulets were seen as equally significant protectors of the living and the dead. Amulets were made specifically for the afterlife, as memorial jewelry was customary for ancient Egypt.
The Pharaohs tended to encode each small and large in their lives and their association with the goddess, and we can not forget the shape of the scarab or the beetle found in the Pharaohs’ clothing in abundance, it symbolizes the new birth!
Materials Used in Ancient Egyptian Jewelry
Although the Pharaohs used both gold and silver in their jewelry, gold dominated jewelery much more than silver, because its golden color symbolized the goddess Amun and the incandescent sun, and the ancient Egyptians used copper in their jewelry
Most of the raw materials that were used to make jewelry were found in, or near Egypt, but certain prized materials such as lapis lazuli were imported from as far away as Afghanistan. Queen Cleopatra‘s favorite gemstone was emerald, and she even gifted foreign dignities emeralds carved in her likeness
Polychrome glass was used for colorful jewelry and beads, as well as for pottery, in vivid hues of green, red, yellow, and blue. Other gemstones used in ancient Egyptian jewelry included:
- Emeralds, which were for immortality and fertility
- Malachite, which promoted healing
- Garnet, which symbolized the extremes of anger and fire, and victory and life
- Turquoise, which symbolized life and happiness
- Carnelian, which was believed to purify the blood, symbolized stability and protection
- Obsidian, which symbolized death
- Amethyst, which denoted royalty
The jewelry made by the Pharaohs still exists in museums in Egypt and the world. The Pharaohs had a different mind about life after death, so they packed the belongings of the deceased and all that he might need in his life after death, the ancient Egyptians‘ attitude towards death was influenced by their belief in immortality. They regarded death as a temporary interruption, rather than the cessation of life. To ensure the continuity of life after death, people paid homage to the gods, both during and after their life on earth. When they died, they were mummified so the soul would return to the body, giving it breath and life. Household equipment and food and drink were placed on offering tables outside the tomb’s burial chamber to provide for the person’s needs in the after world.
We are so influenced by ancient Egypt entire history, one of the most dominant civilizations in the world.
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