Ancient Egyptian jewellery offers a fascinating look into a world of long ago. Evidence has been found that indicates the ancient Egyptians were making jewellery as far back as 3100 B.C. The facts about this jewellery have been established through centuries of archaeological investigation. Jewellery was not worn simply as an adornment or indication of social status. It played an integral part in the lives of all ancient Egyptians.
Ancient Egyptian jewellery design reflects the heavy significance Egyptians placed on religious symbolism. Symbols on jewellery represented gods, magical signs, hieroglyphs and animals. These amulets were believed to protect the wearer from the evil eye and evil forces in general.
The symbolism was not always of a religious or protective nature. Ancient Egyptian men wore rings that they used as a seal that was the equivalent of a signature on legal documents. Men of lower economic status wore rings made from silver or copper. Wealthy men had rings of a more intricate design, often involving a precious stone engraved with an emblem such as a lion or hawk.
Scarab beetles were of particular significance to the ancient Egyptians. They represented the Sun God Ra. Scarab pendants, bracelets, rings and necklaces were often worn by ancient Egyptians and were not limited to the wealthy. People of all social and economic status wore scarab jewellery.
There was a great deal of importance placed on this jewellery. To make sure there was no confusion about who the jewellery belonged to, the name of the owner was inscribed on the flat underside.
Jewellery was made from precious and semi-precious stones. Amethyst, carnelian, chalcedony, feldspar, jasper, lapis lazuli, malachite, quartz and turquoise were often used. Faience was a treasured favourite of the ancient Egyptians. Faience was a greenish-blue glass-type material made from crushed quartz, lime and alkali.
The colour of the stones used in jewellery held a great deal of symbolic significance. The different colours represented good luck and protection from a particular danger. Lapis lazuli was heavily favoured for its blue colour, which represented and was worn extensively by royalty. Green represented fertility and agricultural success. The deceased were adorned with a red necklace that represented an offering of blood for the god Isis.
Gold was the metal most often used. It was plentiful and easily obtained from Nubia. Silver was also used but not as extensively. It was more difficult for ancient Egyptians to get than gold. Filigree work made from gold and silver adorned Egyptian jewellery and was commonly used for buckles and gold clasps. Bronze was another favourite metal used by the ancient Egyptians. It was occasionally covered with gold leaf. They also used an alloy called electrum, which was made from gold, silver and trace amounts of copper.