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When was jewelry first made?

Old Shell Jewelry

Jewelry is one of the oldest man-made objects in the world.


A few years ago, jewelry made from sea shells coated with clay was found in eastern Morocco, located in northern Africa. It is believed these items date back 82,000 years! Other discoveries in both the Middle East and across Africa have also uncovered similar jewelry from the same time span, though estimations of exactly how old these items are vary across the scientific world. It wasn’t until only much later that Egyptians, and then western Europe developed jewelry, evidence of which dates back to anywhere from 3,000 – 8,000 BC. In ancient times jewelry was primarily made of shells, bone (tusks, teeth), stone and berries. With the discovery of metals and the process of smelting several thousand years ago, jewelry made of copper and gold became very popular.


Ever since, the materials used for jewelry have expanded to include diamonds and other gemstones and metal alloys such as bronze, platinum, and titanium. Over the course of history, the traditional materials like animal parts, stone and wood remained a valuable source for a wide variety of jewelry which served various functions such as status symbols, decorations and for use in celebrations and rituals. It is also interesting to learn that scientists now look at the “invention” of jewelry as a base for scientific analyses of the development of the human brain and behavior. Who would have thought that there is such a profound significance to what is nowadays a quite common product.


Over the course of history, the production of jewelry has become quite sophisticated. For the most part, machinery that can produce jewelry in masses has replaced the handcrafted work of artisans. But some traditions of handcrafted jewelry prevail. In America, there are many native-American styles of jewelry that are still made by hand. And then there is Black Hills Gold, a form of jewelry birthed out of the mining camps during the last great American gold rush, and made solely in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Some Black Hills Gold manufacturers have turned to mass production as well. But Black Hills Gold jewelry made by Landstroms is still made by hand in South Dakota’s Black Hills by skilled artisans. Like their predecessors before them, Landstrom’s artists use their well-developed skill to carve out the shapes and forms that become the best, and the original Black Hills Gold jewelry available.

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  1. Janet on October 17, 2012 at 10:29 AM said:
    Great article. I own a load of jewelry myself, some of it Black Hills Gold jewelry, and never thought about where in history it all may have started. Very informative.
  2. Michael Amato on October 17, 2012 at 12:03 PM said:
    Thanks Janet for your comment. Yes indeed, very interesting to learn about the historical roots of jewelry and many other things we sometimes take for granted. Cheers!
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