The legacy of Pharaonic Egypt includes jewelry making, which can be traced as far back as four thousand years ago. Egyptian royalty and aristocracy adorned themselves with necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets, headdresses, amulets, and pins inlaid with precious stones and made from solid gold and silver. There were many materials available for jewelry makers, but gold was the first choice and it was used quite extensively for thousands of years. Bronze came next, and it was often used with gold leaf. Some pieces of jewelry were made from metal and ivory. During the Middle Kingdom, worked glass found their way in jewelry making, because they were easier to work with than hard gemstones.
Ordinary citizens of Ancient Egypt were also clad in colorful adornments. They wore accessories made with pottery beads of different colors. Anyone who could afford to buy jewelry wore as many pieces as they possibly could. In Ancient Egypt, wearing bracelets high on the arm was very fashionable, as well as wearing anklets and ring with huge stones. It was customary for women to wear highly adorned hairpins or headbands, and a pair of large earrings.
Egyptian men and women were very conscious of how they were perceived by others. They cared for their appearance and spent hours on end bathing and cleaning themselves. They used various cosmetic products on their skin. The women wore perfume made from the most fragrant oils, while the men shaved their beards and and heads.
Egyptian society believed that having opulent collections of precious objects and building monuments secured their place in society. Wealth was synonymous to power, and it was important to amass riches because it gave them dominion and the right to rule, but it was important in the after-life as well.
The pieces that were most favored are pieces of jewelry with religious themes. The Egyptian elite were very fond of wearing jewelry made with exquisite designs and adorned with amethyst, carnelian, turquoise, jasper, malachite, and lapis lazuli, which has to be imported from the Middle East. Turquoise was a perennial favorite among the members of the Pharaoh’s house because of its blue shade, which was the color that represented royalty.
These were fashioned to represent the gods and goddesses that they worshiped. Symbols that reflect Egyptian beliefs were popular as well, including the shen ring, which signifies eternity and the Isis knot. The symbol of life, the ankh is one of the most common designs seen in those days. Some of the most respected and valued members of Ancient Egyptian society were the jewelry makers who spent their days carving soft stones with flint or emery fragments and shaping precious gems with rotary tools.
Carvings called “glypic art” made use of anthropomorphic symbols from the religion practiced by the Egyptians such as scarab beetles. Mythic and real animals that are made with stunning colors and stunning shapes were some of the most treasured possessions of the nobility. All these accompanied the owner to the grave so that he or she can use them in the afterlife.