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<b>Featured Images</b> (Top to bottom L-R): Opalised sauropod teeth image credit: Courtesy Timothy Frauenfelder, Søren Greve, The National Museum of Denmark, a 23,000 year old bead from the Okinawan coast, and A. Bouzouggar, Insap, Morocco.
Featured Images (Top to bottom L-R): Opalised sauropod teeth image credit: Courtesy Timothy Frauenfelder, Søren Greve, The National Museum of Denmark, a 23,000 year old bead from the Okinawan coast, and A. Bouzouggar, Insap, Morocco.

Digging up jewellery: How ancient artisans help map human history

When the international jewellery industry discusses the latest trends and fashions, a debate often arises about the definition of fine or quality jewellery. However, something is lost along the way!

While the line between fine and fashion jewellery has blurred over the past decade, what the debate often misses is the fact that the first jewellery was probably seeds and shells.

What is even more interesting is that archaeologists continue to unearth a wide range of jewellery – gold, silver, bronze, gemtsones – dating back thousands of years. Not only do their discoveries show magnificent craftsmanship, this ancient jewellery is providing an insight into a wide range of human traits, early travel and exploration.

To better understand how jewellery is helping scientists, researchers and archaeologists ‘map’ human history; Jeweller has dug deep into our 15-year archive to present 12 of the Best of Ancient Jewellery Discoveries.

And if you are interested in the ongoing debate, try this: What is and isn't fine jewellery?


12 of the best -  ANCIENT JEWELLERY discoveries

Gold earring discovery sheds light on Viking trading routes

The unexpected discovery of a rare 11th-century gold earring buried in a field in Denmark could help shed light on whether the Vikings acquired intricate jewellery during their legendary journeys. According to archaeologists the earring was one of a very few ancient jewellery pieces of the same design.

Discovery of ancient jewellery traces history of human social traits

What archaeologists believed to be the oldest jewellery discovered in Morocco could be evidence that social profiling was practised during ancient times. The discovery of 33 prehistoric ornamental beads made from seashells may be evidence of what could be an ancient form of communication and help shed light on human social interactions.

Gold necklace found on ancient corpse

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient solid gold necklace around the neck of a more than 2,500-year-old royal corpse. The jewellery piece was found in a tomb during a recently completed excavation in France. The tomb contained the skeletal remains of what appeared to be a prince or princess adorned in jewellery.

Viking jewellery bounty found on church grounds

A metal detector enthusiast has unearthed what is said to be one of the largest Viking gold and silver treasure discoveries. He stumbled upon 100 rare artefacts from the Viking period, including gold jewellery in Scotland after spending more than a year combing through land owned by the Church of Scotland.

Gold jewellery similar to Egypt’s famed Queen Nefertiti discovered in Cyprus

Ancient gold jewellery and precious stones dating back to 1350 BC were unearthed by archaeologists among hundreds of other artifacts found alongside human skeletal remains from Bronze Age burial chambers in Cyprus. The artefacts were discovered inside two underground chambers believed to be a burial site for the ruling class and wealthy families.

Ancient warrior grave yields ‘priceless’ gold

The discovery of a gold and silver jewellery-laden corpse that is believed to be an ancient noble female warrior was found during the construction of a new international airport in the Rostov region of Russia. Archaeologists reportedly described the intact burial mound as “priceless” due to the fact that such graves were often looted.

Coloured jewellery bead discovered; 23,000 years old

An artificially coloured bead believed to be 23,000 years old has been unearthed in Japan and it has been confirmed as Japan’s oldest known colour accessory. Measuring at 13 centimetres and made from tusk shell, it was unearthed from a stratum in cave ruins dated to the Paleolithic period.

Opalised dinosaur teeth found in Australia

Researchers have analysed several sauropod teeth preserved through opalisation in Lightning Ridge, NSW, discovering previously unknown details about dinosaurs that once lived in Australia. The four teeth were supplied by the Australian Opal Centre – which has the world’s premier public collection of opalised dinosaur fossils.

Ancient Egyptian jewellery out of this world.

Beaded jewellery unearthed in an Egyptian tomb was forged from meteorite iron more than 5,000 years ago, claims an international team of researchers. The experts used neutron and gamma ray methods to confirm that three small beads used in jewellery, created around 3200 BC, were made from "meteoritic iron."

Diamond inclusions hold Earth’s secrets

New analysis of the mineral deposits trapped inside diamonds has revealed how the planet’s continents were formed. Geoscientists from the US and Canada have discovered that ancient sulfur-rich mineral deposits, trapped inside diamonds, can offer new insights into how the Earth’s continents were formed.

Rare natural pearl survives two millennia

Researchers have determined that a rare, almost perfectly round pearl discovered in Australia grew naturally about 2,000 years ago. The 6mm diameter pearl was unearthed during archaeological excavations in 2011 in a “shell midden” – a site where oyster shells have accumulated over time – located on the Kimberley coast of Western Australia.

Ancient Roman jewellery found in city centre

A collection of gold and silver jewellery believed to date back to Roman times has been discovered beneath a UK department store. It included three gold armlets, a silver necklace, silver bracelets, a small bag of coins, and a small jewellery box containing two sets of gold earrings and four gold rings.


Background reading: 15 great gemstone myths and bunkum




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