• May 29, 2022

How Jewellery Speaks to a Culture

Whilst the word ‘jewellery’ may initially conjure up a rather simplistic idea of something ‘pretty’ or of personal value, the history of such precious items is a long and varied one, providing insights into how a culture works, what it values, and how it chooses to express itself. Cultural tastes and methods of production play a large part in what form a period’s jewellery may take, second only to the materials available at the time, and technological limitations.

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Expressing one’s individuality is one of our most human characteristics, but it may nevertheless be surprising to discover that the oldest known jewellery – beads made from Nassarius snail shells – are thought to be almost 100,000 years old buy gold in dubai . These dainty charms provide our first clue to a desire for personal expression and delicate taste, with the trend for decorative animal shells continuing for centuries; a collection of perforated ostrich egg shells in Kenya have been dated back to 40,000 years ago. Crude designs formed from the remains of animals may point to a pride in the hunt – it playing such a large part in primitive society at that time.

As technology and culture advanced, so too did the form which established jewellery took, with the Egyptians being the first people to see the value and malleability of gold as a decorative material over other metals. Items from this period tended to draw explicitly from the religious figures of the time, with pendants based upon common interpretations of the Egyptian gods. This trend is arguably one of the most enduring design traits of precious jewellery – one need only look at how much value the Catholics placed in sumptuous colour and rich materials to see this intrinsic link between spiritual worship and visual beauty.

The idea of commemorating an ideal or cultural value through jewellery has continued in a broader form, despite changes in public attitude and taste. Of particular note is the shift in design styles in the 20th century, drawing upon the mass production techniques that were proving so successful elsewhere. High quality jewellery could thus be duplicated easily, with multiple variations of a single idea allowing for new styles to emerge. In light of this technological drive, it should come as no surprise that, aesthetically, much of today’ popular jewellery plays upon nostalgic values that speak to society on a very broad level. Charming collections thus emerge that play with wider public ideals whilst allowing the wearer to bring their own individuality to the table. Today, collections such as the Links of London 2012 range play on images such as the London Red Bus and the Olympic Games, offering stylish items that appeal to a wide demographic. In time, such items will no doubt play their own part in the relationship between jewellery and cultural history.

For some pieces of gold jewellery, such as wedding rings or family heirlooms, the object’s value goes far beyond its original purchase cost. For many people, gold jewellery has great sentimental value making it almost priceless. Though the feelings your jewellery represents are invaluable, the gold it is made from has a very high cost indeed.

More than likely, you have given gold mining very little thought. Perhaps you harbour outdated concepts of gold mining from films or books about the American gold rush. There is nothing romantic or free-spirited about modern gold mining. Two-thirds of all refined gold currently being used or stored was recently mined from the ground. Only one-third of the gold currently in use has been recycled from previous products.

Of the newly mined gold in circulation, approximately two-thirds came from huge, open-pit mines. Besides being a nasty blight on the landscape, which can sometimes even be seen from space, these enormous mines create several serious environmental problems.

Rock and soil from mining craters have to go somewhere. Due to the chemicals used in the mining process, the waste rock is full of toxic acids and metals. Toxic by-products leaching from waste rock makes groundwater many times more acidic than battery acid.

Miners are digging for ore and are looking for gold veins imbedded in the ore. Gold is extracted from the ore by crushing huge piles, much like at a rock quarry. Piles of ore are sprayed with cyanide to separate the gold from the ore. Even a tiny amount of cyanide can be fatal to a human and mines use tons of it every day. Mostly, the piles of contaminated waste ore are left behind. It takes about 18 tonnes of ore to get enough gold for a ring.

Smelting is the next step in the gold refining process. Extracted gold is sent from the mine to a smelter. There, the gold is melted under severe heat to separate the impurities. Gold is not the only metal smelted this way. The smelting process results in a great deal of energy consumption and air pollution.

Purified gold is then ready for market. The vast majority of pure gold, over 80%, will be used to make jewellery. The remaining purified gold is bought and traded by investors and some is even used in electronics. Your computer and cellular phone may even include components utilizing gold filaments.

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