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Topics: Topics: Jewelry
Crafts > Jewelry

Jewelry has played various roles in ancient Egypt. In addition to man's natural attraction to beautiful items, jewelry had a religious and magical significance in the Egyptian ancient world by protecting the wearer from evil.

Ancient Egyptians began making their jewelry during the Badari and Naqada eras from simple natural materials; for example, plant branches, shells, beads, solid stones or bones. These were arranged in threads of flax or cow hair. To give these stones some brilliance, Egyptians began painting them with glass substances. Since the era of the First Dynasty, ancient Egyptians were skilled in making jewelry from solid semiprecious stones and different metals such as gold and silver. The art of goldsmithing reached its peak in the Middle Kingdom, when Egyptians mastered the technical methods and accuracy in making pieces of jewelry. During the New Kingdom, goldsmithing flourished in an unprecedented way because of regular missions to the Eastern Desert and Nubia to extract metals. These substances were processed and inlaid with all sorts of semiprecious stones found in Egypt; for example, gold, turquoise, agate, and silver.

Jewelry was used in daily life throughout the Pharaonic era until the Roman times. Egyptians were keen to keep a good number of jewelry pieces in the tomb; these were placed on the body of the deceased. A large number of such jewelry was found in tombs; for example, wreaths, crowns, or hair bands. On the head or wig, they fixed different types of ornaments, such as small roses, golden bands, and some simple bands of jewelry. There were also different types of belts, including waist belts and belts with hanging vertical straps ornamented with colored beads. Other types of jewelry included earrings, bracelets, anklets, rings, and necklaces.

A unique type of jewelry that never appeared in other cultures was the vest, which was worn around the chest. It was usually made of gold or of gold-plated metal. Even when it was made of a cheap material, it was painted yellow to give a golden impression. Wearing a golden vest is still an existing folklore practice in the Egyptian countryside, though it has a different name, the Kirdan. Every village girl dreams of wearing a golden one to boast of.

Ornaments and jewelry were not restricted to women. Men also used jewelry until the Roman era in Egypt. However, since the advent of Christianity in Egypt, with many people converting to that new religion, ornaments and extravagant luxury began to be less common and were replaced by manifestations of piety, religiousness, and righteousness. Most jewelry was made of cheaper materials bearing Christian symbols, such as crosses, pigeons, and the Egyptian Ankh sign, instead of the amulets that were used before. After the arrival of Islam in Egypt, men in particular were prohibited from wearing gold jewelry, but continued to use jewelry made of other materials, such as silver.

Several different types of sticks were found that were used for ceremonial staffs, scepters, flyswatters, hooked staffs, and walking sticks. They were usually made of wood and sometimes gold plated and inlaid with precious stones.

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Amulet in the Form of a Cow
Amulet in the Form of a Cow

Amulet

Bracelet of Queen Ahhotep
Bracelet of Queen Ahhotep

Bracelet

Bracelet of Tutankhamun with Scarab
Bracelet of Tutankhamun with Scarab

Bracelet

Beetle-Shaped Pendant with Ram-Headed Sphinx
Beetle-Shaped Pendant with Ram-Headed Sphinx

Religious and Cult Objects

Bronze Anklet with Animal Decoration
Bronze Anklet with Animal Decoration

Anklet

Beadwork Cloth
Beadwork Cloth

Headrest Cushion

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