by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

While current jewelry style and design is ever-evolving, the symbolic importance of jewelry has remained unchanged throughout history. Even in prehistoric times, humans used objects purely as decoration, providing ornamentation rather than a practical purpose. Whether it was made from pigment-stained seashells, perforated animal teeth or shell beads, jewelry has provided a sense of self-awareness and identity throughout time.

Peer back into the prehistoric past as we uncover jewelry inspiration from the early history of humankind, as featured in the Neues Museum--no travel needed and no admission required!

The Neues Museum

Recently reopening its doors to the public, the Neues Museum is just as revered and rich in history as the collection it houses. Originally designed by architect Friedrich August Stüler in the 19th century, the museum is located on the World Cultural Heritage site of Museum Island in Berlin. After being badly damaged in the Second World War, the site was left exposed to the elements until the 1980s.

British architect David Chipperfield brought the museum back to life through an elaborate restoration project and it reopened in October 2009. The spectacularly recreated museum offers an extensive collection of artifacts from prehistoric and early history to ancient Egypt and classical antiquity. Renowned archaeological treasures, such as the bust of Nefertiti and the Egyptian Museum's entire collection of Armana Art, combine with world-famous exhibits from the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, such as the skull of the Neanderthal from Le Moustier or Heinrich Schliemann's collection of Trojan Antiquities, to form a unique panorama of the early history of humankind.

Prehistoric Jewelry Inspiration

The Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), a leading online trend-analysis and research service, gave us an unparalleled inside look into these renowned archaeological treasures, uncovering a wealth of jewelry inspiration in their article Neues Museum, Berlin: Jewellery Inspiration. The jewelry found within the collection ranges from very early items to more refined later pieces. Here are some key pieces from the collection, providing a window into the past and a plethora of inspiration for modern-day jewelry designs.


These pieces represent a very simple, organic and natural form and showcase the concept of graduated sizes within jewelry designs. The multiple components used in these designs create a sense of time spent and value. The silhouettes and fastenings used are bold and unrefined. These pieces are also large in scale, representing standalone, statement designs.

Modern design takeaways to incorporate:
  • Large scale components
  • Natural, rough and unrefined materials
  • Graduated beads and components
Design with:

The featured silver pieces are intricately worked and decorated with jewel-toned stones. Rough edges and freeform design is seen in these spectacular artifacts. Corroded and tarnished finishes add a sense of history and age.

Modern design takeaways to incorporate:
  • Spiral accents and intricate patterns
  • Oxidized metals and time-worn surfaces
  • Ancient symbolism
  • Jeweled embellishments

Design with:

The hammered gold pieces on display are delicately crisp and lightweight. These intricate designs mixed with simple twists look surprisingly modern. The pieces are slightly rough around the edges, for an unpolished look. The bright yellow gold creates beautiful, standout designs.

Modern design takeaways to incorporate:
  • Perforated, hammered and molded bright-yellow gold
  • Combination of simple designs with quality materials
  • Spiral and circular elements

Design with:

These artifacts show how jewelry designs can take inspiration from the unlikeliest of places. Standalone pieces, such as pendants and brooches, can be created from interesting objects. Be inspired by the ingenuity of early civilizations.

Modern design takeaways to incorporate:
  • Objects used in unexpected ways
  • Worn, aged appearance of materials
  • Rough finishes and industrial-inspired components

Design with:
Symbolism and Texture:

The ancient symbolism found here evokes a powerful narrative and the intricately carved, repetitive patterns are highly decorative. The surfaces are worn and tactile, giving a sense of the passage of time.

Modern design takeaways to incorporate:
  • Ancient symbols
  • Repetitive patterns and elements
  • Textured and rough/worn surfaces

Design with:

Style Snapshot: Prehistoric Jewelry Provides Modern-Day Inspiration Style Snapshot: Prehistoric Jewelry Provides Modern-Day Inspiration Style Snapshot: Prehistoric Jewelry Provides Modern-Day Inspiration

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