Prehistoric Jewelry Provides Modern-Day Inspiration

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 created objects of personal adornment. Whether it was made from pigment-stained seashells, perforated animal teeth, shell beads or gemstone chunks, jewelry has provided a sense of self-awareness and identity throughout time.

Peer back into prehistory as we uncover jewelry inspiration from the early history of humanity, as featured at the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany--no travel needed and no admission required!

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The Neues Museum

Reopening its doors to the public in 2009 after extensive reconstruction, 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 being refurbished in the 1980s.

A room of art in the Neues Museum Art in the Neues Museum A room in the Neues Museum

Prehistoric Jewelry Inspiration

Get an unparalleled inside look into these renowned archaeological treasures, with their wealth of jewelry inspiration. The jewelry found within the Neus Museum's various collections ranges from very early handwrought items to highly manufactured later designs. Here are some key pieces from the museum's collection, providing a window into the past and a plethora of inspiration for modern-day jewelry designs. All images courtesy of the Neues Museum, Berlin, and WGSN (the Worth Global Style Network).


Graduated components Necklace with graduated beads Graduated rings

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:

Freeform silver Intricate silver design with gemstones Silver component with gemstones

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:

Gold component with twists Gold focal Gold ring

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:

Dagger artifact An aged lock A key

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:

Carved stone with trees Egyptian carved art A textured wall

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:

Prehistoric Jewelry Provides Modern-Day Inspiration Prehistoric Jewelry Provides Modern-Day Inspiration