What Does Jewelry Mean to Us?
Though non-verbal, jewelry is a form of expression that conveys a distinct message.
Jewelry as personal adornment is thought to have been one of our earliest art forms. For nearly 100,000 years, we have created innumerable ways to ornament ourselves. Gemstones, pearls and precious metals have worked their magic on cultures across continents.
We have forged glass into beads from Asia to Europe--and everywhere in between. We've carved bone and shell and designed with many other materials to create jewelry that communicates meaning and significance.
Wearing jewelry is an expression unique to human beings most often chosen in a context or with purpose. The jewelry we choose to wear conveys something about our identity, our lives, relationships, beliefs or affiliations, personal style and more.
In many cultures, jewelry has been worn to indicate status or represent connections to earthly or divine power. Greeks crafted gold representations of their gods and the Romans carved cameos depicting their emperors as gods. Angels, animals and other symbols representing a divine connection have been present in jewelry for eons. Native Americans craft jewelry in which every detail of a piece, from color to material, is chosen by the artist to convey meaning--most often of a spiritual nature.
When presented from one person to another, jewelry becomes a symbolic gesture, conveying a message from giver to recipient. Whether or not for a special occasion, when we offer a gift of jewelry to someone special, our gift speaks of how we feel about that person and their relationship to us. Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and birthdays are just a few of the myriad occasions when jewelry is given.
A special occasion is not required for giving the gift of jewelry. The gift, and the experience of giving and receiving, becomes the occasion. And, that special piece of jewelry becomes a beautiful reminder of the moment. Engagement rings and wedding bands are universally recognized as representing a profound commitment when it comes to matters of the heart. For many celebrating nuptials across the world, such as in India, wedding jewelry is one of the most significant elements of the ceremony--each gorgeous piece imbued with meaning and purpose.
People also wear jewelry for talismanic reasons. In many cultures, for thousands of years, various gemstones, metals and more have been invested with amulet-like energies or metaphysical properties. The infinity sign, ankh, dream catchers and many more are some of the symbols believed to bring beneficence to the wearer. Many wear jewelry that represents their religious beliefs, such as a cross, Star of David, Buddha or Om symbol.
''Birthstone jewelry'', a tradition initiated in 18th century Poland, has been adopted by jewelry wearers around the world as an acknowledgement or celebration of their birth month. Though specific colors are associated with each birth month, there are many options for birthstones from gems to crystals and more.
Jewelry worn as an expression of affiliation with a cause or group has increased exponentially over the past few decades. Very popular, awareness ribbon jewelry, sport teams accessories and more are embraced globally. Conveying a message of identity by the wearer, this style of jewelry is also often recognized by others who are, or who may not, be part of the group.
Whatever your own reason for designing, wearing or giving jewelry, may it be joyful and imbued with meaning for you or those who wear your works of art.
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