Jewelry is a broad term that describes any ornamental adornment on the body. It includes toe rings and tiaras at all. Jewellery has been used in every culture throughout history and in many ways. While in our culture today jewelry serves mostly an aesthetic purpose, jewelry can serve other functions as well. Jewelry is used to represent social rank or service, age, marital status, and tribal affinity. In addition, jewelry serves as emblems of religious, social and political. Indeed, one of the first uses of jewelry was to show religious affiliation. The following are the main cultures that began the use of jewelry and religious symbols and common uses of their jewelry.
Egyptian religious jewelry
religious jewelry in Egypt was very symbolic. Some common symbols in Ancient Egyptian religious jewelry include the scarab (beetle), lotus, serpent, falcon, and the eye. The scarab is a symbol of good luck and resurrection while the 'Eye of Horus "represents healing. A common symbol of the time called the "Ankh" is meant to represent eternal life. Religious jewelry was extravagant, consisting of gold and semi-precious stones and were worn by men and women. When Roman arrived, Egyptian religious jewelry was made of cheaper materials and more Christian symbols have been used. When Islam came into Egypt men were forbidden to wear gold jewelry. At this time silver jewelry became more popular in religious jewelry in Egypt. Religious jewelry is still widely used in Egypt, but not as extravagant the Ancient Egyptian religious jewelry.
Roman Christianity and Religious Jewelry
Art and architecture thrived when St. Constantine Christianized the Roman Empire. At this time some popular symbols were created that are still used in Christian art and jewelry. These include the cross, the rosary, and the Christian fish charm. The cross is a symbol of God's love and remembrance of Christ's suffering. Rosary beads are beads that began in the Roman Christian world but are now used mainly by the Catholic Church (officially accepted by the Catholic Church during the approval of the rosary in 1520). Rosary is also used in Islam and Buddhist faith. The Christian fish charm came about when early Christians would make an acronym with the Greek word for fish, Ichthys, "Iesous Theou Yios Christos Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God Savior). This symbol attracted less attention to the persecuted Christians. The Christian charm remains very popular today.
Native American Jewelry
Native American Religious jewelry was a symbol for nature, played a role in religious ceremonies, and represented status. Natural materials were used in their jewelry including feathers along with minerals such as turquoise and metals like silver. These natural materials were a reminder of the earth around them. Healing ceremonies and harvest rituals, the people would care to wear specific types of religious jewelry that were the right color, made of materials, and that is the right symbol for that event. The jewelry that is worn by a person who is representative of different life stages of an individual is entered into. Many adolescents tribes started in adulthood when they receive the spiritual totem consisting of shells, beads, or symbols from nature. Native American religious jewelry was also given to women after there first menses and to newly married couples. Religious jewelry has played a significant role in Native American culture.
Because our culture today uses jewelry mostly for decorative purposes we often forget the roots of jewelry and how, for some cultures, may have a deeper spiritual meaning. Recognizing the importance of this religious jewelry in other cultures allows us to see more symbolic uses that jewelry can be used.