Thursday, December 3, 2009

Middle Eastern ancient jewellery

Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian tombs of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC have given us a great quantity of gold and silver jewellery, including headdresses, necklaces and earrings inset with precious and semi-precious stones. Middle Eastern jewellery incorporating animal figures as amulets is also commonly found. However pieces from this area and time are seldom on the market and are not likely to be actually worn.

Very fine gold and silver jewellery was also made in Persia, Anatolia and Phoenicia.

Manufacturing techniques of Middle Eastern jewellery included granulation (surfaces decorated with clusters of tiny granules of gold), filigree, inlaid gems, and cloisonné and champlevé enamel.

Within the Middle East there is clear Egyptian influence on Phoenician work and of Mesopotamian styles on Persian pieces, and this suggests widespread trade and other contacts.

The art of jewelry has influenced many cultures. Traditionally, jewelry displays distinctive character, presents intense artistic images, and carries rich cultural assets through plasticity and expression. The language of jewelry is fairly complex and hard to interpret. Just like popular ancient languages that dominated in certain historic periods, such as Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, Greek and Latin, the language of jewelry and the jewelry items themselves have changed and developed in time, according to laws and customs of historical development. Stylistic evolution from the Early Oriental to Hellenistic-Romanian trends served as a basis for the stylistic changes in the art of jewelry making. Aside from its external beauty properties, every jewelry object has a second, internal life triggered by its semantic significance and perceived through one’s mind, intuition or aesthetic sense.

It is known that diadems were a special sign of a god or royalty. Gold garlands were kept in temples as parts of gold funds and were given as rewards for special achievements. Fragments of diadems were found among the finds of Oxus and Tillya-tepe.

Characters crowned by similar head jewelry can be found on coins, intaglios, pottery, paintings, frescos and reliefs, which allow us to recognize them as royalty or god-like creatures. Most of diadems were gold. Sometimes they are made by the stamping method. Details and fragments of diadems are made in the shape of leaves, trefoils or rosettes.

Earrings represent one of the most popular types of adornments at all times. There are many types and kinds of earrings. Mostly earrings were made of gold, sometimes of bronze earrings, and made out of electrum, naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.

As an example of earrings (as a popular item of jewelry), can be seen on an ancient sculpture. Like on one where the ears of small head are decorated with simple rings (no lock), which were made separately and especially for the head.

One of the widely-spread types is a circle-base ring shape. Decorative element is represented by zoomorphic ends, anthropomorphic images, plant elements, figure images, and the actual ring shape with thickening ends. Jewelers used casting, forging and later granulation. A steatite mold for casting, attributed to XIII- XII B.C., is an eloquent testimony to that. Among other stones, garnet was frequently used both as inserts and as separate pendants.

The earrings of the ancient Middle East demonstrate different stylistic trends: ancient Eastern, Hellenistic, Egyptian, and Hellenistic-Roman, which is typical for the ancient culture and art in this region, because it was an integral part of the overall context of the history of ancient civilizations. The adornments in question demonstrate certain stages of the art of jewelry developing in the ancient world.

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