What Has Led to the Change in Custom Jewelry Methodology Chapter

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Gold Jewelry -- a History

Project's Overall Aims and Objectives

The overall aim of this project is to provide a well-researched, authentic history of the use of gold in adornments -- notably jewelry -- from several cultures and historical periods. This paper also offers an overview of the ways in which cultures and nations have found gold and how those discoveries of gold impacted civilizations. Offering the big picture of where gold jewelry fits into culture and history, plus pointing to present-day relevant economic issues vis-a-vis the gold market, is the aim of this project.

The importance of gold jewelry to the American economy cannot be minimized: jewelry consumption is "critical to the overall gold market as it is the single largest physical user [of gold] accounting for about two-thirds of the total demand for gold" (Corti, 2009). Hence, full knowledge of the history of gold, and of the value of gold through the ages -- as well as today -- is a solid foundation upon which to launch a career in gold and gold jewelry.

Introduction to the Literature Review -- Gold's Cultural and Material Value

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Because of the relative ease with which gold can be manipulated, shaped and designed, along with the pure form in which it is often found, archeologists, anthropologists, historians and other scholars surmise that gold "…was the first metal used by man" (Kellogg, et al., 1903, p. 178). Moreover, looking closely at the way in which ancient cultures created gorgeous adornments from gold, the craftsmen in those eras clearly attained marvelous skills working with gold "at a time when the other arts were in a very elementary condition" (Kellogg, 178). The authors of this article use -- as an example of the above-mentioned skills employed by ancient goldsmiths -- a bronze age sword that was discovered near Stonehenge in England. The hilt of this sword is covered with "…the most microscopically minute gold mosaic"; the design of the sword was created by tiny pins (tesserae) of "red and yellow gold" placed systematically as in a mosaic into the wooden core of the handle (Kellogg, 178).

Methodology Chapter on What Has Led to the Change in Custom Jewelry in Last 5 Years Assignment

Amazingly, there are an estimated two thousand of these gold tesserae to the square inch in the handle (Kellogg, 178). Since Stonehenge is believed to have been created between 3100 and 1100 BC, the sword found nearby can be assumed to be as old or nearly as old.

Literature Review -- Gold Adornments Found in Africa

The interesting history of gold mining and its use in jewelry and other "items of adornment" can be traced back at least a thousand years in southern Africa (Miller, et al., 2001, p. 297). Most of the gold used in jewelry and for adornment -- found in the major archaeological sites in Bosutswe, Mapungubwe, and Thulamela -- dates back to periods from the 10th to the 13th centuries AD, according to Miller (297). The gold items uncovered at those sites -- evaluated using metallographic technologies -- was fabricated using the same applications as were used in making copper items, Miller goes on.

As for the processing of gold in long-ago Africa, the writers explain that there are only two known places in Africa (Great Zimbabwe and the "16th-century AD site of Thulamela" in the northern portion of the Kruger National Park in South Africa) where there is evidence that "smelting operations" were used (297). It is worthy of mentioning that in the second half of the first millennium, farming communities in southern Africa became "increasingly involved in the Indian Ocean trade network," Miller continues. In fact among the items that the Africans traded for "glass beads and cloth" were metals (gold and tin). So scientists know the market for gold was in existence in Africa at least ten centuries ago.

More than one hundred individual gold objects have been found in the four above-mentioned mine sites, but in each case there are "distinctive patterns (or sets of patterns) which usually are unique," Miller explained. The treasure trove of gold jewelry and other gold items that was found in the hilltops of Mapungubwe in January, 1933 included items likely worn by "particularly wealthy and presumably powerful individuals" that one can assume were "elite chieftains" (297).

The items in one grave included: gold beads; helically wound gold bangles; decorative gold sheet perforated with holes for small tacks; and some parts of a rhinoceros made of gold sheet (Miller, 297). Meanwhile in a grave near the first mentioned site, excavators located the remains of a man that had a "large number of corroded iron bangles" that were decorated with "gold and glass beads around the arms and legs" (298). Also nearly 130 "helically wound gold wire bangles" were found around the neck and arms. In addition golden sheeting that may have covered a wooden bowl were found along with a "hollow gold bangle, a gold ornamental circlet and pointed sheath of a staff," Miller points out on page 298.

In 1934/35, University of Pretoria archaeologists excavated the grave of a woman with iron bracelets on her arms and legs, but nearby an entire graveyard was located with 23 burial sites; in two of those 23 sites gold was found. A man's skeleton (facing west) had a gold "scepter" in the crook of his right arm and 100 "small gold beads" from a necklace that had shattered over time (Miller, 298). In the other grave a woman was buried with 2 kg of gold (in the form of about 100 gold coiled "wire bangles around her legs" and 12,000 gold beads around her neck") (Miller, 298).

It is interesting to note that archeologists from various universities are allowed to dig up these gravesites in Africa. Certainly it is vastly different in the U.S. when it comes to anthropologists and archeologists and other scientists stumbling on the gravesite of Native Americans. It would be heresy -- even against the law -- to dig up the sacred burial grounds of Native Americans.

Literature Review -- Gold in Egypt

Africa certainly wasn't the only place in the ancient world where gold was mined and fashioned into adornments -- becoming part of cultural and economic history. Egypt has been a part of the world where gold was plentiful. Author A. Lucas -- writing in his book Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries -- reports that the gold-bearing region of Egypt is "immense"; it can be found between the Nile valley and the Red Sea, and Lucas explains that there are "at least" eighty-five key gold mining places ("workings") that can be attributed "with certainty" to the Egyptians or Mediaeval Arabs before the 10th century A.D. (Lukas, 2003, p. 258).

While the archeologists researching gold in African apparently are not 100% certain that all the gold found in grave sites actually originated in Africa, Lukas asserts that "…there cannot be any doubt that the gold from the local mines [in Egypt] provided most of the gold used in Egypt anciently," in particular during the very early periods. The gold in ancient Egypt was "levied as tribute or taken as one of the fruits of victory after war, since it was a valuable and desirable metal to possess" (Lukas, 259). One has to take Lukas at his word that "most" of the gold in ancient Egypt was local gold, although later on page 259 he explains that the Second Dynasty gold had antimony in it, which is a hint that it may be Transylvanian in origin (Transylvania gold will be reviewed later in This paper). The gold from Transylvania quite possibly arrived in Egypt about 3000 BC, although that remains a subject of some debate.

The way to mine alluvial gold is quite simple: the sand and gravel within the alluvium can be washed away with water (in a stream or with a directed flow of water) leaving the gold behind (because it is heavier than sand and gravel). But how did the Egyptians extract gold from the veins in quartz rock? According to a Greek writer (Agatharchides) who paid a visit to Egypt in the second century BC, the quartz was cracked and broken into bits "by means of fire and then attacked by hammers and picks" (Lukas, 262). Once the broken rock was in manageable pieces, it was brought outside the mine where workers crushed it in "large stone mortars" until it was the size of peas (262). Later it was ground to a fine powder in hand mills, and the powder was then washed with water on a "sloping surface in order to separate the metal" which could be harvested in "small ingots" (262).

The craftsmanship of Egyptians when working with gold has been duly recorded in numerous books and magazines over the years. Lukas (263) asserts that a "very high degree of skill went into: a) the four gold bracelets from Abydos" (First Dynasty); b) the gold foil and gold brads / rivets (Third Dynasty) from Saqqara; c) the gold work from the tomb of Hetepheres (Fourth Dynasty); d) the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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