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Handmade Jewelry - Handmade and Handcrafted Jewelry Through the Ages

Bull and Bear
Bull and Bear
by Paul Roos
US$3,664
Mary had a Lamb
Mary had a Lamb
by Pieter van der Westhuizen
US$794
Bicycle #3
Bicycle #3
by Liezl Goosen
US$66

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Handmade jewelry has been worn by people since ancient times. It has been used to symbolize a person’s wealth and position in society, as well as for personal adornment. Symbols used in jewelry can symbolize a person’s religious affiliation or heritage as well.

Gold was a popular metal used to make jewelry for residents of ancient Egypt. It was easy or jewelers to work with, and the fact that it doesn’t tarnish is another point in this metal’s favor. Handmade jewelry fashioned from gold included rings, bracelets and armlets. Collars of gold and pectoral ornaments were also popular during this time.

By the time of the 13th century, townspeople were being told that they could not wear the same type of heavily-decorated clothing worn by the nobility. They were directed not to wear girdles or headdresses made from gold or silver. Pearls and gemstones were also to be worn only people who were above the social class of artisans and yeomen.

In the 17th century, handmade jewelry was worn by women at all times. Fake pearls and paste were very popular during this period for daytime. Paste jeweled buttons and wearing semiprecious stones, such as garnets, were popular fads as well.

Handcrafted jewelry became less popular during the Victorian Era. The Industrial Revolution also led to jewelry being produced on a large scale to make it more available to the masses. Some women chose to stop wearing jewelry altogether to protest the change in manufacturing, while others continued to have pieces fashioned by artisans in the same way they always had.

A particular type of handmade jewelry that dates back to Victorian times mourning jewelry. A sample of hair of a deceased loved one was braided or twisted tightly and incorporated into brooches and pendants. When the family was in deep mourning, no jewelry of any kind was worn. As time passed and the mourning period lightened somewhat, women would wear mourning jewelry, including pieces fashioned from jet or anything that was black.

Arts and crafts jewelry is another example of handcrafted jewelry that became popular as a backlash against mass-produced items. Polished stones were a definite part of this line of items. Simple designs were key, but over time the public demanded handmade jewelry that was more elaborate, and Art Nouveau became popular. These pieces featured designs of flowers and winged birds for a very romantic look.

By the 1980s, handmade jewelry fell out of favor due to the popularity of costume items. Bigger was better back in the day, as popular television shows like Dynasty featured costumes with big shoulder pads and large earrings.

Handmade beaded jewelry is being worn by some people in the 21st century. Many women choose to wear costume jewelry during the day and save a few good pieces for special occasions only. Fashion in jewelry will continue to evolve and change over time, but there will always be some people who choose to invest in handcrafted jewelry to wear.