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Jewellery or jewelry
With some exceptions, such as medical alert bracelets or military dog tags, jewellery normally differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to look appealing, but humans have been producing and wearing it for a long time – with 100,000-year-old beads made from Nassarius shells thought to be the oldest known jewellery.
Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials, but gemstones, precious metals, beads and shells have been widely used. Depending on the culture and times jewellery may be appreciated as a status symbol, for its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols. Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings.
Jewellery has been used for a number of reasons:
Most cultures have at some point had a practice of keeping large amounts of wealth stored in the form of jewellery. Numerous cultures move wedding dowries in the form of jewellery or create jewellery as a means to store or display coins. Alternatively, jewellery has been used as a currency or trade good; an example being the use of slave beads.
Jewellery can also be symbolic of group membership, as in the case of the Christian crucifix or Jewish Star of David, or of status, as in the case of chains of office, or the Western practice of married people wearing a wedding ring.
Wearing of amulets and devotional medals to provide protection or ward off evil is common in some cultures; these may take the form of symbols (such as the ankh), stones, plants, animals, body parts (such as the Khamsa), or glyphs (such as stylised versions of the Throne Verse in Islamic art).
Although artistic display has clearly been a function of jewellery from the very beginning, the other roles described above tended to take primacy. It was only in the late 19th century, with the work of such masters as Peter Carl Fabergé and René Lalique, that art began to take primacy over function and wealth. This trend has continued into modern times, expanded upon by artists such as Robert Lee Morris, Ed Levin, and Alberto Repossi.
In creating jewellery, gemstones, coins, or other precious items are often used, and they are typically set into precious metals. Alloys of nearly every metal known have been encountered in jewellery. Bronze, for example, was common in Roman times. Modern fine jewellery usually includes gold, white gold, platinum, palladium, titanium, or silver. Most American and European gold jewellery is made of an alloy of gold, the purity of which is stated in karats, indicated by a number followed by the letter K. American gold jewellery must be of at least 10K purity (41.7% pure gold), (though in the UK the number is 9K (37.5% pure gold) and is typically found up to 18K (75% pure gold). Higher purity levels are less common with alloys at 22 K (91.6% pure gold), and 24 K (99.9% pure gold) being considered too soft for jewellery use in America and Europe. These high purity alloys, however, are widely used across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Platinum alloys range from 900 (90% pure) to 950 (95.0% pure). The silver used in jewellery is usually sterling silver, or 92.5% fine silver. In costume jewellery, stainless steel findings are sometimes used.
Hamsa (Widely used in Middle east. Middle eastern jewellery)
The hamsa (Arabic: خمسة khamsah, also romanized khamsa, meaning lit. “five”) is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and commonly used in jewellery and wall hangings. Depicting the open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history, the hamsa provides superstitious defense against the evil eye. It is also known as the hand of Fatima, so named to commemorate Muhammad‘s daughter Fatima Zahra. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary, for the mother of Jesus. Following its incorporation into Jewish tradition via its widespread use in the Islamic world, it was also renamed the hand of Miriam for Miriam, sister of Moses.
Its exact origins are unknown. A universal sign of protection, the image of the open right hand is seen in Mesopotamian artifacts in the amulets of the Qāt Ištar and the Qāt Inana and in the Buddha‘s gesture (mudrā) of teaching and protection. Other symbols of divine protection based around the hand include the Hand-of-Venus (or Aphrodite) and the Hand-of-Mary that was used to protect women from the evil eye, boost fertility and lactation, promote healthy pregnancies, and strengthen the weak.
One theory postulates a connection between the khamsa and the Mano Pantea (or Hand-of-the-All-Goddess), an amulet known to ancient Egyptians as the Two Fingers. In this amulet, the Two Fingers represent Isis and Osiris and the thumb, their child Horus and it was used to invoke the protective spirits of parents over their child. Another theory traces the origins of the hamsa to Carthage (Phoenicia) where the hand (or in some cases vulva) of the supreme deity Tanit was used to ward off the evil eye.
With the advent of Islam, the khamsa came to be known as the hand of Fatima to commemorate Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Sources indicate that it is known to Europeans as the “hand of Fatima” or “hands of Fatima”, while natives call it by its Arabic name khamsa, khams, or khoms. Arabs also call the amulet simply al-kaff ( “the hand”). According to Bruno Barbatti, while this motif is “the most important apotropaic sign in the Islamic world,” many modern day representations continue to “show unmistakably that they derive from sex symbolism.”
The hamsa’s path into Jewish culture, and its popularity particularly in Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish communities, can be traced through its use in Islam. This “favorite Muslim talisman” became a part of Jewish tradition in North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities. Jews retained the Arabic name hamsa, but renamed it the hand of Miriam, referencing the sister of the biblical Moses and Aaron, so as not to reference the daughter of the prophet of Islam.
The khamsa holds recognition as a bearer of good fortune among Christians in the region as well. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary (Arabic: Kef Miryam, or the “Virgin Mary‘s Hand”). Well after the end of Islamic rule in Spain, its use was significant enough to prompt an episcopal committee convened by Emperor Charles V to decree a ban on the Hand of Fatima and all open right hand amulets in 1526. The Tunisians use the Hand of Fatima to keep away the evil. It is commonly found on doorways and in shops.
The Hand (Khamsa), particularly the open right hand, is a sign of protection that also represents blessings, power, and strength, and is seen as potent in deflecting the evil eye. One of the most common components of gold and silver jewellery in the region, historically and traditionally, it was most commonly carved in jet or formed from silver, a metal believed to represent purity and hold magical properties. It is also painted in red (sometimes using the blood of a sacrificed animal) on the walls of houses for protection, or painted or hung on the doorways of rooms, such as those of an expectant mother or new baby. The hand can be depicted with the fingers spread apart to ward off evil, or as closed together to bring good luck. Highly stylized versions may be difficult to recognize as hands, and can consist of five circles representing the fingers, situated around a central circle representing the palm.
Used to protect against evil eye, a malicious stare believed to be able to cause illness, death, or just general unluckiness, hamsas often contain an eye symbol. Depictions of the hand, the eye, or the number five in Arabic (and Berber) tradition are related to warding off the evil eye, as exemplified in the saying khamsa fi ainek (“five [fingers] in your eye”). Raising one’s right hand with the palm showing and the fingers slightly apart is part of this curse meant “to blind the aggressor.” Another formula uttered against the evil eye in Arabic, but without hand gestures, is khamsa wa-khamis (“five and Thursday”). As the fifth day of the week, Thursday is considered a good day for magic rites and pilgrimages to the tombs of revered saints to counteract the effects of the evil eye.
The number five in Islam is connected to the open hand, the pentagram of the five senses, marriage, the Five Pillars of Islam, the five daily prayers, and the hand of Fatima. Sufi staffs or poles are often topped with a khamsa. Among Shiites, the fingers of the hand of Fatima also represent the ‘five holy persons’ of the Prophet’s family: Muhammed, Fatima, Ali, Hassan, and Hussein. Ali’s name or those of all of The Twelve Imams are sometimes engraved on metal Hands of Fatima. Hamsas can also include a heart, a hexagram, or the word Allah inscribed in the palm of the hand.
Due to its significance in both Arabic and Berber culture, the hamsa is one of the national symbols of Algeria and appears in its emblem. It is also the most popular of the different amulets to ward off the evil eye in Egypt — others being the Eye and the Hirz (a silver box containing verses of the Koran). Egyptian women who live in baladi (“traditional”) urban quarters often make khamaysa which are amulets made up of five (khamsa) objects to attach to their children’s hair or black aprons. The five objects can be made peppers, hands, circles, or stars hanging from hooks. Black aprons are also thought to ward off the evil eye.
With the establishment of the State of Israel, the widespread use of the talisman by Jews who came there from Islamic countries declined precipitously. Its association with superstition was out of place in the secularly conceived state, and according to writer Alexandra Nocke, its ‘Easternness’ was looked down upon in the Eurocentric Ashkenazi cultural milieu that dominated.
In recent decades, that trend has been reversed with the renewed Israeli interest in Mizrahi folklore and customs and the hamsa’s use is proliferating. In Israel today, it is a trendy symbol that has become “an icon of Israeliness and secularity,” though its symbolism there is by no means all pervading or universal. A popular ‘good luck’ charm, it appears on necklaces, keychains, postcards, telephone and lottery cards, and in advertisements.It is also incorporated into high-end jewellery, decorative tilework, and wall decorations.
Bead embroidery design.
Other commonly used materials include glass, such as fused-glass or enamel; wood, often carved or turned; shells and other natural animal substances such as bone and ivory; natural clay; polymer clay; and even plastics. Hemp and other twines have been used as well to create jewellery that has more of a natural feel. However, any inclusion of lead or lead solder will cause an English Assay office (the building which gives English jewellery its stamp of approval, the Hallmark) to destroy the piece.
Beads are frequently used in jewellery. These may be made of glass, gemstones, metal, wood, shells, clay and polymer clay. Beaded jewellery commonly encompasses necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts and rings. Beads may be large or small; the smallest type of beads used are known as seed beads, these are the beads used for the “woven” style of beaded jewellery. Another use of seed beads is an embroidery technique where seed beads are sewn onto fabric backings to create broad collar neck pieces and beaded bracelets. Bead embroidery, a popular type of handwork during the Victorian era, is enjoying a renaissance in modern jewellery making. Beading, or beadwork, is also very popular in many African and indigenous North American cultures.
Advanced glass and glass beadmaking techniques by Murano and Venetian glassmasters developed crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (goldstone), multicoloured glass (millefiori), milk-glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. As early as the 13th century, Murano glass and Murano beads were popular.
Diamonds were first mined in India. Pliny may have mentioned them, although there is some debate as to the exact nature of the stone he referred to as Adamas; In 2005, Australia, Botswana, Russia and Canada ranked among the primary sources of gemstone diamond production.
 Other gemstones
Main article: Gemstone
Many precious and semiprecious stones are used for jewellery. Among them are:
Some gemstones (like pearls, coral, and amber) are classified as organic, meaning that they are produced by living organisms. Others are inorganic, meaning that they are generally composed of and arise from minerals.
Some gems, for example, amethyst, have become less valued as methods of extracting and importing them have progressed. Some man-made gems can serve in place of natural gems, such as cubic zirconia, which can be used in place of diamond.
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