Personal adornment and decoration have been a part of civilization since prehistoric times. Bone, wood, and stone were the chief mediums used by stone-age peoples, and we have evidence of these from sites all over Europe, Asia, and Africa.
But with the discovery of metal, our ancestors reached peaks of creativity and artistry that they used not only in sculpture or warfare but also in fashion and personal adornment. Even now, we carry their design aesthetics into the 21st century. The materials may have changed, as we also now use other materials to create jewelry and accessories. You might think that stackable rings are a new thing, but many ancient civilizations used the same design for bracelets and necklaces too.
If you want to see the best pieces of jewelry that have come down from the ancients, you should visit these museums to be inspired, awed, and amazed by their artistry and skill.
The National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece
The Museum holds the largest collection of antiquities from Mycenae, which includes golden signet rings, golden bead necklaces, bracelets, diadems, and other grave goods. These goods often signaled the wealth and status of the grave’s occupant, which included not only jewelry and weapons but also amphorae, armor, and personal items such as combs and mirrors. But the most famous piece of personal adornment in the museum is the golden ‘Mask of Agamemnon,’ discovered by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the ruins of Mycenae.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, U.S.A.
The Met has an extensive collection of Greek jewelry from the time of Alexander the Great down to Hellenistic times. The Greeks were able to improve on their jewelry craftat this time as they had extensive contact with Egypt and Persia. They created unique designs such as the Herakles knot and serpentine armbands. Brooches, headdresses, pins, and rings were part of treasury inventories in ancient records. Some have also been found as grave goods in burials from Macedonia and other places in the Greek world.
The Louvre in Paris, France
Once the residence of the French kings and queens, the Louvre is now one of the most popular museums in the world. It has an extensive collection from the Near East, Europe, and Egypt. It also holds some of the most precious jewelry collections of many powerful families in France. One of the most popular collections is the jewelry set once owned by Queen Marie-Amelie, Isabelle of Orleans, and Queen Hortense.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
The Smithsonian is home to several precious jewelries that once belonged to European royalty and Indian lords and ladies. The most famous of these include the Countess Mona von Bismarck’s 98.57-carat Burmese sapphire; the Star of Asia, a 330-carat star sapphire once owned by the Maharajah of Jodhpur; and the infamous Hope Diamond, once owned by the French Royal Family and said to be cursed.
There are many other collections in the world, and these are only a few that hold the most precious pieces of personal adornment and jewelry so far. For many, they might seem trivial and superficial, but they are valuable not only because of their beauty but also of the skill and craftsmanship that were put into them.