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How old is jewellery?

I thought in my ignorance that about 16,000 years ago the first
jewellery was made.

Heard today on the radio, that 120,000 years ago beads were made
from shell.

Found in a cave in South Africa.

Any one know when the first metal jewellery was made?



Biblical city of Ur of the Chaldees Royal Tombs gold jewelry has
been dated at about 2500 B. C.

In 1976 the British Museum organized an exhibit “Jewelry Through
7,000 Years”.

Maybe 7,000 years ago is a good guess.

Will be interesting to read other responses. MA

The Bronze age had gold, tin and bronze jewellery- flat leaf beads
being the commonest so probably beaten nuggets from placer deposits.

The copper age lasted a relatively short time so i cant say that I
have come across museums carrying datelined copper age jewellery.
I’m sure that gold has been found in late neolithic sites but these
tend to merge into the bronze age anyway. my oldest piece is a
mesolithic coral bead found on a site near Wellingborough,
Northamptonshire, England.


Any one know when the first metal jewellery was made? 

This question is difficult to answer because most metals corrode or
are melted and reworked, and some areas which could b be productive
of ancient metal artifacts have not been able to be excavated. I can
only speak for ancient Mesopotamia. The following sites have produced
some beads, etc. [All dates are BC]

Turkish sites:
Cayonu Tepesi (ca. 7000; pins in native Cu),
Catal Huyuk (ca. 6200-5700; Cu beads; finger-rings, tubes; the Pb
beads were later found to have been cerussite and
galena, not metallic lead)
Beycesultan (ca. 4500-4000; Ag ring)
Hacilar (ca. 5200-5000; hammered native copper beads)
Can Hasan (ca. 5000; Cu bracelet)
Mersin (ca. 5000-4200; Cu pins, Cu stamp seal [now seen as
malachite, not Cu])

Northern Syrian sites:
Chagar Bazar (ca. 4800; Cu bead)
Tell Es-Sawwan (ca. 5600-5400; Cu beads)

Southern Iraq:
Ali Kosh (ca. 6500; hammered native copper bead)
Tepe Giyan (ca. 4500-4000; Cu pins)
Sialk (ca. 4900-4100; hammered native copper pins, bracelet, button)

This data is from the first chapter of my M. A. thesis (1968), which
means it is somewhat out of date. See pp. 254ff. in P. R.S. Moorey’s
volume, Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries. Moorey
notes that the usual earliest-cited piece of metal jewelry, a
ninth-millennium pendant from the Shanidar Cave in Iraq, is now seen
as a piece of worked malachite (if you see a picture of it, I think
you would agree). Gold and silver artifacts are very rare until after
the late 4th millennium (see Moorey, p. 221ff.) I could go on and on,
but will stop here.

Judy Bjorkman

I’m sure jewelry in some form or another has been created as long as
guys have been trying to get with girls. From the beginning of
humankind guys have been trying to get some and girls have been
saying something to the effect of, “better put a ring on it.” :wink:

I had read Pre-Historic Africa about 75,000 years ago

Stephen Guyot

As long as there have been humans there have been adornments.


some very interesting posts on the age of jewellery.

No one has pre-dated the South African shell beads 120,000 years.

Here is my next question.

When did jewellers begin plating jewellery?

I may be wrong here, often am.

The discovery of the baghdad battery led to re-appraisals of museum/
ancient jewellery.

OOPS museums which thought the jewellery was solid gold found it was
gold plated.

Does the value of antiquity jewellery change because of the metal?

Also re-appraisals of medieval gems found many gems were not what
they thought museums first thought.

Still amazing and beautiful.

Do we sell metal and gems or do we sell enrapturing beauty?

Seems to me we are the third oldest profession, after hookers and
lawyers LOL.


Richard the value is determined by historic significance and rarity.
Metal content is not how it is valued by museums only by insurance
companies lol

and I don;t think we are the third oldest profession as lawyers were
not used to settle disputes unless you want to call your stone axe a


When did jewellers begin plating jewellery? 

For several pages on ancient plating, see Jack Ogden’s book,
Jewellery of the Ancient World, pp. 78ff.

In addition, there were efforts to make an object appear to be
composed of more gold than it was. As was noted elsewhere, much
natural gold is actually electrum. Sir Leonard Woolley, in _The
Beginnings of Civilization _(1965), p. 287, asserts that soaking
such an object in brine will take out the silver on the surface, and
then the spongy gold can be burnished with strong ale, leaving a
casing of pure gold, with the core virtually white.

Some ancient cuneiform texts refer to efforts to make silver appear
better, as well: “…since I felt uneasy, I had the silver refined
(and indeed out of five minas only three and a third minas of fine
silver came out).” This is an Old Assyrian text (early 2nd
millennium BC). And from the Egyptian Amarna archives is a cuneiform
text complaining: “(finally) you sent me as a gift 30 minas of gold
which were (no better) than silver, they cupelled [sic] that gold in
the present of PN, your ambassador, and he saw (that it was so).”

See also R. Tylecote, Metallurgy in Archaeology (1962), p. 4.

The function of the “Baghdad Battery” is still not really understood
and remains in the realm of speculation.

Judy Bjorkman