the early Bronze Age, and I think that's about as early as metal
jewelry gets (maybe 3000 BCE).
...very interested in any other research or on late
Neolithic and early Bronze Age jewelry and the techniques used. I
doubt that granulation fits into this category--wasn't it
originated by the Etruscans?
Lisa, there was metal jewelry, even in Neolithic period. It was
made possible by the fact that copper, gold, meteoritic iron, and
possibly lead, occur in a native state, i.e., can be gotten "as is"
without smelting ores. Some of the best examples of early metal
jewelry are from Turkey -- Cayonu Tepesi (Cu wire pin, ca. 7,000
BC), Catal Huyuk (Cu beads and finger rings, made from sheet
copper; the "lead" beads found were shown by later x-ray diffraction
to have been galena and cerussite, not metallic lead; ca. 6000
BC), Hacilar (hammered native copper beads, ca. 5,000 BC); Can
Hasan (copper bracelet,ca. 5000); Mersin (several Cu pins, ca.
5000 and 4200). From northern Syria, Chagar Bazar (Cu bead, ca.
4800) [and so on -- if you want more, and any of the references to
these artifacts, let me know]. As I mentioned in an earlier post,
the so-called copper pendant from Zawi Chemi in northern Iraq,
dating to about 8500 BC, was not mineralized copper but was copper
ore to begin with (if you see a photo of it, its shape alone
should have told the excavators that it was stone, not metal).
One thing that always puzzles me is that gold jewelry does not
appear earlier than it does. Maybe they were as ferocious about
recycling (or burying) it as we are today. There are some thick
gold/electrum rings from a Chalcolithic cave at Nahal Qanah in
"western Samaria" (Palestine/Israel), dating to the 4th millennium
BC -- they seem not to be jewelry (ring-ingots?) but are beautiful
and fascinating, as are the other artifacts found there (see the
review in Current Anthropology, vol. 11  p. 436ff.).
Analysis showed them to have been cast (probably in a clay mold),
hammered, and subjected to surface enrichment. The reviewer
suggests, "It is conceivable that to achieve a desired yellower
appearance the producers subjected the silver-rich items to surface
oxidation, perhaps in an open fire or in salty sand, then cleaned
them with natural organic acid (fruit juice?) and hammered them to
produce their final shape and restore their brightness." There
are also some references there to earlier gold artifacts -- check on
the Varna artifacts from Bulgaria (search under Varna gold
Granulation was originated at least a thousand years before the
Etruscans. There are lovely examples from the Old Babylonian period
in Iraq (ca. 1850 BC).
I also want to thank Erin Esin for the Turkish site with gold
jewelry. For some of the gold things from the Royal Cemetery at Ur,
search the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and go to Online
Gallery, Art and Artifacts. Or, buy the book, Treasures from the
Royal Tombs of Ur -- it's great eye-candy and does have some
comments on how things were made.
All the best,