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Designer Jewelry Inspired by World Cultures

We can study the history of the human race through jewelry created over the centuries. Our planet knew many cultures, civilizations, tribes, and empires, each of which contributed to art and jewelry in particular. Paying tribute to ancient civilizations scattered around the world, Bikerringshop’s silversmiths rolled out a unique collection of designer jewelry. Boasting elements and symbols of different cultures, it will be a great gift for connoisseurs of audacious designs.

Prehistoric Jewelry

It is estimated that the oldest jewelry was created by Neanderthals. Pieces dating back 115,000 years ago have been found in the Southeast of Spain. Very curious are 40,000 years old specimens found in Kenya and Russia made of ostrich eggshells and marble respectively. 13,000 BC years ago, in the Mesolithic era, people crafted beads out of bones, berries, and gems and connected them with pieces of ropes and animal tendons. The first jewelry molded from metal (copper) is approximately 7000 years old. Those were rugged items with coarse and roughly hewn surfaces and primitive shapes. Bikerringshop’s designer hammered ring mimics its raw magnetism.

 

African

It is believed that African jewelry was the very first on the globe. Its estimated age is dozens of thousand years. Amazing, right? Because the first people came from Africa and gave the start of the entire humanity, it is only logical that they became pioneers in jewelry crafting.

At first, they created primitive items from shells and stones. Further, they started using seeds, pebbles, bones, and teeth of animals and birds. Basically, people utilized any materials they had at hand. They processed animal skins and dried tendons to obtain ropes. Nigerians made beads from clay and encrusted them with glass.

Typically, African tribal jewelry features earthy, muted khaki, blue, sand or coffee colors. They also use so-called ‘diluted’ colors which imply bright black, red, terracotta, and white accents incorporated on the neutral background. African ethnic ornaments place an emphasis on the country of origin and often take advantage of its ‘national’ colors, such as this African Rasta ring.

 

Today, African ethnic jewelry is dominated by large volumetric pieces. These bracelets, earrings, neckpieces, and pendants are made of wood, bone, and metal. They are complemented with fangs, claws, feathers, skulls, as well as gems and colored glass.

Egyptian Jewelry

The first specimens of Egyptian jewelry are 3000 - 5000 years old. Despite the distant past, people have already learned how to handle metal. They used precious metals, specifically gold , that symbolized political and religious power.

The Egyptian image in jewelry is conveyed through turquoise, blue, white, gold and yellow. To add a pop of color, ancient Egyptian craftsmen used colored glass and semi-precious gems. Accessories in ethnic-Egyptian style are represented by snake or hinged bracelets, rings with gemstones, metal plate necklaces, voluminous beads, and tiaras. Typically Egyptian decor includes geometric patterns (hieroglyphs), engraving of therianthropic (people with animal heads) gods, pharaohs, pyramids, scarabs, lotus, etc. We incorporated Egyptian motifs in this silver snake ring.

 

Chinese jewelry

In China, ornaments played a critical semantic role, mirroring the social position, ranks, gender, and age of the holder. It also had an important aesthetic value.

In the Celestial Empire, all stones of mineral and organic origin were considered worthy of use as embellishments for amulets. Besides gemstones, Chinese artisans utilized a variety of other materials such as horn, bone, tortoiseshell, enamel, glass, and wood (e.g. sandalwood). Chinese loved gold and silver while platinum was ignored. The sacred materials were jade, feathers of the female kingfisher, pearls, and coral.

As symbols of happiness, large families, wealth and longevity, ornaments carried images of a crane, bat, butterfly, a pair of fish, and a toad. The primacy among plant patterns belongs to the peony, considered the prince of flowers. For example, it adorned the Feng Guan women's ceremonial headpiece. Images of the divine mushroom (ling-chi), orchids, plums, lotuses, and chrysanthemums, as well as symbols of femininity and beauty, were (and still are) widespread in Chinese. One of the most respected Oriental symbols is a dragon (you can see one in our silver dragon wallet chain), which, besides China, is loved throughput Asia.

Starting from the Tang period, figures of Buddha and bodhisattvas are found in headdresses. The Qing era popularized the images of Taoist immortals, eight treasures, the thunderous pattern, the cloudy pattern, and hieroglyphs. The latter symbolized longevity, happiness, conjugal happiness, etc.

Japanese

Japanese jewelry art originates in ancient times. Even the very first and most primitive pieces are distinguished by the simplicity and harmony that is inherent in Japanese culture. Japanese artisans drew their inspiration in the harmony of the surrounding nature, in its pristine beauty.

Traditional Japanese jewelry is sagemono (what hangs), inro (small boxes for medicines, perfumes), tobacco-ore (tobacco pouches), kiseru (smoking pipes), etc. As people who highly appreciated aesthetics, the Japanese were able to turn even the most prosaic household items into real works of jewelry. The most common female jewelry has always been combs and hairpins. They accompanied ladies throughout history and never went out of fashion. The only changes they were subject to were color and shape.

As for earrings and rings, they are not typical for traditional Japanese culture. They appeared as the influence of Western culture after the colonization of Japan.

When it comes to symbolism, Japanese jewelry utilized hieroglyphs (denoting love, wealth, health, wisdom, courage, etc.) in pendants. Due to love to plant and animal themes in art, you can often find various animal and floral motives in jewelry. The most popular images are dragons, tigers, eagles, fish, and various insects. Modern Japanese style for men relies on images of samurai, swards, Traditional combat costumes, deities, etc. We embodied the traditional Japanese symbolism in this Samurai pendant.

The Japanese style is recognized by simplicity and subtlety, as well as the ability to maintain modesty with a riot of colors and a wealth of materials. Every piece of jewelry in the Japanese style harbors symbolic and ideological content.

Scandinavian

Virtually every piece of Scandinavian jewelry carries a specific pattern. Ornaments feature stylized images of animals, plants, leaves, curls, and geometric shapes. In addition to abstract complex patterns, jewelry was covered with images of mythological heroes, objects of religious rituals, and legends.

Scandinavian style jewelry often bears the symbolism of deities, which turn it into protective amulets or charms endowed with strength, intelligence, or beauty. For instance, the dominant Viking god Odin wanted to have as much knowledge as possible. Therefore, its embodiment is two ravens and a wolf that designate memory and thinking.

The guardian of the bridge leading to Asgard was the god Heimdall. In his hands, he had a horn that announced the death of the gods. Images of bridges and horns are widely used in Scandinavian culture.

Jewelry shaped like the hammer of Thor, the formidable god of the storm, is widely popular even to this day. Warriors who wanted to gain more strength and luck put on hammer amulets. Love and beauty were promised by goddess Freyja whose images are embedded in necklaces called brisingamen. The personification of this goddess is a falcon.

Ancient Vikings also worshiped fertility gods. You can often find their symbols in Scandinavian jewelry. For example, the foot of the fishing god Njord and the golden boar personifying Freyr grant success in every endeavor.

Tibetian

Tibetan jewelry heavily relies on amber, turquoise, and coral. Tibetan people believed that stones preserve and conduct spiritual power. Therefore, their ornaments are large and colorful. Most likely, the belief in the sacred protective properties of materials comes from the ancient shamanistic cult of Bon. Tibetans fanatically love red color. They regard it as the blood of the mother goddess. It symbolizes the reproductive age and divine protection of the mother and child. Hence, the ubiquitous custom of wearing red beads around the chest.

Besides the aesthetic meaning, Tibetan jewelry served as amulets to protect from negative influences, as well as bring success, prosperity, and health. Rings, pendants, and bracelets with Buddhist symbols of good luck, syllables of the mantra "Ohm", and oriental ornamentation carried out a protective function. The most prominent pieces of jewelry are necklaces and bracelets mala along with Tibetan beaded bracelets with 108 beads, which Buddhist monks used to repeat their prayers.

Besides religious significance, Tibetan jewelry also gained the meaning of a bank reserve or a social status indicator. Items made of precious metals, silver or gold were supposed to bring well-being and luck. In southern Tibet, a woman who did not wear a headdress conveyed misfortune. For men, jewelry was a symbol of their position in society.

Indian

Indian ethnic jewelry never appeared out of nowhere. These pieces are closely associated with the development of the richest Indian culture.

Interestingly, Indian ethnic jewelry is one of the oldest on Earth. The first mentions are found approximately six thousand years ago. Back then, people connected the subtlest drops of gold and silver to get a prototype of modern chains. Since India became one of the first countries to mine diamonds and other precious stones, jewels are ubiquitous in local body ornaments.

Certain items worn by a woman let others know if she is married or has children (how much and what gender). Not only Indian women, but men also heavily adorned themselves. Their jewelry served as an indicator of masculinity and the caste affiliation.

In India, it is customary to combine the incongruous. Imagine what a copper pendant would look like if encrusted with corals, diamonds, ivory, and a handful of non-precious stones? Indian fashionistas are sure that such surprising combinations are aesthetically pleasing.

Indian jewelry is incredibly diverse. Besides earrings, rings, bracelets, and pendants, Indian women add other peculiar pieces to their look - ankle bracelets, bindi (a point on the forehead), nose rings, tiki (a headpiece with pendants hanging on the forehead); toe ornaments, phalanx rings, etc.

Indian jewelers are inspired by two powerful sources - religion and nature. Common pieces bear flora, animals and bird motives. The much-loved Hindu gods are also immortalized in jewelry (check out this Ganesh ring).

As already mentioned, in addition to gold and silver, the Indian ethnics actively utilizes both base metals (copper, brass, cupronickel) and precious stones. Indians are not afraid of brilliance and luxury. Rather, they are looking for them. Therefore, Indian jewelry tends to be colorful and vibrant, with the predominance of green, gold, red, orange, and violet colors.

Roman

In the era of the Roman Republic, body ornaments did not have much significance. Strict laws forbade demonstrating luxury. Therefore, ancient Romans put on silver earrings and bands only on special occasions. In everyday life, they used only the essentials - pins, fasteners, and buckles. The only officially allowed jewelry for men was a signet ring. This was a symbol of belonging to the estate as well as a personalized stamp to seal papers and messages.

The successful conquests of the Roman Empire (27 BC - 476 AD) left their mark on the development of jewelry. The social moral relaxed and it promoted to deliver jewelry in all its glory. Ornaments started being made of expensive metals - gold, silver, and their alloys. Silver rings and earrings flashed precious and semiprecious stones. The more jewelry items a woman sported, the higher status in society she had. While aristocrats flaunted precious metals and pearls (tears of nymphs), commoners employed glass and basic metals. Exquisite and heavily ornate earrings, rings, gold chains with pendants, pearl necklaces, bracelets, ivory combs, hairpins, brooches, and medallions become real works of art.

 

Roman jewelers constructed ornaments in every possible and impossible shape - figures of animals, people, sculptures, etc. It became fashionable to wear multiple rings and earrings in the same ear and on the same finger. Bracelets rested on the wrist, above the elbow, on the ankle... On top of aesthetic significance, jewelry also had a sacred meaning serving as an amulet.

Native American

The history of Native American jewelry dates back to the most ancient times when the first people who settled on the American continent (they are called the Paleo-Indians) gathered bead strings and made pendants from shells and colorful stones. Like in other cultures, these items performed the role of amulets and charms.

Indians wore necklaces and clothes patches carved from turquoise, coral, wood, fish vertebrae, bones, teeth, and claws of animals. They believed that necklaces featuring horse or deer teeth would bring good luck and excellent health.

Native American tribes living in the Great Plains and on the northwest plateau traditionally made their jewelry from beads and elongated (1.5 inches long) hair pipe beads. Earrings, hats, hair clips, buckles, and many other varieties of jewelry were crafted in the quillwork techniques using porcupine needles and bird feathers. Metal jewelry came to the Indians during trade with other regions.

Teardrop pendants, as well as birds, fish and turtle-shaped ornaments, were made from shells. Some tribes wore amulet pendants depicting human faces carved from wood, stone or bone. One of the most popular symbols was corn and bean since they were the most common food.

Many Indian ornaments had functional significance. For example, Comanche and other Native American tribes wore leather bracelets on the left arms to protect them from the bowstring.

The Indians loved earrings but their appearance varied throughout the tribes. Cheyenne Indians made several punctures in the ear cartilage to hang dozens of rings. The earrings of the Sioux tribe consisted of two loops put through one another. Comanches carved large holes in their ears to inserted big coarse pieces.

 

Of course, silver Bikerringshop artisans work with can’t convey the look and feel of traditional materials. However, we tried to highlight the symbolism and aesthetics of traditional crafts. We hope designer jewelry inspired by world cultures yet showcasing our proprietary masculine vibe takes your fancy.

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