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jewelry, personal adornments worn for ornament or utility, to show rank or wealth, or to follow superstitious custom or fashion.

The most universal forms of jewelry are the necklace, bracelet, ring, pin, and earring. Its use antedates clothing, and it has been made of a variety of materials including berries, nuts, seeds, perforated stones, feathers, hair, teeth, bone, shells, ivory, and metals. Although bronze and silver have been used by primitive peoples and in modern handwrought jewelry, gold has usually been the preferred metal. Jewelry has been decorated by engraving, embossing, etching, and filigree, and by application of enamel, mosaic, gems, semiprecious stones, and glass.

The Ancient World

The wearing of jewelry has very ancient roots. The oldest examples discovered to date are about 75,000 old. Found in a cave in S Africa in 2004, they consist of pea-sized pierced shell beads that were probably strung into a necklace or bracelet. Other African beads have been found dating back some 45,000 years. In the ancient world, the art of jewelry making reached an elaborate development in East Asia with its wealth of precious stones and pearls. Egyptian relics also show a rare craftsmanship. The jewelry is largely emblematic, very colorful, and displays lotus flower and scarab motifs. Beads were used extensively, as in broad collars, and were often used for bartering. Armlets and anklets were also worn.

The Greeks were highly expert goldsmiths and preferred exquisitely wrought ornaments of metal unadorned with color. After 400 B.C. precious stones were set in gold; later the cameo was used. Roman jewelry, although based on Greek and Etruscan forms, was massive and valued rather for precious stones and cameos than for artistic settings. Ropes of pearls were especially prized. Byzantine jewelry, influenced by East Asia and lavish in color and design, was of composite Greek and Roman styles.

The Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century

Jewelry of the Middle Ages was massive; large brooches and girdles predominated. Amber was worn as a protection against evil spirits. After 1300 glass beads were used. The Renaissance brought a transformation in the art of the jeweler; noted artists and architects often designed or even rendered pieces of jewelry. Jewelry was splendid with enamel and precious stones; heavy gold link chains, jeweled collars, and the necklace with pendant were worn by both men and women. Jewelry, worn to excess, became overcrowded with stones, to the neglect of the design and setting. By the late 17th cent. the goldsmith and enameler gave way before the lapidary and mounter. A process of making imitation pearls was first discovered in 1680; thereafter, ropes of pearls became highly popular for women.

The Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries

In the late 18th cent. the fashion for decorative buttons, watches, and snuff boxes almost superseded the wearing of jewelry. After 1800 the bracelet, which had dwindled (c.1500) in importance with the ruffed and cuffed long sleeve, was again in favor. The 19th cent. also saw the revival of the cameo and the introduction of the watch and chain and sets of jewelry. With the introduction of factory-made ornaments, artistry of workmanship declined. In the 20th cent. platinum became popular for settings. Costume jewelry, which followed the rapidly changing fashions in dress, was introduced (by Gabrielle Chanel), as was the wristwatch. There was a renewal of enthusiasm for handwrought pieces during the craft revival of the 1960s in the United States.


See F. Rogers and A. Beard, 5,000 Years of Gems and Jewelry (1940); J. Evans, A History of Jewelry: 1100–1870 (2d ed. 1970); A. Mason, An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewellery (1974); P. Dormer and R. Turner, The New Jewelry (1986); H. Tait, ed., Jewelry: Seven Thousand Years (1987); G. Egger, Generations of Jewelry: 15th–20th Centuries (1988); G. Daniels, Folk Jewelry of the World (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Most modern Witches wear occult jewelry, especially that which points to their religious beliefs. Some do not wear any jewelry while others seem to overindulge,

with a ring (or two) on each finger and thumb, and layers of necklaces and pendants. But whatever the preference for everyday wear, there are certain items of jewelry that are called for in rituals.

The requirements/suggestions for each tradition differ, so we will first look at the Gardnerian tradition as a typical example. In that denomination of Wicca, all wear a necklace of some sort in the ritual circle to symbolize the circle of rebirth, since one of the primary beliefs in Wicca is a belief in reincarnation. This can be any type of necklace, but traditionally the Witch's necklace is of amber and/or jet. The coven members may also, if they wish, wear a ring or two, although an overabundance is discouraged. The High Priestess wears a wide, silver bracelet as a sign of rank. This is decorated with certain Wiccan signs and symbols. The High Priest does not wear anything special, although at the Samhain Rite, he dons a horned helmet as representative of the god.

In Gardnerian Wicca, there is another position that may be attained by a High Priestess. If she has been leading her coven for some years, she has probably had one or more of her Third Degree Witches (Gardnerian has a degree system) break away to form their own covens, as offshoots of her own. This makes that original High Priestess a Witch Queen, or Queen of the Sabbat. To show that she holds that position, she wears a crown—a band of silver with a silver crescent moon at the front—and a garter. The garter is of green leather—often snakeskin—lined with blue silk. On it there is a silver buckle representing her own coven, and another buckle for each coven that has sprung from hers. The jewels of a Witch Queen—necklace, ring(s), bracelet, crown, and garter—are called her bigghes (jewels). The High Priest of a Witch Queen is known as a Magus, and he wears a gold bracelet, again marked with certain Wiccan signs.

As noted, there are many different denominations of Wicca, and not all follow the same guidelines where jewelry is concerned. There are some groups where all High Priestesses wear crowns and some where all female Witches wear silver bracelets. The Farrars speak of covens where all the women wear garters and say that a High Priestess doesn't become a Witch Queen until she has three buckles (her own coven plus two more) on it. There is no right and wrong in these different traditions, other than what may or may not be done within each particular tradition.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


The meaning of this dream depends on your current concerns. Jewelry is usually a representation of materialistic values. Gender differences imply that for a man this dream symbolizes material wealth and for a woman, love. Careful analysis requires answering the following questions: What type of jewelry it is? Is it genuine or costume? How did you react to it and in what way was it important in the dream?
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
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