What have jewels and diamonds meant throughout history and different cultures?

What have jewels and diamonds meant throughout history and different cultures?

  • What were jewels and diamonds used for throughout history?
  • Which historic types of jewellery were supplemented with diamonds later on?
  • Which meaning do they have in modern day cultures around the world?

Diamond jewellery today has an aura of romance and sentimental value in the Western world. Diamond engagement rings feel as if they have been around forever and are now an integral part to many engagements, even though they originated as recently as the 1940’s. Which other purposes have diamonds fulfilled throughout history? What is their meaning around the world today?

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What were jewels and diamonds used for throughout history?

Since ancient Egypt, jewels and diamonds have been attributed great meaning and value. Egyptians did not only wear valuable jewellery in life, but also adorned their deceased in gold, jewels and diamonds in the rough for wealth and prosperity in the afterlife. Ancient Greeks also put faith in the mystical powers of gemstones, adding diamonds to their warriors’ shields for luck in battle. Ancient China preferred gold and jade in all levels of society. Jade was thought to be the perfect symbol for yin and yang because of its exceptional strength and organic beauty. They used diamonds mainly as a cutting tool for other jewels.

The Irish Claddagh ring deserves a special mention, with its relatively young but unique tradition. Its unusual shape consists of two hands holding a heart with a crown on top. Each symbol and the way it is worn, hides a message about the romantic status of the wearer.

Which historic types of jewellery were supplemented with diamonds later on?

Egyptian jewellery changed little for thousands of years. Western influences had their impact, but traditional shapes such as scarabs have remained persistent. Today, traditional looking jewellery embellished with diamonds can be found all across Egypt. Greeks, too, evolved to add diamonds to many kinds of traditional jewellery. The Chinese still consider jade one of the most valuable materials in the world, but Western influences and a growing economy have caused a surge in diamond consumption. They keep tradition and new quite separated, jade jewellery with embedded diamonds is not easily found.

The Claddagh ring has had many variations since its conception in the 1700’s. These rings were personalised and embellished early on, and additions in the shape of diamonds were not long in coming.

Which meaning do they have in modern day cultures around the world?

The perfecting of the polishing process for jewels and diamonds throughout the years brought about a surge in their popularity around the world and gave them new meaning in certain cultures. In China, for instance, Western diamond jewellery was not merely adopted for its beauty and brilliance. The economic growth has given diamonds an aura of status, autonomy and power for people crossing the threshold into higher castes of society. Even some religions have a special place for diamonds. In Judaism, for instance, a woman needs new precious jewellery, preferably with diamonds, for every important occasion.

Where can I find classic or modern diamond jewellery to suit my personal style? Which other meanings can I convey with different types of jewels and diamonds? Ask our jewellery experts for assistance in finding your perfect piece of jewellery.

Written by: CHLOÉ POUPON-DUMONTET Diamond Jewellery Advisor

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