Gold in Ancient Egypt: Part 2

Posted by on 4/1/2013 to Jewelry

Our previous post explains some of the characteristics of gold and its associations in ancient Egypt. This one talks about Egyptian jewelry, particularly gold jewelry, and some of the ways that Lazaro Soho jewelry has been inspired by it. I provide an overview of ancient Egyptian jewelry and allow you to see its influence in some of our stone combinations as well as particular techniques and design choices.

Ancient Egyptians placed a high value on personal adornment, so men and women of all social classes in wore jewelry. The most common were earrings, bracelets, armbands, collars, rings, and anklets, but sometimes diadems, pendants, pins, and brooches would also be worn. Men and women both wore a lot of rings, amulet pendants, and earrings, but the wide collar necklace is both the most common and the most iconic piece of Egyptian gold jewelry. Jewelry was used not only by the living, but also to adorn statues of kings and gods as well as the dead.

As I noted in the previous post, gold is extremely malleable, and the ancient Egyptians took advantage of this characteristic, using a number of different techniques to make their jewelry. They used filigree (pulling gold into thin wire that is then twisted or braided into different designs) in chains from about 2500BCE, but were better known for their cloisonné. This is a technique for decorating metalwork using inlays of enamel, cut gemstones, glass, or other materials by soldering gold wires to form compartments that are then filled in with the desired material. Higher class Egyptians used pearls, emeralds, lapis lazuli, turquoise, obsidian, garnet, carnelian, and rock crystal, just like we do here at Lazaro Soho. The lower classes often substituted these natural stones with something called faience, which was made from ground quartz that was colored, heated, and molded, usually into an imitation turquoise.Some Egyptian gold jewelry was embossed, which is when the piece is hammered in a combination of repoussé(from the reverse side to form a raised design on the front) and chasing (from the front side to form an indented design) and some was engraved. They also used a technique called granulation where small granules of gold would be soldered to the surface of the piece and did engraving.

Another common piece of jewelry was the beaded necklace with a pendant, which was often a protective amulet of some sort. Amulets might protect the wearer, even on the way to the afterlife, but they could also bring some sort of power to him or her. They could be in the shape of animals (such as the protective snake on King Tut’s death mask, which is used in a number of Lazaro Soho rings and a few pendants), humans, gods, or some sort of hieroglyphic or symbol. They might be worn independently or incorporated into a piece of jewelry. When solid gold was cost prohibitive, ancient Egyptians would use gold plating or gold leaf for not only jewelry, but also on things like statues, tombs, temples, coffins, and ornamental weapons and armor.

I hope you enjoy some of the influences of ancient Egypt in Lazaro Soho’s pendants, stone choices, and techniques! 

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