Does Jewelry Matter?

Perhaps this is the wrong question to ask on a site where I’m trying to convince you to buy my jewelry, but here’s my question: in a world with so many serious issues demanding our attention, is personal adornment an unconscionable frivolity?

Unlike finding food and shelter, decorating our bodies is clearly unnecessary to survival. And yet, explorations of ancient civilizations always seem to turn up jewelry along with the pottery shards and cooking implements. What’s behind this deep connection between human culture and personal adornment?

I’m not a jewelry historian, but it would seem that there are (no pun intended) multi-faceted reasons. As a practical matter, jewelry- as something which could be both small and intrinsically valuable- may have been simply a way to transport wealth. However, it has served so many different roles (and if it was merely currency, would it have so often been buried with the owner?) that it seems there is more to it than that.

Jewelry has long served to commemorate an occasion, and has been used in rituals from weddings to burials. It’s been cherished as a remembrance of a loved one lost. It’s been a talisman, and is often associated with protective powers -whether it’s an ancient Eye of Horus or an interest in the healing properties of crystals. And whether or not we approve, it has been used throughout the ages as an outward identification of status, whether it be wealth and social status, royal status or marital status. But from ancient to modern times, it has also exemplified and communicated to the world an expression of one’s personal aesthetic and style. So while it may not be necessary to survival, doesn’t all of that mean that jewelry is nevertheless important to some part of the human experience?

What do you think?

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