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Jewelry in History: The First Jewelers

Jewelry as an art is one of our most basic displays of humanity. The shaping of jewelry predates even the invention of language. We were playing dress-up before we knew how to make conversation! The first known jewelers lived in Africa. Some 75,000 years ago—long before Kay’s “Every kiss begins with,” and preceding even diamonds’ use as adornments (around 400 BCE)—the Africans were stringing together mollusk shells and animal bones. Over 30,000 years later Kenyans got creative with the hollowed shells of ostrich eggs, cutting perforations to transform them into beads. In fact, the use of any sort of metal as adornment is first seen a mere 7,000 years ago, with the discovery of gold and silver dating back to only 6,000 and 4,000 BCE respectively. So if you’re looking to get back to your roots, before you reach for the silver passed down from your great-grandmother, try collecting shells on a beach!

Beads made of mollusk shells, the first jewelry known to man:








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