Why Do We Wear Jewelry?

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THE term Jewelry is used generally in a very wide sense, and it has been necessary to impose certain limitations upon its meaning for the purpose of the present work. Jewelry may be defined as comprising various objects adapted to personal ornament, precious in themselves or rendered precious by their workmanship.

The jewel worn as a personal ornament may be merely decorative, such as the aigrette or the pendant, or it may be useful as well as ornamental, such as the brooch or the girdle. Gems and precious stones are not jewels, in the present sense, until the jeweler’s skill has wrought and set them. This definition will be found to correspond with the term niiimteria adopted by Italian writers on the goldsmith’s art for objects in precious materials employed for the adornment of the person, as distinct from grosseria —those fashioned for household use or ornament.

JEWELLERY hitherto generally overlooked or neglected, which may be derived from the engraved designs and working drawings of jewelers, from personal inventories, and from pictures by the old masters. Perhaps too generous a share of attention has been bestowed on English work; but this may be
pardoned when it is remembered that the previous literature of jewelry has been almost entirely from the pens of French and German writers.

THE love of ornament prompted by vanity is inherent in the human race. A most primitive instinct of human beings is to make their persons more beautiful, more imposing, or more striking by ornamentation. This inclination is as old as dress itself, nay, perhaps, dates even further back.

For there are tribes to whom climate and civilization have not yet suggested the necessity of clothing the body, but who nevertheless possess ornaments of some degree of development. From the rudest of beginnings up to the last refinements of art, jeweled ornaments have ever the same purpose in view—to give prominence to individual parts of the body by means of glittering, beautiful objects which involuntarily draw the eye of the spectator in the desired direction.

Jewelry is not only worn with the purpose of attracting attention and setting off the beauty of the person, but satisfies the desire, not less deep-rooted in humanity, of establishing a distinctive mark of rank and dignity. In fact the wearing of certain kinds of ornaments has at times been fixed by legislation.

Among savages, and races not far removed from barbarism, it may be observed that the love of ornament is chiefly characteristic of men. As civilization advances it is displayed more and more by women alone.

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