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Egyptian jewelry

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Egyptian scarab broach

Egyptian jewelry dates back to about 3300 years BC, beginning in the Upper Nile Valley and encompassing 28 dynasties until the Greco Roman period in 395 AD, quite a span of history. Throughout this era, the Egyptians valued the religious significance of these objects both in daily life as well as the “afterlife.” In fact, after a person died, the jewelry became even more important.

Both genders wore jewelry to project their status and power; motifs with images and representations of the gods were incorporated into the designs. Falcon’s scarabs, cobras and snakes were rendered in gold, and depending on the wealth of the owner, semi-precious stones.

Lapis lazuli, malachite, crystal, jasper and carnelian were used extensively; the colors of turquoise, purple, white, green and blue were preferred and emulated in cold worked glass. Blue was much sought after since it was the symbol of royalty.

Wide collars inlaid with these stones and colored glass projected power along with wide bracelets and necklaces of glass beads ending with large pendants. Some were designed in the shape of a scarab with outstretched wings, flanked by protective cobras and topped with the eye of Horus. Famed jeweler Cartier revived this style in the early 1920s, incorporating these motifs into cigarette cases, pendants, vanities, bracelets and pins rendered in platinum gold and precious stones.

Exquisite Egyptian jewelry from the royal tombs has survived the ages including from the fabled Tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, the boy king and a minor ruler. The only royal tomb not plundered in antiquity, it contained an immense treasure to use in the afterlife as well as a coffin of solid gold. One can only imagine what the major Pharaohs had amassed in their lifetimes.

Queen Cleopatra, the siren of the Nile who cast her spell on Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony, also had a passion for jewelry, especially emeralds mined in antiquity along the Red Sea in Mons Smaragdus, Egypt.

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