History of Greek Jewellery, With jewellery that dates back to over 3500 years ago, Greece has a rich and long tradition in jewellery making.
Just like Egyptians and the Romans, the ancient Greeks too appreciated jewellery. Compared to the jewellery of cultures like Egypt, which was astonishingly elaborate and rich, initially, Greek jewellery was quite understated, pure and inspired by nature. Over time, the designs tended to be more complicated and included the use of various materials.
Before the bronze age, the greeks created jewellery out of clay, bone, shell, and stone, but metals’ arrival meant they could take their jewellery making skills to the next level. The bronze age involves two main eras: minoan and mycenaean.
In this period, the jewellery created is defined by its use of gold with unique techniques such as casting and making wire generally used.
The jewellery designs were more complex and elegant at this time. It included pieces like armbands, necklaces and brooches. Jewellery started describing the status, prestige and prosperity of the wearer. At the end of the mycenaean period, the civilisation suddenly collapsed, and greece entered a period of dark ages around 1100 b.C. Jewellery making was minimum at this time, and nothing came out of greece for around 300 years. This finished with the classical period.
The next period of interest is the Classical Greece era which was around 500 B.C. This is recognised as the Golden Age of Greek civilisation. Throughout this era, precious metals like gold and gemstones were utilised.
This period’s jewellery is defined by the use of decoration work and thin sheets of gold, which were expertly used to produce delicate and embellished jewellery.
Gold olive wreaths from this time are a great example of how subtle and delicate the jewellery-making was. The olive wreath was the prize for winners in competitions and, prior to this, was created by real olive leaves. For the first time, a winner could be rewarded with a crown of gold.
The Hellenistic period (323-31) was a short but rich period where Greece’s wealth can be seen. Gold and gemstones were used, and eastern attractions can be seen in this era’s designs and jewellery.
Amethysts, pearls, turquoise and emeralds were generally used. Cameos were created using sardonyx. The jewellery production from the 3rd century B.C. remained in tradition with that of the classical period.
The victories of Alexander the Great in Persia, Asia Minor, and Egypt changed the Greek world in a large way. The Persian Empire got overwhelmed with Greek colonists who ‘Hellenised’ their new neighbours. In return, the Greeks were inspired by the Egyptians and Western Asians in a more comprehensive way than ever before, which can be seen in the jewellery of the 2nd century B.C.