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The word Jewelry is derived from the Latin word jocale, meaning “plaything,” and the word jewel, which was anglicised in the 13th century from the Old French word jouel. The word “jewelry” (spelled Jewellery in European English) is used to describe any piece of precious material (gemstones, noble metals, etc.) used to adorn one’s self.
Jewelry in its most basic form has been used since the dawn of of man’s use of tools and clothing. Until recently, researchers had believed that the ability to use symbolism did not develop until humans had migrated to Europe 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. Recently discovered mollusk or nassarius kraussianus shells that had been perforated to be made into beads are now thought to be some of the oldest known man-made Jewelry. This mollusk jewelry was discovered in a cave in Blombos, South Africa, and dates back to the Middle Stone Age 100,000 years ago.
Before written language, or the spoken word, there was jewelry. In the late 1800s, British archaeologist Archibald Campbell Carlyle said of primitive man "the first spiritual want of a barbarous man is decoration". More than just a curio from the past, jewelry, like art, is a window into the soul of humanity, and a poignant reminder of that which separates humankind from the animal kingdom — a desire to capture the essence of beauty, to posses its secrets, and to unlock its mysteries.
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