7 Oldest Pieces of Jewelry in the World

Who doesn’t like jewelry? Today, one can find all forms of jewelry almost everywhere. It’s the vital part of literally every culture in the world. From diamonds, bling-blings, metals to wood and leather and so much more – the possibilities and combinations are virtually limitless. The infatuation with jewelry as the ornament of one’s beauty or belonging to a certain class lasts ever since the dawn of modern man – and even before. Let’s take a stroll down a jewelry memory lane and discover the 7 oldest pieces in the entire world.

The Neanderthal Jewelry from Croatia

 130,000 year-old Neanderthal Jewelry, Croatia

130,000-year-old Neanderthal Jewelry, Croatia, via AncientOrigins

In late 2013 a professor who’s incharge of the Neanderthal Collection deriving from the site of Krapina, Croatia, took a fresh look at some eagle talons found among the items. She noticed numerous cut marks on the talons and realized that they must have been used as jewelry. An international team that was later assembled had confirmed professor Radovcic’s theory in the early 2015, changing our perception of the Neanderthals. Previously regarded as savage brutes, they are now shown to have had a form of symbolic thinking in their lives. Also, it indicates that the need for ornaments predates the modern men, since the pieces were dated to have been made 135,000 years ago.

Nassarius Snail Beads

Ancient archeological shell beads of Nassarius kraussianus from Blombos Cave

Ancient archeological shell beads of Nassarius kraussianus from Blombos Cave, Credits: Wikimedia

In the site of Skhul cave in Israel, researchers have found beads made from shells of a sea snail called Nassarius. These beads are the first known jewelry made by modern humans dated as early as 110,000 years. Similar beadwork was later found across the African continent, with the oldest examples found in Morocco, dated to some 80,000 years ago. Just a bit younger were the beads found in a cave on the Cape shoreline in south Africa, aging around 75,000 years.

Ostrich Shell Beads of Kenya

Ostrich Shell Beads

Ostrich Shell Beads, via Flickr

For a long time, it was thought that the oldest personal ornament ever was found in the site of Enkapune Ya Muto, translated as the Twilight Cave, in Kenya. It is believed that they are 40,000 years old. The beads were made from drilled ostrich egg shells tied on a string around the neck. These finds are contemporary to the supposed change in human cognitive abilities, when there was an outburst of imagination and abstract thinking.

Denisovan Stone Bracelet

40,000 Year-Old Stone Bracelet , Denisova Cave

40,000 Year-Old Stone Bracelet , Denisova Cave, via www.messagetoeagle.com

In 2008 on an excavation site in the Altai region of Siberia, a stone bracelet was found among some of the human remains. When the layer of soil and the material were dated, it was found that the remains in that particular layer were somewhere around 40,000 years old. Further examination of the bracelet uncovered that it was made using technology previously believed to have been nonexistent in the Paleolithic period.
The artisan who made the items was then thought to have been a modern human, but that was quickly refuted, and was confirmed that the person who made this piece was indeed belonging to the Denisovan people. This is remarkable since the Denisovans are thought to be a species that had developed earlier than both the modern human, and the Neanderthal.

The Gold Riches of Varna

A burial at Varna, with some of the world's oldest gold jewelery

A burial at Varna, with some of the world’s oldest gold jewelery, Credits: Wikimedia

One of the first cultures to have developed goldsmithing was the Varna civilization. It was developed in Eastern Bulgaria, near the Black Sea, in an area rich with lakes. With such abundant waterways, trade quickly allowed the goldsmiths to develop their trade as much as it was possible. The remains we have today are from a sight of the necropolis in which Varnians interred their dead, and where graves were dated as early as 4560-4450 BC. More than 290 graves have been discovered thus far, and 43 of them contained only cenotaphs, grave gifts, with no corporeal remains whatsoever. More importantly, the fact that just one of these burial pits contained more gold inside than it was discovered in the entire world for that period says a lot about Varna riches.

Glasswork of Egypt

Group of 16 amulets strung as a necklace, in bright faience blue

Group of 16 amulets strung as a necklace, in bright faience blue, Credits: Wikimedia

Perhaps the most famous jewelry belongs to the Cradle of Civilization– Egypt. The tradition that was carried on and on by the goldsmiths of Egypt was responsible for the Tutankhamun’s burial mask, the bust of Nefertiti, the golden capstone of the Pyramid of Giza, and many other notable wonders. But none of that would have been possible if it weren’t for the first steps which were made in crafting necklaces and head dressings some 5,000 years ago.
The Egyptian jewelry had two personal traits. As silver was in greater abundance in the area, most of the initial pieces were made in it, and even later it remained the primary resource for general populace. The other trait that was worn in Egypt was that they often made use of stained glass instead of gems, giving their work a far greater variety.

Mesopotamian jewelry

Pair of Gold Hair Ornaments, Mesopotamian, circa 2000 BC (Isin-larsa period)

Pair of Gold Hair Ornaments, Mesopotamian, circa 2000 BC (Isin-larsa period), Credits: Wikimedia

Most of the Mesopotamian jewelry was made on thin sheets of metal, set with variously colored gems. The oldest pieces we saved are from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, dating to as early as 2900 BC. The meticulous record keeping of the Mari gives us an insight into some piecesthat have not been recovered, for instance, one record speaks of a necklace of rounded lapis lazuli beads, with 28 of them rounded, and 29 fluted.

While the jewelry trends and materials may change, one is certain – we will always like to decorate and express individuality with it.


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