You don’t need to be human to carve a stone!

You don’t need to be human to carve a stone!

If there is anything that gets my back up in human origins research, it is scientists, or reporters for that matter, who refuse to accept that species that preceded modern humans (Homo sapiens) were not just a bunch of primitive brutes. How many studies does it take and over how many decades before humans stop putting themselves on a pedestal as the only species which has ever been capable of ‘advanced’ or complex behaviours?

Discovery News has reported on a new study in PLoS ONE which announced the finding of stone-tipped spears at an Ethiopian Stone Age site known as Gademotta, which date back 280,000 years – that is, they predate the earliest known fossil of a Homo sapien by 85,000 years. Could it be, Discovery News asks, that “a predecessor species to ours was extremely crafty and clever, making sophisticated tools long before Homo sapiens emerged”? They continued: “Could a Steve Jobs-like innovator… have come up with this useful tool and production process?”

Well firstly, that question – which could quite easily be answered with a little common sense – has already been affirmed by previous studies. And in fact, research has shown that it was those so-called ‘primitive, sub-humans’ the Neanderthals who taught humans how to use tools .

Secondly, it is known to science that many animal species are quite capable of making and using tools, so why not the ancient human ancestors?

Bonobo apes have been seen creating flint tools to prise open logs, chimpanzees are capable of fashioning spear-like weapons from branches for hunting and using stones as hammers and anvils in the wild, and orang-utans use tools made from branches and leaves to scratch, scrape, wipe, sponge, swat, fan, hook, probe, scoop, pry, chisel, hammer, cover, cushion and amplify. But if an ancient human has been found to make a tool, we should suddenly drop our jaws in surprise?

What is it about human nature that makes us feel threatened by the achievements of our ancestors? Is it easier to consider Neanderthals and other ancient species as evolutionary failures so that we can feel self-assured that we are ‘God’s greatest work’? Well time will tell whether we too are so-called ‘evolutionary failures’. At least our ancestors had the common sense to realise that destroying the very resources upon which they depended was a bad idea…

    Screw You, Elves!

    As Can't Argue with Elves is such a frustrating thing to many human viewers (and most viewers are human), the trope of humans telling and occasionally showing arrogant magical races exactly where to stick it is popular. If humans don't do it, the Dwarves will be happy to. For this reason humans and dwarves tend to get along much better in fiction.

    • Calling the Old Man Out, where parental figures are in place of elves.
    • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?, where it's an Eldritch Abomination or something similar.
    • Humanity Is Superior, the elves not only lack superiority, they are actually inferior.
    • Kick the Son of a Bitch or Pay Evil unto Evil, where said Manipulative Bastard is given his medicine (see page image).
    • The Dog Bites Back: Similiar to the above trope(s) where a supposely "inferior" race fights back.

    This trope is not pornographic well, usually not pornographic. Screw You, Elves! also doesn't apply when the elves aren't stuck-up in the first place, or when elves fail at something but no one In-Universe rubs their nose in it.

    Bronze Headstone History

    The creation of works of art in bronze is one of the most ancient and widespread art forms. For over 4,000 years, bronze has played an important role in art. Not only did the use of the material as a medium change the world of art, but bronze tools also revolutionized the arts of wood working and stone working. This metal served as a dynamic medium for artists that produced stunning works with details unseen in other mediums. The versatility of the material also made it possible for artists to quickly reproduce a piece or work of art. It is only recently that this beautiful material has been applied to the creation of memorial markers. For more on bronze headstones, please read our article, which provides many useful information and tips.

    The use of bronze for statues, coins and decorative articles and even tools dates back to approximately 3000 B.C. Bronze working continued through the 10th and 11th centuries in China, India, Egypt, Greece, France, Germany and Italy.

    Bronze was a prominent metal in Chinese art. The earliest Chinese works in any form are in bronze. There are numerous examples of bronze work from the 14th century B.C. Early Chinese bronzes are of great value for their aesthetic appeal, decoration, patina, beauty of form and for their documentary value as historical records. The lost-wax process was developed in China during the Shang Dynasty in 2000 B.C., also known as the 'Bronze Age'. Most Chinese bronzes were produced by the lost-wax method and inlay work was customary. Bronze figure casting began with Buddhism and starting in the Sun period (960-1279 A.D.), numerous bronze sculptures were created.

    One of the most famous bronze sculptures, Artemesion Bronze, is estimated to be from around the 6th century, but the origin and artist of this amazing masterpiece is still unknown. What makes this bronze statue particularly intriguing is the fact that is was not discovered, but recovered from the sea in northern Euboea, meaning it was found in the water. This ancient statue used to have inset eyes, and other small parts, such as his eyebrows and lips. While most art historians assume the eyes were most likely inset with bone, in which case it is not surprising that the inset is no longer present, there is debate regarding what the other accents were inset with. Many believe the other features were inset with precious metals such as silver and copper. This is what makes this particular statue so fascinating, because if the small features were inset with other metals, you can see the durablity of bronze over time in comparison, as the statue, with the exception of the finish, is in nearly pristine shape. Almost every detail is as it would have been when it was first created, with the exception of the insets of course.

    The Etruscans made extensive use of bronze and were highly skilled in its working. The Romans made considerable advances in the technical aspects of bronze casting - particularly the use of prefabricated parts and in methods of joining bronze castings. During the centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the first years of the Romanesque period (c. 1000 A.D.), stone was used more frequently than bronze for sculpture. The Carolinian Renaissance of the 9th century marked the return of bronze. In the 10th century, during the Ottoman Period, bronze was used extensively.

    Bronze was primarily used for architectural features during the Renaissance in Italy. The future of bronze sculpture was greatly influenced in 1432 by Donatello's decision to cast his work of David in bronze. The statue of David was the first freestanding nude statue created since classical times. A school for bronze sculptors was established at Padua in the 15th century by followers of Donatello.

    In France during the 16th century, bas-relief was the predominant form of bronze work. From 1400 to 1800 A.D., the Benin culture, which inhabited southern Nigeria, produced beautiful bronze ritual objects known as Benin bronzes. The 16th and 17th centuries were high points for bronze carving in west Africa. Bronze statuettes were abundant.

    Gilt bronze was very popular in the late 17th and 18th centuries. In 1788, a process of founding with sand was invented in France which became as popular as the lost-wax method of hollow casting. In the 18th century, bronze sculpture was produced on a more modest scale. Antoine Louis Barye, a great animal sculptor, created some of the finest bronzes of the century.

    The use of bronze in art declined during the 19th and 20th centuries. Direct carving became the preferred form in the early part of the 20th century. Today, cast bronze is unchallenged in the fine arts as a medium especially for freestanding sculpture. The durability and lightness of bronze make it preferable to stone or wood in many types of work. Bronze sculpture offers a freedom of conception, which is impossible in stone.

    While bronze has long held a main staple in the art community, it has only recently been utilized to craft impressive and unforgettable grave markers, or headstones. Bronze grave markers pair very nicely with granite, to create a neat and aesthetically appealing look that is quickly becoming a tradition in itself. For more information on the granite that is available for these elegant memorials, please visit our Qualities of Granite article.

    Bronze Headstones History:

    While a granite gravestone remains the most popular today, bronze headstones are also becoming very popular as a material for memorial markers. Bronze is an alloy made of a mixture of different metals, mostly copper, with additives such as tin and zinc. Bronze is an incredibly sturdy metal that has been in use for everything from weapons, to statues, to tools since at least 2000 B.C. In the last two centuries, it has gained extensive popularity, because of its ability to withstand the elements, as a material for headstones. Bronze is also well known as a very versatile material that is typically poured, in its liquid state, into a mold that is of any shape or size that the artisan needs or desires. Bronze headstones often have a granite base, and the two materials combine to make cemetery maintenance simple. For the most part, families have been able to preserve the elegance of the bronze on granite memorials for years by gently brushing or wiping away any dust or debris that may collect on the stone. There is usually no need for cleaning with any type of abrasive or dangerous chemicals, or special tools for that matter, although more extreme cases where the bronze is very weathered (over the course of many, many years) may require &rsquorefinishing&rsquo. Bronze headstones are a specialty of, and we strive to meet your headstone needs. It should be noted that all of the adult headstones sells are available with a bronze vase - for an extra charge - if the customer desires one.

    With the discovery of alloying (alloy meaning a mixture of two or more materials, especially metals) bronze was created. History of bronze technology dates back to 4500 B.C., when Chalcolithic man discovered (either by accident or experiment), that the addition of small amounts of another metal to copper strengthened the material, lowered the melting point, and made the molten material flow more easily into molds. Scholars believe the earliest bronzes were smelted in Susa (Iran) and some ancient sites in Luristan (Iran) and Mesopotamia (Iraq). Other scholars believe bronze was developed by the ancient Sumerians in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley around 3500 B.C.

    Bronze is the ancient name for a broad range of alloys of copper, but usually with tin as the main additive. Due to limited access to the elements needed to produce bronze, it was initially used judiciously and primarily for decorative purposes. As the availability of tin and copper increased, the Bronze Age blossomed. Today with the ready supplies of tin and copper required to create the alloy, bronze is cast around the world for a multitude of products including bronze headstones. Bronze has proved its performance value under the most extreme temperature and climate conditions. Bronze was and still remains a highly prized alloy for its aesthetic qualities, thus making it an ideal material for headstones. Bronze artifacts are evidence of its enduring qualities, surviving the elements over thousands of years.

    The process of making bronze headstones can be broken down into four main steps. The first step is casting the bronze plaque. Initially, a bronze plaque is created, complete with lettering. During smelting, bronze bars (ingots) are heated to approximately 1742 degrees (compared to 1983 degrees for pure copper). Because of the lower viscosity, they can now easily be poured into the mold. Common bronze alloys (90% copper, 10% tin) often have the unusual and very desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, thus filling in the finest details of a mold.

    Once the bronze has cooled, it shrinks slightly and is removed from the mold. The next step in creating a bronze headstone is chasing the plaque. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines chasing as &ldquoto decorate (metal) by engraving or embossing.&rdquo In making a bronze headstone, it refers to the sanding of the bronze to remove any undesirable marks and prepare the surface for the patina.

    Patination is the third phase of creating a bronze headstone. The patina is the finished color. Arriving at this final color involves several steps. First, the bronze headstone plaque is applied with several coats of oxidation (paint). Excess oxidation will then be removed from the letters and sculpted designs using a special solvent to reveal the natural patina of the bronze.

    Step 2: Supplies Needed

    Once you have selected your soapstone you will need the following tools and items.

    -rasps and files - this is what you use to carve the stone. You can find various sizes and shapes. You don't need to purchase the most expensive set, any will do. I use a combination of both rasps and files depending on the detail I am trying to achieve.
    -various grits of sand paper including waterproof sand paper - as we finish the piece, the courseness of grit will be reduced to finally finish with wet sanding. I recommend 60 grit, 100 grit, to 200-300 grit for wet sanding. If you can find a higher count, that would be good too.
    -a bucket or basin to hold water for sanding

    -mineral or baby oil (unscented)
    -dust mask
    -safety glasses

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    6 The Indians Weren't Defeated by White Settlers

    Our history books don't really go into a ton of detail about how the Indians became an endangered species. Some warring, some smallpox blankets and . death by broken heart?

    When American Indians show up in movies made by conscientious white people like Oliver Stone, they usually lament having their land taken from them. The implication is that Native Americans died off like a species of tree-burrowing owl that couldn't hack it once their natural habitat was paved over.

    But if we had to put the whole Cowboys and Indians battle in a Hollywood log line, we'd say the Indians put up a good fight, but were no match for the white man's superior technology. As surely as scissors cuts paper and rock smashes scissors, gun beats arrow. That's just how it works.

    There's a pretty important detail our movies and textbooks left out of the handoff from Native Americans to white European settlers: It begins in the immediate aftermath of a full-blown apocalypse. In the decades between Columbus' discovery of America and the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, the most devastating plague in human history raced up the East Coast of America. Just two years before the pilgrims started the tape recorder on New England's written history, the plague wiped out about 96 percent of the Indians in Massachusetts.

    In the years before the plague turned America into The Stand, a sailor named Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed up the East Coast and described it as "densely populated" and so "smoky with Indian bonfires" that you could smell them burning hundreds of miles out at sea. Using your history books to understand what America was like in the 100 years after Columbus landed there is like trying to understand what modern day Manhattan is like based on the post-apocalyptic scenes from I Am Legend.

    Historians estimate that before the plague, America's population was anywhere between 20 and 100 million (Europe's at the time was 70 million). The plague would eventually sweep West, killing at least 90 percent of the native population. For comparison's sake, the Black Plague killed off between 30 and 60 percent of Europe's population.

    While this all might seem like some heavy shit to lay on a bunch of second graders, your high school and college history books weren't exactly in a hurry to tell you the full story. Which is strange, because many historians believe it is the single most important event in American history. But it's just more fun to believe that your ancestors won the land by being the superior culture.

    European settlers had a hard enough time defeating the Mad Max-style stragglers of the once huge Native American population, even with superior technology. You have to assume that the Native Americans at full strength would have made shit powerfully real for any pale faces trying to settle the country they had already settled. Of course, we don't really need to assume anything about how real the American Indians kept it, thanks to the many people who came before the pilgrims. For instance, if you liked playing cowboys and Indians as a kid, you should know that you could have been playing vikings and Indians, because that shit actually happened. But before we get to how they kicked Viking ass, you probably need to know that .

    Related: 5 Ridiculous Myths Everyone Believes About the Wild West


    The Gothic era expanded on the religious sculptures of the early medieval period and the figures on churches became more elaborate. Prominent Biblical figures were liberated from their backgrounds and more churches were decorated in very high relief sculptures, with the figures almost in the round (i.e. free standing).

    Jacques de Landshut , Depiction of the Adoration of the Magi, sculptures on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg, 1494-1505. By Rebecca Kennison (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

    French or Flemish, probably 1575-1675.

    Another popular figurine was the Virgin, often given to young girls as engagement presents. Since the Virgin represents chastity and motherhood, the figurines were probably seen as a symbol of good luck and reminder of the importance of piety.

    Virgin and Child, approx. 1350-1360, ivory

    The Ica Stones

    Brattarb/Wikimedia Commons/CC SA BY 2.0

    In the 1930s, Dr. Javier Cabrera received the gift of a strange stone from a local farmer. The stone so intrigued the doctor that he began collecting others, eventually boasting a collection of more than 1,100 andesite stones. Estimated to be between 500 and 1,500 years old, the stones have become known as the Ica Stones.

    The stones bear etchings, many of which are sexually graphic. Some depict idols, while others depict such practices as open-heart surgery and brain transplants. The most astonishing etchings, however, clearly represent dinosaurs—brontosauruses, triceratopses, stegosauruses, and pterosaurs.

    While skeptics consider the Ica Stones a hoax, their authenticity has neither been proved nor disproved.

    Prehistoric carving is oldest known figurative art

    This sculpture may look a little bit like a roast chicken, but don’t let that distract you – it’s an incredibly important artistic find. This small figurine is arguably the oldest representation of the human body yet discovered.

    The figure is clearly human, with short arms ending in five, carefully carved fingers, and a navel in the right position. But its most obvious features show that it depicts a woman, and very explicitly at that. She has large protruding breasts, wide hips and thighs, accentuated buttocks and pronounced vulva between her open legs. In contrast to these exaggerated sexual features, her arms and legs are relatively small and her head has been left out entirely. It was replaced with a carefully carved ring that probably allowed the figure to be suspended like a pendant.

    The figurine is very similar to the so-called Venuses of Europe’s tool-making Gravettian culture. These prehistoric works of art also had crazily proportioned breasts, buttocks and genitals, as well as curiously downplayed heads, arms and legs. They were created between 22,000 and 27,000 years ago, but this new find is much older than that.

    It was unearthed by Nicholas Conard from the University of Tubingen, who found the Venus three metres underground, within the Hohle Fels Cave in southern Germany. It’s just 6cm long and was carved from the solid ivory tusk of a mammoth. Judging by carbon-dating measurements of other finds from the dig site, Conard estimates that it was fashioned at least 35,000 years ago, although it could well be millennia older.

    The Venus was found in six separate fragments, recovered over a week in 2008. Despite being shattered, most of the pieces have been found and reunited, with only the left arm and shoulder still missing. Conard still hopes to recover these missing fragments as the cave dig continues. Like other Venuses, Conard suggests that his latest find could be a symbol of fertility. She’s also adorned in other markings, including horizontal lines around her waist that could possibly represent a wrap or piece of clothing.

    The Venus hails from the Aurignacian period, which saw the demise of the European Neanderthals and the settling of genetically modern humans in their place. The German caves where the Venus was buried have yielded a treasure trove of human creativity from this far-gone culture, including the world’s oldest unmistakeable musical instruments -flutes made from the bird bones, joined by mammoth ivory.

    Archaeologists have also found a veritable art gallery of 25 other Aurignacian figurines, but all of these depict animals or half-human, half-animal creatures. The Venus is unique, for it is older than all of these earlier finds and it’s the first one that’s clearly human.

    It’s quite probably the oldest human figure on record. There are other contenders to the title including rust paintings in Italy’s Fumane Cave (although these may again depict human-animal hybrids) and those in France’s Chauvet Caves. There is a caveat – Conard admits that the carbon-dating estimates are ambiguous. Nonetheless, the figurine was found at the bottom of sediment that was deposited during the Aurignacian and that shows no signs of having been disturbed since then.

    According to Conard, the mere existence of the Venus radically changes our view of the origins of prehistoric art. Modern humans evolved in Africa and the oldest art there is abstract – geometrical designs that were created between 75,000 and 95,000 years ago.

    But portraying the human figure appears to have been a European invention, achieved only when our ancestors migrated northwards. In Africa, the oldest figurative art is a set of seven paintings on stone blocks from Namibia’s Apollo 11 cave, and these were created just 25,500 to 27,500 years ago. Archaeologist Paul Mellars believes that Conard’s Venus pinpoints south Germany as the “the birthplace of true sculpture in the European – maybe global – artistic tradition”.

    Reference: Conard, N. (2009). A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany Nature, 459 (7244), 248-252 DOI: 10.1038/nature07995

    Early History of Jewelry: Ancient Times to the 17th Century

    It seems that every person between the ages of 8 and 18 knows the story of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Frodo the hobbit and his journey through the Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings. Gemstones and jewelry have been a part of mankind since before history was written.

    It began when time began and man first walked on Earth. Of course, the jewelry they wore in the old days was not made like we make it today. The ancient people wore jewelry made of feathers, bones, shells, and colored pebbles. These colored pebbles were gems and gems have been admired for their beauty and durability and made into adornments. Diamonds were not popular until people learned how to cut them to show their brilliance, which began in Europe sometime around the 1300. Many types of jewelry items still made today began as functional objects. Pins and brooches originated from the clasps that held clothing together. Rings and pendants were used for early seals and signs of identification, rank, and authority.

    The earliest finding of jewelry was dated around 25,000 years ago. This simple necklace made of fish bones was found in a cave in Monaco. What did this necklace signify? Was it for the chief of the village or a witch doctor? Maybe a princess wore it as a trophy her husband gave her for having a boy child. We might never know the real reason for the making of the gift but we can use our imagination and try to understand the way people thought in those days.

    The need to feel accepted, to belong, can be as important as the needs we fulfill in caring for our bodies. A sense of identity and self-esteem is not a frill, so belonging reflects a need, too. The first adornments were derived from the hunt teeth, claws, horns, and bones. Hunters believed that wearing trophies would bring them good luck for the next hunt. Remember, the village lived day to day by the virtue of a good hunter and this person deserved respect and privileges. Of course, the best hunter wanted to show they had courage and prowess.

    In early societies, jewelry was worn as amulets to protect against bad luck and illness. The silver vest of the elfin princess protected Frodo from harm in the stories of his adventure through Middle Earth. Even today, we hear the tales and adventures of people long ago who somehow found luck and fortune because of gemstones and jewelry. From these myths evolves jewelry made into symbols thought to give the wearer control over fertility, wealth and love. Jewelry was worn for its magical properties.

    Jewelry later came to denote human connection and commitment. Slaves were made to wear bracelets to show who they belonged to. Wedding rings symbolized the commitment two people had for each other. At one time in Europe only the wealthy and high-ranking church officials were allowed to wear gemstones. This was a sign of wealth and power. The commoners wishing to mimic them would wear less expensive jewelry to add color and flash to their festive costumes. Some African tribes today still wear enormous lip plugs and distort the mouth of its wearer. This is to make the men look more fearsome in battle and women so ugly that the other tribes wouldn’t want to steal them. Have you seen the women in Africa with the long necks? This is done by adding a new ring every year from childhood. This deforms the upper body and makes the neck appear longer.

    In following the trail or evolution of jewelry from the ancient worlds of Africa to the Mediterranean then Europe and finally the United States, we can see how jewelry evolved over time and is found in jewelry stores today.

    Iran and the Mediterranean

    The earliest traces of jewelry can be traced to the civilizations that bloomed in the Mediterranean and what is now called Iran around 3,000 to 400 BC. These were usually simple stone amulets and seals. Many of these amulets and seals carried spiritual meanings, stars, and floral designs. Jewelry was offered to the gods and was used to dress up statues. The Royal Tombs in ancient Sumner, dating back to 3000 BC, delivered to us the greatest collect of all times. There they found mummies encrusted with every imaginable type of jewelry worn, headdresses, necklaces, earrings, rings, crowns, and pins.

    The Egyptians

    Then there are the ancient Egyptians they too wore amulets and talismans. Everyone has seen the scarab in Mummy movies it is a carving of a small beetle. Another common motif was the ankh, the symbol of life. A popular piece of jewelry, and one which is even finding fashion again, is the multiple strains of beads of various colors. The Egyptians made bracelets of multiple strains of colored gemstones. You have probably heard these names, as they are still common today amethyst, carnelian, green feldspar, and turquoise.

    The Egyptians used symbols to show territorial pride, the vulture represented Nekhbet, patron of the Upper Egypt and the cobra stood for Lower Egypt. The royal jewelers used gold, silver, turquoise, chalcedony, amethyst, and lapis lazuli. Lapis Lazuli was traded with miners from Afghanistan. The Egyptians were also famous for faience, a glass like glaze on clay and glass inlays.

    The Egyptians believed strongly that color reflects aspects of our personalities, and as a result, color symbolism was important to the ancient Egyptians. Yellow and gold were associated with the sun and were always used in crowns and ornaments for the pharaoh and his priests. A green stone was put in the mouths of the pharaohs to restore speech in the other world. The red AB or heart amulet was believed to preserve the soul. The golden Udjat provided health and protection.


    Bahrain is a flat island in the Persian Gulf, located off the coast of Saudi Arabia. This was an island, not of nobility and wealth. but an island of commoners where 170,000 burial sites have been discovered. The most ancient are nearly 4,000 years old while some are as recent as 300 BC. These were everyday people who actually had a high standard of living. Archeologists have flocked to Bahrain trying to discover how these people lived. They found bronze axe heads, javelins and they even found a 4,000 year old pot traced to ancient Oman. But their real find was a 4000-year-old pearl and gold earring, the oldest ever found.

    The Greeks

    The Greeks were prolific writers and they often talked about jewelry and its impact on their day-to-day lives. As far back as 1200 BC, Greek jewelry was rich and varied and reflected the prosperity of the society. At first, the Greeks copied Eastern Motifs but then later developed their own style following their beliefs in the gods and symbols. Greek jewelry included crowns, earrings, bracelets, rings, hairpins, necklaces, and brooches. Greek women sometimes wore necklaces with 75 or more dangling miniature vases. Their jewelry combined the Eastern taste for gemstones and the Etruscan use of gold. The Etruscan perfected a method for making tiny gold beads called granulation.

    The Romans

    By the Roman era most gem stones that we use today had already been discovered. Myth and magic was the rule of the day and gemstones were treated with respect. They also had a second purpose the Roman women would were hairpins that were long enough to be used in self-defense! The Romans had also loved the cameo and cherished it for its beauty. Bracelets for the wrist and upper arms as well as necklaces became popular, as did jewelry made from gold coins.

    The Byzantine Empire

    No empire had demonstrated a richer tradition in jewelry than the Byzantines. The Byzantines inherited this prestige’s position after the Emperor Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople in 330 AD. This empire merged the greatness and richness of Greece, Egypt, the Near East, and parts of Russia and North Africa. The combination of influences of this melting pot lead to the use of rich colors, oriental symbolism, and it lasted through the Middle Ages. Their designs were carried west into Europe by trade, marriage, and war. The art of cloisonné enameling, where glass glaze is poured, set into pre-soldered patterns or cells, and then fired at a high temperature to melt the glaze into a permanent design, flourished during the Byzantine period.

    When Rome fell, darkness fell over the lands that they ruled. Life was hard and luxuries like jewelry all but disappeared from European life. At this time, most of the wealth laid in the hands of the church. In the tenth century, the sacred world enjoyed such finery as gem-studded altars, chalices, and icon missals, (books used during mass.) During the Crusades, bands of solders traveled to the holy land and returned with a great booty of gemstones and jewelry. The Church benefited most by the looting but there was many pieces not delivered to the church and found its way amount the common people.

    The Crusades

    The Crusades were the first real trade between East and West in several centuries and this opened up a new world of trade and communications. It exposed the Europeans to new products and ideas. From the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, few peasants wore jewelry, except sometimes a brooch or hatpin was seen.

    In the Middle Ages the royal family and churches frowned on commoners wearing jewelry or trying to copy their clothes or manners. The nobility considered this a special privilege only for them to enjoy. To enforce this idea Sumptuary Laws were initiated. Such laws were meant to curb opulence and promote thrift by regulating what people were allowed to wear. Rings that were worn carried a meaning and a purpose. There were four main categories or purposes:

    1. Ecclesiastical rings, worn by clergy and laymen as sacred emblems.
    2. Curative rings, meant to cure ailments and diseases.
    3. Rings of romance, the wedding ring on the left second finger because of its closeness to the heart.
    4. Gadget rings, including brass knuckles, compass rings, pipe stuffers.

    Although the French set fashion trends in the sixteenth century, England royalty Henry VIII wore the most extravagant of clothing. He boasted at least 234 rings, 324 brooches, diamond and pearl studded necklets. His daughter, Elizabeth I, loved pearls so much that she had over 2000 dresses made, each weighted down with pearls and gemstones. Elisabeth’s clothing was typical of this period. The Queen of Spain also wore dresses heavily jeweled and embroidered with pearls.

    King Louis XIV of France endeared the fact that his court would be the most magnificent through out the land. During his reign (1642-1715), more large diamonds were imported from India than at any other time in history. Ever hear of the blue Hope Diamond? It is believed that it was bought from Jean-Baptiste Tavernier and was to be set in a necklace by the Royal Jewelers Le Grand. This necklace was to be given to his grandson as a wedding gift for Marie Antiquette, but instead it was stolen.

    The seventeenth century was the era of baroque design. (The term baroque comes possibly from the Portuguese baroca for a misshapen pearl.) Color gemstones lost favor and next it was diamonds that commanded the jewelry industry.

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