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The history of jewellery

 

The onset of jewellery manufacture seems to have been in Babylonia, the land of biblical floods. The excavated town of Ur gave many rich examples of the jewellers art dating at about 2700 B.C. It then spread outwards and it appears to have reached the Aegean world by about 2400 B.C., and from there all over the world.

In the early period there is little use of metals, with the earliest bits of jewellery found being cooper earrings. The first use of silver, in silver earrings, was noted about one hundred years later, and the first use of gold, one hundred years after that.

During the middle period there was increased commerce with Syria, Palestine and Egypt, with more use of gold and silver and the export of cooper. In the late Bronze Age Cyprus really flourished and there was a large flow to Cyprus of precious metals and semiprecious and precious stones.

The techniques of metalwork e.g. Filigree, granulation, niello and enameling, advanced and reached a high degree of sophistication, which experts admire even today. Examples of the work of this period can be seen in most of the big museums of the world and in The Cyprus Museum. Much was found in Engomi, near Salamis e.g. gold necklaces, rings, bracelets, gold bowls and gold earrings.

The earliest enamelling to be found was in Mycenae, about 1400 B.C., but this was not developed until two centuries later in Cyprus. Examples are the six gold rings found in Kouklia, decorated with a cloisonne like enamel pattern, 1200 B.C.

The hallmarking

For years now the Cyprus Jewellers Association has been talking of the need to establish in Cyprus an assay office for the hallmarking of precious metals. With legislation already drawn for such a scheme, it is expected that within a couple of years all jewellery sold in Cyprus will be hallmarked.

Hallmarking has been associated with the jewellery and silversmithing trade for centuries ir many European countries. It is intended for all purposes, as a guarantee of metal quality to the buyer. It is worth mentioning that in Britain it was first introduces be Edward I in the 14th century, while in France hallmarking first began even earlier, in the 13th century.

Basically, each and every item produced by a factory or craftsman has to be sent to a government recognized assaying office where the quality of the item is determined. If the standard is according to the makers claim or higher the official punch marks are placed on the articles and then returned to the maker.

In Cyprus, the assaying–office will be under the supervision of the Organization of Cyprus standards and quality control known as CYS, which organization falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

Finally, it is worth knowing that the marks on the item provide useful information to the buyer. An explanation is given below.

ASSAY OFFICE MARK: Identifies where the article was assayed or tested by the authority responsible for setting the standards.

STANDARD MARK: This serves the double purpose of showing what metal is used and its degree of fineness. It consists of a number showing either the carat quality metal to a thousand parts of alloy (eq. 750 means 750/1000)

MAKERS MARK: This identifies the manufacturer. It usually consists of initials or an emblem.

DATE MARK: It denotes the year of manufacture.

Gold and Silver: More than just beautiful metals

 

Man has known and made use of gold for over 6000 years. Gold was found long ago as nuggets in Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley and was probably the first metal to be worked by craftsmen. Gold was discovered to be indestructible and versatile as well as beautiful. For example, less than announce of gold bullion could be hammered into massive sheets of decorative trim for ornate breast plates.

Today, because of its tensile strength and electrical conductive properties, gold is relied on by the aerospace industry for a wide range of used-from a thin spray on the exhaust of supersonic air transports to the lifelines of astronauts afloat in space.

Gold’s scarcity and durability were what made it medium of exchange perhaps as long ago as 4300 BC. Herodotus recounts that the Lydians were the first people to make use of bean-shaped gold tokens around the time of has spread the use of gold coins of roughly equal shapes and sizes as a medium of exchange throughout the known world.

Today, jewellery and artwork account for around 70% of gold- consumption, electronics, space and defense from 11-15%, dentistry 6%, and coins and medallions about  9%.

Silver has been used for centuries in coins, ornaments and jewellery. Today the use of silver for these purposes accounts for less than 10% of total annual world consumption, which has ranged from 375 million to nearly 500 million troy ounces in recent years. Silver has long been sought after for its proven resistance to heat and rust and its excellent electrical properties.

During the last century, for example, rabid advances in the art of photography were only made possible through the introduction of specially coated plates of energized silver particles. The electrical, electronic and photographic uses of silver account for over half of the consumption, industrial uses of silver now account for more than 99% of U.S. Silver consumption, a large share of which is used by the photographic industry. The electrical and electronic industries are other major consumers of silver.

Unequalled as a thermal and electrical conductor with high heat-resistance, silver electrical contacts can be found in practically every on-off switch and electrical appliance. Large quantities of silver are being used in solder and brazing alloys utilized in air-conditioning, refrigeration and aircraft industries.

The dental and medical professions are also important end-users of silver. 

Jewellery in Cyprus: Millenia of Development

 

The Cyprus women of the Neolithic times 8000 years ago adorned themselves with necklaces of cornelian beads and sea-shells.

Since that time, design and techniques of jewellery making in Cyprus have gone through developmental processes. These processes were brought about by influences from neighboring countries and by improvising and improvement on the local scene.

The most important local development was the discovery of copper in the 3rd millennium and of cloisonné enamel around 13th century B.C. Evidence of these can be found in the gold rings of Palaipaphos and the gold sceptre of Kourion.

The Zenith of the development of Cyprus Jewellery during these times came during the Cypromycenean period with the techniques of granulation, inlaying, plating and embossing reaching very high standards.

During the Archaic classical and Hellenistic periods new heights of Cyprus jewellery were reached and continued during the Lusignian and Venetian times.

After centuries of poverty and stagnation – following political and religious upheavals in the island- the tradition of Cyprus Jewellery was revised and the art and science of the craft has grown tremendously with the introduction of modern ideas and techniques.