How ancient jewelry survived
Women have always used jewelry to show their status and wealth, and enhance their beauty. Even the Cro-Magnons had primitive necklaces and bracelets. But one way or another, almost all the jewelry from ancient times was destroyed.
A few pieces survived in hiding places, put there long ago for safe-keeping during wars and invasions. These precious pieces were left untouched for millennia because the people who knew where the treasure was hidden were slaughtered or taken captive, never to return. The secret of the jewelry's location died with them.
Woman with jewelry, statue from the Valley of the Tombs, Palmyra
Other pieces of jewelry survived because of some natural disaster, such as the volcanic eruption at Pompeii (see bracelet below, which was found alongside a body). People trying to flee the cataclysm snatched up any portable valuables they could carry, then found they had left their escape too late. The valuables, often pieces of jewelry, lay hidden and forgotten for many centuries.
Jewelry is portable wealth. It is also an in-your-face status symbol, letting everyone know how rich you are. That is why young women draped themselves in their jewelry on their wedding day. In a not-very-subtle way they were telling their new husband how lucky he was.
A treasure-trove of ancient jewels from the tomb at Nimrud (see information below)
We have very little to go on, but we know that the Jewish people borrowed craftsmen from surrounding countries like Phoenicia. These men produced designs similar to the ones they made in their native countries, so it is fair to assume that Jewish women wore jewelry similar in design to Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Assyrian pieces.
Egyptian, 22nd dynasty. During this dynasty, Shoshenq I invaded the kingdom of Judah and Israel, and overran Jerusalem and nearby cities in about 925 BCE. He took the Temple and palace treasures, including the golden shields of Solomon, back to Egypt.
Necklace with inlaid lapis lazuli and carnelian gemstones, Iraz Museum, Baghdad
Part of a diadem found in a tomb at Ur
Gold diadem embellished with blue, green, red, and white enameled flowers;
During the later Greek and Roman periods, admiration among the upper classes for foreign fashions and design was strong, and Jewish women wore jewelry similar to pieces worn in ancient Greece and Rome.
Gold bracelet in the form of a coiled snake, 1st century AD, Roman, Pompeii
Ancient Egyptian bracelet or gold and semi-precious stones
Ancient Persian bracelets/clasps
Gold bracelet and earrings from Pompeii
The woman on this ivory plaque wears an Egyptian-style wig and an elaborate ornament with pendants in her hair. The image fits the description of Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:30-37.
For Bible references to ancient jewelry, see also
Rare bronze 3,500 year old bracelet. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
A bronze bracelet dating to the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550–1200 BC) has been found during an excavation at Ramat Razim in the vicinity of Zefat (Tsefat, Safad). Karen Covello-Paran, director of the excavation, says,
Large Canaanite cities, such as Megiddo and Hazor, have been excavated, but this is the first time a village of the Late Bronze Age has been excavated in the north of Israel. This site, Ramat Razim, is located southeast of Zefat, and is thought to have “constituted part of the periphery of Tel Hazor,” according to Covello-Paran.
Miscellaneous Canaanite jewelry excavated at Tel-al-Ajjul
Stop press: Archaeologists have just unearthed a hidden stash of gold jewelry (above) near the site of the ancient city of Armageddon, where the New Testament says the final battle between good and evil will take place. The jewelry was found inside a clay pot as if it had been hidden from an enemy, perhaps during a siege. The owner of the jewelry never came back to claim it.
The flattened skull and jewelry of Queen Puabi just as it was found in her tomb at Ur in Sumeria -
Jewelry taken from Queen Puabi's tomb at Ur in ancient Sumeria, 3rd
Polished beads found in the tomb of Queen Puabi
'Last year, exploring an inner room of the palace, a team of laborers (headed by Muzahim Mahmoud Hussein, leader of the Iraqi team at Nimrud) stumbled across a tomb that contained a small collection of necklaces, earrings and gilded pins. In April, Muzahim found what looked like a piece of pavement. When he and his workers cleared off the dirt, they uncovered a small ceramic pipe resembling an air vent.
The "pavement" turned out to be the arched roof of a small rectangular tomb. Inside: a dusty sarcophagus. "I pried the top off with an iron bar," says Muzahim. "There was more dust inside, but when I held up the light, it was reflected back into my eyes by the gold."
Much of that gold turned out to be priceless jewelry draped around the skeleton of a young princess named Yabahya, tentatively identified as the daughter of one of Assyria's most renowned and feared kings, Sargon II. Nearby, still more jewelry and gold ornaments were piled. Mingled with the dried bones were dozens of delicately sculpted gold rosettes, scattered like flowers over the body of the dead princess.' (Quoted from Time magazine article, Philip Elmer-Dewitt, October 13 1989)
a tomb at the ancient city of Nimrud, in Iraq.
Nimrud: ugal or headdress worn by the Queen
Nimrud: gold bracelets
Gold jewelry from Troy II, 3rd millennium BC
Gold pin with filigree work, from 'Priam's Treasure', Troy
Mycenaean gold pendant, 17thcentury BC
Fragment from a delicate gold hairnet
Jewels of a tribal princess like Sarah, circa 1500BC
An early piece of Egyptian jewelry from the 5th dynasty: collar and bracelet
The same basic design as above, but with more expensive stones
Necklace circa 14-13th century BC, found at Mari, a flourishing city west of the Euphrates
Necklace beads, 13th century BC
Gold necklace, 5th century BC
This Roman bust of Antonia Minor shows her wearing a diadem, probably of beaten gold
Cornelian necklace, Roman era
Jewelry from the Bible period - Archaeology of The Bible - Bible Study Resource: Jewelry in the Ancient World