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Lizette Nielson
Art 1040
07/21/2014
James Lund
The Jewelry of the Ancient Egyptians
Ancient Egyptian jewelry is among some of the most unique and beautiful pieces of
ancient history ever found. Sometimes, Egyptian jewelry could be massive and it is characterized
by a meticulous work and the used of bright gold and precious jewels. As an important fact, the
jewelry was not only limited to women, but also men wore them as well.
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, what we call Egyptian jewelry was
originally created for religious and magical purposes. Its symbols and functions reveal the
Egyptians beliefs about the world and their attempts to understand and relate to it (Watts). Most
of the jewelry incorporates Egyptian deities in the form of falcons, tigers, jackals, antelopes,
vultures, and cobras, which appear in many forms and combinations. Precious gemstones like red
Carnelian, Lapis Lazuli, Turquoise and Quartz were used often. Of the stones native to Egypt,
emeralds and pearls were most commonly used as well as precious metals like gold or a
combination of silver and gold (Axelrod).
Another important characteristic of the Ancient Egyptian jewelry is that all people no
matter their social status wore jewelry. In contrast to other cultures, Egyptian Jewelry was not
limited for the rich. An example of this is that during excavations of tombs and graves, the
poorest of individuals would still be found wearing a string of beads or a simple bracelet
(Axelrod). However, the material used and the complexity of the pieces were different among the
rich and poor. Gold jewelry was available for the rich and was a symbol of status, power and
religion. For those with less wealth, copper and jewelry called faience (earthenware decorated
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with colored glazes that could imitate gemstones) was cheap to buy (Jewelry in Ancient Egypt).
Gold was imported from Nubia and was mined in the Egyptian desert. Copper was obtained
principally from Sinai. Tin probably had to be imported a great distance, either as pure tin or
already alloyed with copper to make bronze. Most silver was imported, for example from
western Asia or the Aegean. Metal objects were fabricated from sheet metal or were cast.
It is believed that for the ancient Egyptian, gold represented the flesh of the gods, the fire
and glory of the sun, and the very idea that the luster of the gold was never lost, therefore an
eternal sense of being (Axelrod). Another remarkable material used in the ancient Egyptian
jewelry was the colored glass, which was first discovered in Egypt. This material is found in the
depiction of birds, more specifically in the representation of the feathers in many of the Egyptian
jewelry (Ancient Egyptian).
Color played an important role in the Egyptian Art. For example, Sculpture, reliefs, and
wooden coffins were enriched with warm and cool colors. This was applied in jewelry design as
well. Colors not only had aesthetic appeal but also had symbolic meaning. Blue and green were
associated with water, the Nile, and vegetation. Yellow and gold stood for the sun and the sun
god. Red and red- orange had complex meanings involving the desert, power, blood, and vitality
(Watts).
A jewelry item's theme was as important as its color, and no symbol was as important to
the ancient Egyptians as the scarab, or dung beetle. Scarab amulets were symbolic of rebirth
due to the dung beetle's proclivity for rolling a piece of dung into a spherical ball, then using it as
a brooding chamber from which the newborn beetle will emerge.
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It is known that one of the techniques used by the metalworkers was the lost-wax
technique. In solid bronze casting, figures are usually first formed entirely in wax, including all
the details. The wax then is covered with a layer of clay, and the form is fired, which causes the
wax to melt and run out and the clay to turn into terracotta. Finally, molten metal is poured into
the space where the wax was, and when it has completely cooled, the terracotta is broken away.
Alternatively, with the more complicated procedure called hollow casting, the wax model is
formed around an anchored clay core. This core remains as the inside of the metal statuette. This
technique has the advantage of reducing the amount of metal necessary. In either technique, after
cooling, the surface of the metal can be burnished, and details can be added with pointed tracing
and chasing tools (Watts).
The most common and widely used jewelry of ancient Egypt was the wide collar
necklace, also called the pectoral. The piece was generally made of rows of beads shaped like
animals or flowers. It stretched over the wearer from the breast to the collarbones (The History
of Jewelry). However, Jewelry such as anklets, collars, bracelets, fillets and earrings were also
worn and designed by them. Sadly, many of the jewelry and other treasures from this ancient
civilization have been stolen by tomb-robbers. There are few pieces that prove how unique their
technique and design was.




Figure 1. Golden pendant of Tutankhamen,
made with a method called Cloisonn & inlaid
with semiprecious stones and colored glass. It
is full of symbols and hieroglyphs
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Figure 2. Gold cuff bracelet. It is inlaid
with carnelian, lapis lazuli, turquoise,
quartz, and colored glass.
Figure 3. Protective eye of Horus (Udjat) adorns
bracelets found on Pharaoh Sheshonq II's mummy.
Engraved names indicate they were made for
Sheshonq I, whos mentioned in the Bible.
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Work Cited
"Ancient Egyptian Jewelry." Jewelry in Ancient Egypt. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2014.
<http://www.historyofjewelry.net/jewelry-history/jewelry-in-acient-egypt/>.
Axelrod, Lauren. "The Art and History of Ancient Egyptian Jewelry." All Articles RSS. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 16 July 2014. <http://archaeology.knoji.com/the-art-and-history-of-ancient-
egyptian-jewelry/>.
"Jewelry in Ancient Egypt." Jewelry in Ancient Egypt. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2014.
<http://historylink101.com/n/egypt_1/a-jewelry.htm>.
"The History of Jewelry: Ancient Egyptian Jewellery Design." Jewellery of Ancient Egypt.
N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.
<http://www.allaboutgemstones.com/jewelry_history_egyptian.html>.
Watts, Edith W. "The Art of Ancient Egypt." Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2014.
<<http://www.metmuseum.org/learn/for-educators/publications-for-educators/the-art-of-
ancient-egypt>> and
<<http://www.metmuseum.org/~/media/Files/Learn/For%20Educators/Publications%20for%
20Educators/The%20Art%20of%20Ancient%20Egypt.pdf>>
Figures 1, 2, and 3: Schaffer, Marilyn . "Symbols and Meanings in Ancient Egypt: Jewelry."
The MacMillan Center. The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area
Studies at Yale, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 July 2014.
<http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/pier/classroom-
resources/Ancient%20Egyptian%20Jewelry%20PRESENTATION.pdf>