Gold Jewelry -- a History 'Methodology' chapter

Excerpt from 'Methodology' chapter :

Because is easily shaped, these above-mentioned items were made to form by a skilled craftsman's hammer and by casting; gold was engraved and embossed; gold was used in granule form for decorative purposes; gold was pounded into thin sheets for "covering furniture, wooden coffins… for plating copper and silver and for cutting into thin strips to make wire" (Lukas, 264).

Lukas explains that he measured several specimens of sheet gold (actually gold foil) and those items varied from 0.17 mm to 0.54 mm in thickness; he also measured the leaf gold and it ran from 0.01 mm to 0.09 mm. These measures clearly show the talent of ancient Egyptian craftsmen, who were using tools that compared with today's technological sophistication were quite crude, and yet showed remarkable skill in producing what they did.

Ancient Egyptians -- men and women -- loved jewelry, according to professor Eric Cline from George Washington University and author Jill Rubalcaba. In their book, The Ancient Egyptian World, they report that Egyptians wore "two or three rings" on every finger. Even people who lived in poverty wove wildflowers and grassed into interesting necklaces, bracelets, and rings. Kings in Egypt rewarded their soldiers (and others, including "faithful followers") with large hoop earrings and gold jewelry, known as "Gold of the Brave" (Cline, et al., 2005). The Egyptians believed that jewelry had supernatural powers and that gold "was the flesh of the sun god Re," Cline explains. Silver (even more rare and hence more precious than gold) was believed to have arrived from the "bones of the moon god," Cline continues.

David P. Silverman's book Ancient Egypt discusses the ancient Egyptians' love of jewelry; they "valued personal adornment," he writes. Predynastic graves that have been excavated revealed necklaces and bracelets made of "shell, common stones or dried mud" strung together in a crude way (Silverman, 2003). Silverman boldly asserts that "virtually every type of jewelry" that society uses today "existed in ancient Egypt. All the evidence found in coffins and elsewhere leads to the fact that every well-dressed man and woman (particularly during the New Kingdom era) would likely be wearing earrings, a diadems, an elaborate broad collar consisting of six or more strands of beads, a pectoral, bracelets, armbands and a number of rings and anklets" (perhaps as many as two or three rings per finger, as Cline's narrative describes) (Silverman).

Gold was "the most prized material for jewelry," Silverman explains. Whether gold was used by itself, or whether it combined in an elegant setting with stones that were brightly colored (often semiprecious), or perhaps with turquoise, it was gold that was the most treasured kind of jewelry. The jewelry made of gold was passed from one Egyptian generation to another. Those who could not afford precious metals or gemstones to go with their gold jewelry "made do," Silverman continues, with substitutes (like colored glass or faience).

The varieties of gold jewelry (within each category of jewelry) was quite "extensive," the author explains. The earliest time that earrings were worn was estimated to be the Second Intermediate Period, and those ancient earrings were "simple hoops" of gold that were inserted in the pierced ears of Egyptians. By the completion of the New Kingdom in Egyptian history (the New Kingdom was 1550 BC to 1069 BC) the variety of earrings available had mushroomed. (Silverman). An Egyptian wishing to be stylish could choose from elaborate dangles, hoops, boss earrings and little studs for the ears as well. By observing some of the mummies from ancient Egypt anthropologists find stretched earlobes which clearly indicates heavy earrings had been worn, no doubt with gold as part of the product.

Beyond simply being adorned by gold jewelry, some Egyptians wore gold collars that were made of "tiny disc beads strung together in rows" called in that era the "Gold of Honor" (Silverman). If you were wearing a gold collar you had an "exalted status," Silverman writes. Also, flies, the "epitome of tenacity," were made in gold, ivory or semiprecious stones, and were awarded to citizens by the rulers of Egypt for their acts of heroism. Many spectacular discoveries have been made in Egypt that explain how people lived during the era of pharos, the author continues. And those discoveries include golden articles of jewelry found during the Twelfth Dynasty in the tombs of princesses; found were raised compartments of gold that were inlaid with "semi-precious turquoise, garnet, feldspar and carnelian" (Silverman). The author goes out on a limb to assert that no jeweler could possible "surpass his or her ancient Egyptian counterpart in the delicacy, sensitivity to design and use of color displayed in these exquisite examples of personal finery."

Literature Review -- Gold in Russia

The search for and usage of gold in Russia came many centuries after Africans and Egyptians had been mining gold, shaping and fabricating gold, and using gold in jewelry. Dr. Michael Leibov writes in the journal Rocks & Minerals that it is "startling" to realize that Russia has not even discovered gold until relatively recently (Leibov, 2004, p. 156). A culture cannot adorn its citizens with gold jewelry unless one of two things happen: a) the culture must obtain gold from other outside sources; or b) that culture and that nation needs to locate a reliable source of gold for its own social and economic uses.

Meanwhile the lack of a gold source in Russia was not a result of poor efforts, Leibov explains, because nearly every ruler in Russia's early history tried to find gold. In fact back in the 15th century (1488 to be exact) Ivan III invited known experts in gold discovery from around the world to help explore and mine for gold. Ivan the Terrible brought in Italian masters to search for gold.

On page 156 Leibov points out that Peter the Great "went so far as to sign a decree" that made this pronouncement: "Anyone disposed is free to search, dig, melt, and refine metals of any kind [in Russia], be it gold, silver, or copper, with no limitations of place to search and mind, irrespective of the land ownership." Certainly the Russians were well aware of the gold-influenced cultures centuries before them in Africa and Egypt, and Leibov asserts that no gold was found anywhere in Russia until the early years of the 18th century. Miners realized that mines in the Transbaikal region had gold, but there was the problem of extracting that gold.

But Ivan Mokeyey, who was a noted assayer and an expert on metallurgy, conceived of methods to get the gold out by smelting silver ore, and it worked. The year was 1714. With practice, the Russians were able to get "modest amounts" (pounds), and later it was extracted by the tons (Leibov, 157). A few years later, other mines were located in the Altai region of Russia, which became the major gold-producing venue for Russia and helped in the "replenishing of the Russian treasury" (Leibov, 158). But the best source of gold in Russia turned out to be in the Ural Mountains in the north, and notwithstanding all the experts from Russia and elsewhere in the world, the man who discovered gold in the Ural Mountains was a "peasant" by the name of Yerofey Markov. The chief of the management bureau of "productive enterprises" in Russian issued the following report:

"On May 21, 1745, Markov, the old believer, observed some light-colored crystal-like stones at the roadside between the villages of Stanovaya and Pyshma. To get stones of better quality he dug a hole about his own height deep. He found a plate-like stone resembling chert containing… a grain of something that looks like gold; there were three or four such grains in each stone, but he does not remember for sure how much in total…" (Leibov, 159).

Ironically, this discovery nearly cost Markov his life. When Russian officials hurried to the site Markov had discovered, they found no gold. Hence, Markov was suspected of "trying to hide the true site of his discovery" and was scheduled to be "tortured" but prior to his demise he was released. Later, the Russians did indeed find gold in the Ural Mountains -- at the site Markov tried to tell them about -- and "the deposit remains among the largest in Russia" today (Leibov, 159). Between the years 1871 and 1880, Russia (thanks to Markov and the rich gold deposits in the Ural Mountains) was producing about 38 tons of gold a year, which represented about 22% of the total world production. They came to the dance late, but the Russians made up for it by going all-out to produce gold.

The modern nation of Russia (formerly Russia, then the Soviet Union, now Russia again) may not have discovered its own sources for gold but an early culture that dominated what is now…

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