Jewelry Throughout History
Jewelry dates back to at least 100,000 years ago, when humans began wearing beads made of seashells and other organic materials. In ancient Egypt, jewelry was a sign of wealth and rank. Precious stones were worn as symbols of power and prestige, and were believed to protect the wearer from evil. Over time, the symbolism of jewelry became entrenched in almost every culture.
In Christianity, the Bible contains several references to jewelry with varying implications. One of the most famous verses is found in 1 Timothy 2:9: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”.
This verse offers insight into how early Christians viewed jewelry, the emphasis being on the modesty it should be worn with, rather than the jewelry itself. While this might seem to suggest that jewelry should be avoided altogether, other Bible verses suggest that this is not the case. Proverbs 25:12 says “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” This verse suggests that jewelry can have a positive effect on the wearer, in that it can be a reminder of wisdom and obedience.
Symbolism of Jewelry in The Bible
In the Bible, jewelry can be seen as a symbol of a person’s wealth, social status, and faith. In Genesis 24:22, Rebekah was given jewelry as a sign of her family’s wealth and to represent her social rank. The rings of Kings Solomon and Zadok were also symbols of their power, authority, and kingship. Wearing a ring was a sign of faithfulness to God, as seen in Exodus 32:2: “And Moses said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.”
The Bible also mentions jewelry in terms of modesty. In I Timothy 2:9-10, the Apostle Paul mentions that women should “not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly clothing,” but should dress in such a way as to honor God. Thus, jewelry should not be seen as a means of drawing attention to oneself, but rather, as a way of honoring God.
Symbolic Jewelry in The Bible
In the Bible, certain pieces of jewelry can also be seen as symbolic of an individual’s covenant with God. When the High Priest, Melchizedek, gave Abraham a tenth of the spoils of war, he also gave him jewelry in the form of a bracelet (Genesis 14:20). This bracelet symbolized the covenant between Abraham and God.
The Bible also mentions jewelry as a symbol of love. In the book of Esther, when King Ahasuerus gave Esther a golden crown, it was his way of expressing his love for her. Similarly, the book of Song of Solomon speaks of a woman’s beloved as “the most beautiful among men”, a description that includes his jewelry: “his wrists with bangles” (Song of Solomon 5:11).
In addition, the Bible mentions jewelry as a sign of beauty. In Proverbs 1:9, a wise woman is presented as wearing “a garland of grace is on her head”, a reference to jewelry. Finally, jewelry can be seen as a sign of redemption, as in the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. When Joseph received the golden cup from her, it was his sign of redemption, and of his innocence before God.
Physical Uses of Jewelry in The Bible
The Bible also mentions the use of jewelry to signify important events, relationships, and positions. In the Old Testament, the High Priest wore a breastplate that contained twelve different gems, each one representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Similarly, the breastplate of Aaron contained twelve stones, each one representing one of the twelve sons of Israel. Initially, this breastplate contained only the Urim and Thummim, two stones used for divinely inspired prophecy.
In the New Testament, the ring that Jesus gave to Peter was a symbol of their shared bond. The ring had no special design or gem, but was simply a sign of their friendship and the role that the disciple would eventually play in the Church. These symbols were used in the Bible to express love, loyalty, and dependability.
Fashionable Jewelry in The Bible
In the Bible, fashion and jewelry can go hand in hand. In the book of Genesis, Rebekah is described as wearing a nose ring (Genesis 24:22). This would have been a fashionable item of jewelry and an indication of her status and wealth. Similarly, the Biblical queen Esther is described as wearing a beautiful golden crown, which would have been a fashionable item of jewelry in her day.
The biblical use of jewelry is complex and varied, but it is clear that jewelry held a special significance for ancient cultures, and for the people mentioned in the Bible. Jewelry was a symbol of wealth and status, but it was also a symbol of love, friendship, and redemption. By studying the Bible and its references to jewelry, we can gain insight into how our ancestors viewed and used this highly symbolic accessory.
Symbolic and Non-Symbolic Jewels in The Bible
The Bible also mentions jewelry that is not necessarily symbolic. One of the most famous pieces of jewelry mentioned in the Bible is the golden calf, which the Hebrews made in the desert. This was an idol that they worshipped, in an attempt to replace the worship of God. This piece of jewelry was not symbolic of any positive value, but of greed and idolatry.
The Bible also mentions jewelry that is more symbolic in nature. In Genesis 35, Jacob gives his daughter Dinah a nose ring, a symbol of her new status as a married woman. Similarly, in Exodus 12, God commands the Israelites to put lamb’s blood on their doorposts, as a sign of protection. This piece of jewelry was a sign of God’s promise of salvation and protection from death.
Modern Day Jewelry and The Bible
Jewelry continues to be an important part of religious traditions around the world today. In the Catholic Church, rings are worn by priests and bishops to signify their commitment to service. In the LDS church, jewelry is worn to symbolize the individual’s faith and commitment to the church. Similarly, in the Jewish faith, jewelry is often used to signify the covenant made between individuals and God.
In modern times, there is a trend towards wearing jewelry that demonstrates a person’s faith and commitment to religion. This trend started in the late 19th century and early 20th century when churches started giving out small tokens of jewelry to their members as a reminder of their faith. Today, many people wear jewelry that is designed to reflect their religion. These can range from small Christian crosses, to Muslim prayer beads, to Buddhist symbols.
Overall, jewelry has been an important part of religious culture throughout history. In the Bible, jewelry is often used to signify relationships, wealth, status, faith, and devotion. While some of the Biblical references to jewelry can be seen as negative, most of them show the positive aspects of wearing jewelry as a sign of faith and devotion. Today, jewelry is still used as a sign of faith and devotion, and it is a trend that remains popular.