Mesopotamian jewelry provides us with insights about ancient cultures. You might wonder how the region is relevant today, and you should know that the Mesopotamians are responsible for many innovations that have left an imprint for all the subsequent decades to come.
In particular, the state of the art jewelry provided us with extensive knowledge about their society, culture and lifestyle. The jewelry items that have been found and preserved carry on a piece of the Mesopotamian legacy.
Mesopotamia, which in Greek means “between rivers”, covers a large area of land that currently comprises Iraq and eastern Syria, and when we look at the jewelery items, we are amazed mostly at the contribution of the Sumerians, with a antiquity of more than 4 thousand years.
Mesopotamia is sometimes referred to as the birthplace of civilization. The advancement of their civilisation in the field of technology, science, religion and the arts has marked the period in history of transition from pre-historic times into the modern era.
It might come as a surprise, but during those times women, men and children all wore jewelry. Every member of the society, despite their class and race, wore some form of decorative item or an amulet on them at all times. Unlike some of the other ancient civilizations, jewelry was not exclusive to the royals. Jewelry was incorporated into their lifestyle.
Distinctive style and taste
The craft of jewelry making was perfected to the highest of standards. Because the silversmiths did not have the means to own their own facilities and import their own materials, they worked for at government controlled guilds. The materials they were provided with, took them to ground breaking innovations in silversmith techniques.
As their society advanced, so did the need for the members to express themselves, their status and power; this was done through their attire as well as jewelry. But they took good care of their designs by maintaining a balance between the aesthetic and the religious symbolism of each piece.
Lapis lazuli was one of the most popular and expensive materials. Click To Tweet
Mesopotamian jewelry incorporated lots of different materials including gold, copper, silver and an even bigger variety of gemstones. The most symbolic and worshiped necklaces were those made of multi-strand that incorporated stones such as carnelian, jade and lapis lazuli.
Lapis lazuli was one of the most valued materials, even above gold. At a time and place where resources were scarce, all raw precious materials were imported and spread to other regions as finished jewelry pieces. It is no wonder that the economy expanded so rapidly, the silversmiths of this area were masters of the art.
The Mesopotamian civilization had more jewelry than what is available to us today. Click To Tweet
The men wore bracelents, earrings, necklaces, headbands and other ornaments in gold.
The women were covered in floral ornaments made of gold leaves, bunches of grapes and spirals, earrings, necklaces, belts and bracelets. They really had all the categories covered and more.
It is no wonder why jewelry dominated the commerce and trade network during those times. As the cities grew, so did the demand for luxury goods; this created a large trade network and a whole commercial enterprise devoted to jewelry.
The filigree was one of the most prevalent techniques in Mesopotamian jewelry, which consists of welding twisted threads of different thicknesses on a sheet background, in this way an effect of shadows and colors was obtained in the jewels, just as they also practiced the technique of “open fusion”, which consisted of filling a cavity made of stone with molten metal. After the metal cooled, it adapted to the pre-established matrix. In this way the well-known Etruscan Gold jewelers were made.
The tombs of Ur
As jewelry was a sign of class, the tombs of royalty were packed with ancient Mesopotamian jewelry items. Excavated, and preserved to the best of our ability, the beauty of the jewerly pieces can be seen on display today.
The tombs found in the city of Ur, contained some of the most significant items in the study of Mesopotamian jewelry. Looking at these unique items, you must have noticed the underlying motifs. At the heart of their inspiration are leaves, twigs, grapes, spiral objects and other shapes and elements of nature.
In Nammu you will find unique pieces inspired by Mesopotamian jewelry. As I mentioned before, Lapis Lazuli was valued above gold in Mesopotamia. The hypnotic stone has become an emblem in light of its historical past.