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Why Do We Wear Jewellery?

Why do we wear jewellery? Probably a question you’ve never really asked yourself, they’re simple yet delicate objects that we put on without even thinking about it. Naturally most pieces of jewellery have ‘a symbolic meaning’ for why you’re wearing them, such as a birthday, memory of a loved one etc. but why do we really wear jewellery? Both men and women have been wearing jewellery since the days of ancient Egypt and perhaps even longer, so where did it all begin?

When Did The Act of Wearing Jewellery Begin?

No matter who you are on this earth, jewellery is a universal form of expression and has been for thousands and thousands of years, 90,000 years even! If we went back in time to when the first pieces of jewellery were ever worn, you would find twigs, shells, bones, feathers and other various pieces that were a part of the environment. Although not as shiny as a diamond, animals were also included in this list as pendant and talisman like jewellery, in which these cultures placed spiritual and magical qualities to them.

Even if it wasn’t necessarily named as jewellery back then, wearing objects on the body has clearly evolved but still keeps that same concept, there’s a reason that these objects were worn in the first place and is still a similar reason to why we wear jewellery now.

These ‘meanings’ in ancient cultures would have been drawn from their beliefs, rituals and gods that played a huge part in their civilisation, so although sometimes jewellery can be small and delicate it clearly had a large role to play in life and still does today, for example, many people wear a Christian cross or other symbol that reminds them of their faith and other beliefs.

Why Would You Wear Jewellery?

If you didn’t wear jewellery to protect yourself from monsters or to represent the gods you believed in, you most certainly wore jewellery to clearly signify your wealth. Once precious stones and metals had been discovered, mined and forged into beautiful gems, value was placed upon them. You can find all sorts of resources online that speak of how Cleopatra wore jewellery that spoke of her wealth ‘Her exotic hairstyle and pearl jewelry became a fashion trend…’ 10 Little Known Facts about Cleopatra

Another type of ring that played a part in the social circle is Signet rings. If you’re not aware of the history behind signet rings, basically they were used primarily for doing business as a seal which had a family crest engraved onto the ring which would come through onto the wax.  Signet rings are still popular today and tend to be passed down through families; however they aren’t used for the same functionality as they once were. The social status of these rings signified you were middle class and…’would not have a coat of arms, so having a signet ring would be a prominent sign to show that you of a higher class.’ Everything You Need to Know About Wearing a Signet Ring

Jewellery representing your social status is only a small reason behind why we wear jewellery, there’s so much more to it than that. If you didn’t wear any jewellery at all, you would, once you became engaged or married, so how did that come about? As there are many cultures across the world, each one will have their own reasoning for why they wear wedding rings, however all have one thing in common; it’s a symbol to represent a couple coming together, regardless of whether that’s purely for legal reasons or a genuine act of love.

It’s interesting to know that this particular reason for wearing a ring has travelled through time, since the times of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and gradually over time these pieces have become more decadent and refined to match the modern day.

The Psychological Reason for Wearing Jewellery

There have been many in-depth studies into the psychology side of things towards jewellery and why we wear it. There’s no doubt that jewellery has a way of telling a story and attaching a memory or feeling that resonates with the wearer. For example, if you receive a ring from a partner, friend or family member, you may enjoy wearing it more for the connotations that are attached to it, this may be that it reminds you of your parents wedding day or a milestone birthday and without thinking deeply about it, glancing at it for just a moment will remind you of these moments.

Another interesting reason for why we wear jewellery, leads onto something you may be familiar with; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The diagram presents 5 stages of the human needs, when one need is ‘achieved’ we move onto the next stage, you could place jewellery within the top 3 stages as achieving a state of belonging and love may include the act of receiving jewellery, perhaps an engagement or wedding ring or even a friendship bracelet.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Esteem needs of prestige and feeling of accomplishment may include buying yourself a piece of jewellery, almost as if you’re giving yourself a pat on the back for something you’ve achieved perhaps you have a new job, received a pay rise or other life achievements.

All of this wrapped up points to numerous reasons for why we wear jewellery, it can make us feel happy, through the enjoyment of buying and receiving and for the emotional attachments that enable us to keepsake memories and moments that we don’t want to forget. The social status of wearing expensive jewellery still plays a part even in today’s society but for many us, jewellery can be an expressive outlet for our personalities and interests that decorate who we are.

Have you purchased or received any jewellery lately? Why did you make that decision and how did it make you feel? It’s an interesting question to ask yourself next time you’re window shopping.