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Jewelry as A Language

Africa is the birth place of mankind and human civilization. It is also where people first made and wore jewelry. Perforated pea-sized snail shells used as beads dating back 75,000 years have been unearthed in a cave, named Blombos, on the coast of South Africa. In Kenya beads over 40,000 years old made from perforated ostrich egg shells have been discovered. The beads produced in Africa are often called trade beads due to the fact that for many centuries they were used in exchange for goods (used as currency). The earliest known beaded jewelry ever discovered is from approximately 10,000 B.C. and comes from Libya. Ancient Egypt also produced beautiful bead work dating back to 2,200 B.C.


Since the beginning of time, all over the world, jewelry has been used as a form of language, a way to make a statement, to convey something without words. For example, the jewlery of the Berbers and the Tuareg  of the Sahara desert reflect the way in which their lives evolved. The Tuareg are fiercely independent, maintaining their Berber ways and characteristic bold and simplistic designs. The design of their jewelry is geometric, largely formed and symmetrical. One piece in particular, the Tuareg Cross, which was passed down from father to son when the boy reached puberty, is made up of silver and represents the four corners of the world because one does not know where one will die.  They use their jewelry for trade in exchange for food and cloth and rings pass between men and women as a sign of affection. We also see this tradition in the west when men and women wed. 


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