Why Do Humans Wear Jewelry?  Is Jewelry Weird?

Why Do Humans Wear Jewelry? Is Jewelry Weird?

Posted by Jane A Gordon on 2nd Dec 2023

Logo to Jewelry Example- Treble Clef

There are a few things that all humans do that don't really make sense. One is that some humans make sounds, and other humans wiggle our bodies in timing with the sounds. Music and dance. We all love it, but why?

Another weird thing is that is everywhere on the planet, and throughout time and history, we humans decorate our bodies. 

Flower Drop Pearl Earrings-18K Gold-Jane Gordon Jewelry

Does it make sense? We have these functional things called ears that help us navigate the world and connect to each other, yet we put holes in them and dangle things from them.


Considering that I’m a jewelry designer, it might surprise you to know that jewelry has always mystified me. Falling into design in 1999/2000 was just survival after the dot com bust, initially corporate gifts, then jewelry to get past Valentine’s Day.

Happy Bird - Jane Gordon Jewelry

Design, creativity and the beauty and energy of gemstones quickly captivated me, but the first time a woman came to tell me how happy my jewelry made her, I got dizzy and had to hold onto the counter behind me. My work made someone happy?!? Wow. I was hooked.

My goal is always about sharing joy through the uplifting sculptural symbolism in each design.

To this day I don’t quite understand why why why we wear jewelry. So I try to imagine the origins.

Think about the troglodyte running naked through the jungle chasing the woolly mammoth, and the more casual walk back with dinner for the wife and kids. Perhaps he notices something shiny in the ground and discovers a gemstone. It’s pretty… so he wants to keep it, but when he goes to put it in his pocket realizes that ooops…he’s naked…maybe wearing a few leaves, not pants, and he doesn’t have pockets…so he finds a vine, makes a necklace, and puts the gem on his neck.

Seashell Rings from French Polynesia-Jane Gordon Jewelry

It seems my speculation is not far off, but it turns out the first jewelry was the guy holding his breath to dive and get dinner from the ocean. The oldest known jewelry, about 150,000 years old, is a necklace made from drilled snail shells discovered in a Moroccan cave more than 25 miles from the Mediterranean Sea where they originated.

Vintage Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace Sterling Silver and Turquoise-Signed CHOEN-Jane Gordon Jewelry

There is often speculation about cultural, historical, and other reasons we wear jewelry.

Tooth jewelry was worn by Neanderthals to harness the powers of the animal, while ancient Hawaiians believed a shark tooth necklace protects from shark attacks and drowning. Somewhere 200-900 AD the Mayans began decorating their own teeth by drilling and bonding gems with plant sap.

Some feel that once we are secure in food and shelter, that wearing jewelry filled a need for status. Others speculate that it’s sensuality, to draw attention to the breasts, earlobes, etc.

Fleur de Lis Pendants-Jane Gordon Jewelry

In ancient Egypt, both men and women wore jewelry, but it couldn’t have been for status or sexual attraction as mummies are often found adorned in all sorts of jewelry, including ringsnecklaces, and bracelets…and they say we can’t take it with us...
...oh wait... they didn't!

Nose rings have been worn for centuries in various cultures. Some ancient Middle Eastern cultures believed that a nose ring could make women more fertile, have less menstrual pain, and ease the pain of childbirth. Hm. Maybe that’s why I never had kids… I forgot my nose ring!

During the Elizabethan era hollow jewelry was a trend, such as lockets and pendants with hidden compartments. 

Leona's Healing Hands Locket-Jane Gordon Jewelry

These had practical uses, carrying secret notes, locks of hair, poison, etc. Before plumbing, when bathing was infrequent and chamber pots were tossed onto the street, the lockets held perfumed sponges that the wearer would hold under their nose to mask unbearable odors! 

In the Victorian era people created jewelry from human hair. After her husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, Queen Victoria wore a locket of Albert’s hair until her own death 40 years later. Ew.

The Victorians also used to convey messages using gemstones whose first letters spell out words. Hm… I am liking this idea! And we know what NYers would spell!

In ancient India women wore toe rings to show they were married. It was considered a bad omen for the marriage if the ring broke or was lost.

The tradition of wearing wedding rings on the fourth finger of the left hand can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians who incorrectly believed that the "vena amoris" or the "vein of love" ran directly from this finger to the heart.

Chain of Thorns Necklace and Bracelet- Jane Gordon Jewelry

The diamond engagement ring is far more modern, a 1947 De Beers marketing campaign "A Diamond is Forever." It seems to me the second most successful marketing in history... right after religion!

There seem to be endless reasons humans wear jewelry. Some are functional, such as a clasp, button, or buckle. Some buy as an investment, for social status or even one-upmanship. Cultural significance or symbolism such as the affection and commitment of wedding ringsreligious symbols, etc. or that used as ritual in ceremonies. Health and well-being, whether from the various healing energies of gemstones. Wearing inherited jewelry can make us feel closer to lost loved ones and family history. And self-expression, whether sharing messages such as a peace symbol, or pure adornment, an artistic display of beauty.

Whatever the reasons, at least dangling stuff off our bodies seems to satisfy a need to give ourselves the splendor that peacocks have naturally.

Why do you wear jewelry?

Here's the good news.. whatever your reason...what ever your goal... what ever you want...(even jewelry...hehehe) I am here for you. If you don't see what you want in my visions, then let me bring your visions to life, whether one piece or to sell in your name.