Early Egyptian Jewelry: Bracelets and Rings

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Sculptures and paintings represent bracelets by bands of red or blue color on the arms, and show that the Egyptians wore four—one on the wrist and one above the elbow of each arm. Some of the earliest are composed of glass and gold beads threaded so as to form various patterns. The more solid forms of bracelet are ornamented with inlaid work. Rings for the arms, as well as the ankles, are generally of plain gold—both solid and hollow—sometimes bordered with plaited chain-work. Bracelets of thick and occasionally twisted wire, found as early as the twelfth dynasty, usually have the ends beaten out into a thin wire, which is lapped round the opposite shank so as to slip easily over the wrist. Bracelets in the form of serpents belong to the Ptolemaic and early Roman periods.

The commonest ornament is the finger ring. The ring was not only an ornament, but an actual necessity, since it served as a signet, the owner’s emblem or badge being engraved either on the metal of the ring or on a scarab or other stone set in it.

There are three main types of Egyptian rings. The first and simplest, composed of a seal stone with a ring attached, is formed of a hoop with flattened ends, each pierced, which grasp the scarab. Through a hole made in the scarab was run a wire, the ends of which, passing through the extremities of the ring, were wound several times round it. The revolving scarab exhibited its back when worn on the finger and the engraved side when necessary to use it as a seal. The general outline of the ring is like a stirrup, a form which of course varied in accordance with the size of the scarab.

In a second type of ring the swivel disappears, and the ring is in one piece. Its outline retains the stirrup form, but the inside of the hoop is round and fits closely to the finger. Of this type are rings, dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth dynasty, formed of two hoops united at the top and having the names and titles of the owner deeply sunk in hieroglyphics on oblong gold bezels.

A third type, almost circular in outline, is of similar form to the signet-ring of the present day.

In addition to those which were actually worn in life, are models of real rings employed solely for funeral purposes to ornament the fingers of the wooden model hands which were placed on the coffins of mummies of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties.

The model rings are made of faience with fine glazes of blue, green, and other colors, with various devices, incuse or in intaglio, upon the bezels, which are generally of oval form.

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Author: fairydew1

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