Chinese Jewelry — History, Tradition, Culture, and Artifact
Chinese Rings in Ancient Culture — Informative Origin and Love Representative
Since the Neolithic era, the ring had been used as decoration, as well as protection of fingers from drawing bows.
Turquoise Decorated Ring of Dawenkou Culture (around 4500 BC — 2500 BC) — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
If one was during menstruation or pregnant, she would wear a gold ring on the left hand, to imply that she's inconvenient to serve the emperor. When someone was available, she would wear a silver ring on her left hand, and move it to her right hand after having spent the night with the emperor.
Gradually, this implicit method spread to nobles and officials, then to the civilian world.
Meanwhile, rings that were mostly made of valuable materials, such as gold, silver, and jade, became awards to accomplished officials, and love token between couples.
Since Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279), the ring has become one of the most important betrothal gifts to the bride.
Earring — From Self Introspection to Beautiful Decoration
Earrings, or ear decorations, originated in the Neolithic era and were used as decorations or amulets.
No later than the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), two little jade pendants were hung on crowns and hats, to be used as earplugs when they needed to rest.
Soon, the earplugs were regarded as a representative of self-discipline and introspection, a highly required characteristic in Chinese culture, for being a good way to avoid hearing and believing anything before careful consideration.
At the same time, they were also reminders of being humble and willing to listen to brilliant suggestions.
Gradually, this pendent earplugs spread from emperors and officials to scholars, then to women who would hang them on their hairpins.
During Song Dynasty (960 — 1279), royal women started to pierce ears and wear earrings, especially those made of valuable pearl and gold.
Chinese Bracelet and Armlet — Ritual Origin and Art on Wrists
Chinese bracelets originated in the Neolithic era when people wore round-shaped decorations on wrists and arms, which were used to exorcise evils, pray for good luck, or to be beautiful.
Later, in Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), it was officially set to use Jade Bi (Yubi) to worship heaven, and Jade Cong (Yucong) to offer sacrifice to the earth.
Jade Bi and Cong, both round shapes and carved with exquisite patterns, were believed the prototype of today's Chinese bracelets and armlets.
Jade Cong of Liangzhu Culture (around 3300 BC — 2000 BC) — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Gradually, besides invaluable jade, more materials were applied to make bracelets and armlets, including gold, silver, gem, stone, etc.
Because of their auspicious meaning and significant importance, bracelets have been used as the keepsake of love, and betrothal gifts in China for centuries.
Besides, different types of bead bracelets have been popular as well, which would be worn by both men and women, as a symbol of believing in Buddhism or praying for good luck.
Chinese Necklace and Collar
Since the Neolithic period, people have started to wear things on their necks, to keep records or serve certain functions in worship ceremonies.
Gradually, different types of necklaces have been used as decorations, and representatives of one's social status or religion.
Throughout history, lots of materials have been used to make jewelry, including gold, silver, copper, pearl, turquoise, coral, crystal, glass, lacquer, wood, clay, porcelain, fabric, etc.
Among all materials, jade is the most special one.
Jade articles have appeared since the Neolithic period, and were holy ritual wares in ancient sacrificial ceremonies, and considered a perfect representative of strength, benevolence, modesty, elegance, and purity.
Design and Hierarchy
Jewelry, as a ritual, blessing, or aesthetic decoration, has been an important representative of one's social status.
Materials didn't have quite limitations, however, the use of colors and patterns followed the strict hierarchies in history, until the last feudal empire Qing Dynasty ended in 1912.
Traditional Chinese Crafts of Jewelry Making
Jade Carving or Yu Diao
Carving an intact natural jade into exquisite artwork, Jade Carving is the most ancient technology in China, which is listed as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Jade is valuable, hard, natural, and with irregular impurities and uneven colors.
Therefore, Jade Carving requires artisans' elaborate design based on jade's unique natural characteristics, including shape, color, hardness, and impurities, while trying their best to avoid waste and mistakes.
Gold and Silver Threading or Jin Yin Cuo
With the Bronze Age came to end, the Gold and Silver Threading technology disappeared as well. Recently, this skill has come back to the world, under the efforts of some talented artists.