Why do we wear jewellery? Regardless of our race, culture, or religion, jewellery has been used as an integral form of expression for tens of thousands of years.
The use of gold and gems can be traced back, Millennia, to ancient cultures such as Egyptian and Mesopotamian. Jewellery has since then been an ever-present part of human civilization. Adorning oneself with jewellery has been consistent across space and time, across religions, cultures, class and gender. Civilizations as disparate as the Aztecs and the Tibetans are both renowned for their appreciation of jewellery, for example.
In modern-day London, Paris or New York, a single diamond may be coveted for its rarity or an elasticized ring paved with tens of rhinestones may be desired because of its onomatopoeic bling. Undeniably humans have a need for jewellery, but what precisely is this need?
If we consult Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we see a pyramid broken down into five ranks, from base to peak: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization. We could conjecture that the need for jewellery ranks somewhere among social needs and esteem needs. Social needs pertain to the need for one to belong to a group and esteem needs pertain to one’s desire for recognition and for status.
Jewellery is clearly a middling need. It is not as essential as physiological well-being – for food, water or sex – but neither is it explicitly a part of something as lateral as self-actualization. Jewellery acts as an agent of personality. We identify with it. Take birthstones, for example, and how a December-born child may develop a life-long attachment to turquoise for no reasons other than the accident of birth.
But why jewellery? Why do we feel an affinity for pretty stones and metals?
For jewellery to be so universally coveted it must possess inherent value. If it is naturally beautiful, then the need for jewellery is synonymous with a need for nature’s beauty. Otherwise why would a lab-created diamond, all things being equal, be less valuable than a naturally-occurring diamond? Perhaps it is the need for something Other, something higher, the knowledge that the aesthetically pleasing can be created independently of human governance and interference.
Anthropologists and psychologists have long cited the role of jewellery in the dating-and-mating world. Take, for instance, the humble wedding band. A very simple metal band that symbolizes the complex concept that two people are united and blessed in a holy union of two souls. That these two people are committed to this union for eternity and irrespective of conditions such as sickness, health, wealth or poverty. Thus concepts difficult for the human mind to compute – God, love, eternity, marriage, fidelity – are expressed by something with no greater width than the ring finger. The need for jewellery, comes from having satisfied the primitive needs for food, water, shelter, sex and so on. Only once those primitive needs are satisfied can one seek out jewellery to wear. Jewellery, in itself, is a potential for great aesthetic pleasure, and thus calls out for human attention.
Jewellery, like everything else, can be a source of destruction or of celebration of beauty. It is important that we make wise choices when we choose how to express our person through a piece of art, like jewellery. It is important that we consider how it is made and by whom and ensure that we contribute to ethical manufacture and never support manufacturers who exploit others for financial gain or rape our planet of its valuable resources because Earth is a Source, not a resource. Jewellery can be so much more. Through innovation and clever design it can bring beauty, healing and joy that blesses our bodies and heals our souls.
The Ignite team has sourced some beautiful jewellery that does just that. Have a look at our ranges and experience the gift of love and life through them.