The history of Mediterranean jewellery
The Mediterranean Sea was a refuge for very many cultures and civilisations. Generations of artists that engraved what we today know as Mediterranean jewellery. At Majoral, we are aware of our past and we take it into account in these times to create unique pieces inspired by the Mare Nostrum. So today we are going to speak to you of the history of Mediterranean jewellery and the art of craftsmanship in precious metals.
The Mediterranean Sea, union and melting pot of cultures
The Mediterranean Sea is the cradle of western civilisation. How many times have we heard that sentence? However, just because we have heard it said so many times doesn’t mean it is any less true. And this is not only due to the powerful empires that developed along the length and width of its coastlines, but also to the great diversity of cultures that it consisted of.
From the Greek civilisation, to the Egyptian or the Roman Empire, all left their mark on our culture, but not just them. The Iberian, Celtic and North African tribes, the Phoenicians, the Gallic or Germanic peoples as well. All these forms of understanding and describing the world were mixed with nearby trade and with the Far East. The cradle of western civilisation is a mixture of many cultures, values and ways of understanding reality.
This great variety of languages, art, of life in fact, are what today we understand as Mediterranean culture. All in the shelter of a benign and inspiring sea that enabled trade and the union between different peoples: the Mediterranean Sea.
A brief history of craftsmanship in precious metals
Egyptian craftsmanship in precious metals was one of the most brilliant of the time. They used the materials in an extraordinarily skilful way. Today we find all types of jewellery from Egyptian art spread around the world after colonisation by the French and British empires. From bracelets to necklaces and rings. The most used material was gold, although they also used bronze and ivory, as well as precious stones.
The Phoenicians also used these materials in the main, more abundant in their territory, and silver to a lesser extent. One of the major discoveries of Phoenician craftsmanship in precious metals was found in the Iberian Peninsula, given their great territorial expansion. What is known as the Treasure of Aliseda was found in the city of Cáceres. A great example of Mediterranean jewellery common in funerary offerings of pieces in gold, bronze and glass. To produce them the techniques of engraving and filigree were employed.
Another great civilisation of craftsmanship in precious metals was the Greek one. They were great exponents of Mediterranean jewellery. They started from knowledge of the techniques of engraving, filigree and embossing, existent in cultures prior to the Greeks, and they coined new techniques such as granulate, consisting of beading the surface of the jewellery with gold.
In Mediterranean jewellery the Middle Ages were a period of ups and downs. The very wealthy could have jewellery while the majority of simple folk experienced long periods of impoverishment. Moreover, the grand part were religious motifs due to the great strength of the Catholic religion.
Due to its great expansion, beauty and the mark it left on the Mediterranean and the Iberian Peninsula, we are going to highlight Islamic art. We can find caskets, bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings of great value across the Iberian Peninsula. Islamic art embraces the very culture of the peninsula, and the result is Mudejar art. Wonderful examples of Mudejar art in craftsmanship with precious metals are jewellery boxes and caskets. Some in wood, others entirely in gold and others in ivory, joining the different materials of the territories they had conquered. Today they are still a source of inspiration both in the craftsmanship of precious metals and in Mediterranean architecture.
Mediterranean craftsmanship with precious metals today
Mediterranean jewellery today is the heir of all these cultures. All influenced in their time by cultural and religious movements. But also taking as a source of inspiration the Mediterranean Sea.
At Majoral we are descendants of the techniques, the use of materials and the inspiration of thousands of people who occupied these coastlines in their time. Civilisations, empires and beyond that, artists and gold and silversmiths who left their mark and who were inspired by the Mediterranean Sea and its coastlines. It is an honour to have such a brilliant past and do it justice in the best way we know how: creating Mediterranean jewels with traditional processes.