7000 Years of Jewelry
7000 Years of Jewelry
7000 Years of Jewelry 7000 Years of Jewelry 7000 Years of Jewelry 7000 Years of Jewelry

* Book Type:

Publisher: Firefly Books

Edition Notes: Updated edition
Author Statement: edited by Hugh Tait
Audience: Trade
Specs: 250 full-color and 150 black-and-white photos and illustrations; glossary; bibliography; illustration references; further reading; index
Pages: 256
Trim Size: 8 1/2" x 11" X 13/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20080912
Copyright Year: 2008
Price: Select Below


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7000 Years of Jewelry

A new edition of a beautifully illustrated and classic survey of jewelry -- worldwide and from prehistory to the modern era -- revised and substantially expanded.

The most comprehensive and beautifully illustrated history of jewelry.

The previous edition of this exhaustive survey was published to critical acclaim by the British Museum Press. Since publication, the museum has expanded its collection, with major acquisitions of pieces from Europe and Asia. The new edition includes a complete revision of the section on Europe after 1700, plus revisions to the sections on Celtic Europe, Roman Britain, cameos and finger rings.

The book explores the varied styles, techniques and materials used to make jewelry in many civilizations throughout the world and across the millennia. Egyptian necklaces, Celtic torcs, South American gold masks, Renaissance pendants and Art Nouveau buckles are examples of the range of the masterpieces described and illustrated with 400 superb photographs.

7000 Years of Jewelry takes readers on an impressive tour that includes, among other times and places:

  • The Middle East: 5000-2000 BC
  • Egypt: 1500-900 BC
  • Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan and Persian Lands: 850-325 BC
  • China, Celtic Europe, Mexico and Peru: 600 BC-AD 600
  • The Mediterranean, India, Egypt, Roman Britain and Byzantium: 325 BC-AD 600
  • Europe, China, Korea and Japan: 300-1000
  • Mayan Central America: 600-1000
  • Central and South America: 500-1500
  • Europe, Islam, China, Korea and Java: 1000-1500
  • China, India, Tibet and Mongolia: 1500-1850
  • West Africa: 1500-1800
  • Europe: 1500-1950.

More comprehensive than before, this reference remains the finest and most beautifully illustrated history of jewelry ever published.


Hugh Tait, deputy keeper at the British Museum and an internationally acknowledged expert on the European decorative arts, was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a former president of the Society of Jewellery Historians. The author of 5,000 Years of Glass and editor of The Art of the Jeweller, he died in 2005.



The aim of this book is to bring together jewellery from all the major phases of man's history. The selection, made entirely from the collections of the British Museum, ranges in date from about 5000 BC to the middle of the twentieth century. The scope extends beyond Europe and the ancient cultures of Western Asia to India, Tibet and the Far East and includes certain areas of Africa and America. Owing to the accident of survival and archaeological rediscovery and of opportunity for acquisition, some areas and periods are necessarily more richly represented than others.

Jewellery for personal adornment is the main theme, but, in addition, amuletic (protective) jewellery -- in so far as it can be specifically recognised -- is treated separately. The use of cameos in jewellery and the role of finger-rings are two further aspects singled out for individual consideration, partly because both have histories peculiar to themselves.

I am deeply grateful to my colleagues in the eight Departments who have given so generously and unsparingly of their time and expertise and who have written on the items from the collections in their care.

I would also like to express my appreciation of the work of David Gowers of the Photographic Service, who has photographed all the jewellery specially for this book, using great patience and imagination to capture the intricate and elusive detail of these tiny objects. The great wealth of the Museum's collections was first revealed in the exhibition Jewellery Through 7000 Years of 1976 and its accompanying catalogue. My thanks now go to Celia Clear of British Museum Publications for suggesting that this material might be the basis of a new survey and to Jenny Chattington for all her invaluable work in the production of this book.

May 1986

Note on the present edition
A few revisions have been made in the sections on Celtic Europe, Roman Britain, cameos and finger rings to take account of new research and discoveries. The section on Europe AD 1700-1950 has been completely rewritten with new illustrations and includes numerous acquisitions made by the British Museum since 1990. Sadly, Hugh Tait died in 2005.


Table of Contents

List of Contributors


1 The Middle East: 5000-2000 BC
2 The Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and North of the Alps: 2000-1400 BC
3 Egypt: 1500-900 BC
4 Europe and Western Asia, 1400-600 BC
5 Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan and Persian Lands: 850-325 BC
6 China, Celtic Europe, Mexico and Peru: 600 BC-AD 600
7 The Mediterranean, Parthia, India, Egypt, Roman Britain and Byzantium: 325 BC-AD 600
8 Europe, China, Korea and Japan: AD 300-1000
9 Mayan Central America: AD 600-1000
10 Central and South America: AD 500-1500
11 Europe, Islam, China, Korea and Java: AD 1000-1500
12 Europe: AD 1500-1700
13 China, India, Tibet and Mongolia: AD 1500-1850
14 West Africa: AD 1500-1800
15 Europe: AD 1700-1950
16 Amulets
17 Cameos in Jewellery
18 Functional Finger-rings

Select Glossary
References for the illustrations
Further reading