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Throughout history, humans have had a deep connection with animals.

This has been reflected in various forms of art and decoration, one example being animal jewellery.

Animal jewellery has been worn by people of different cultures and time periods as a way to display their affinity towards animals and the natural world and has evolved over time to include a wide range of designs and materials.

At Gemma J, we love animal-themed jewellery, and that’s why we’ve written this guide on how it has changed over time, and how our favourite animals have become so commonly featured on necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more.

Let’s take a look.

robin on branch necklace

Jewellery through the ages

 The Neolithic Period

Some of the earliest examples of animal jewellery originate from the Neolithic period, also known as The Stone Age, approximately 10,000 years ago.

These pieces of jewellery were often made from bone, antler or teeth.

Animal teeth in particular were considered to have symbolic significance, as they were believed to have protective powers and were worn as amulets.

The jewellery often depicted animals that were important to the people who made them- for example, horses and birds.

Neolithic people created a variety of jewellery pieces, to include bracelets, necklaces, pendants and earrings.

Ancient Egypt

Animal jewellery played an important role in Ancient Egyptian culture.

It was worn by people of all social classes, regardless of whether you were royalty or a commoner. Many Ancient Egyptian gods were depicted with animal heads and bodies. This connection with animals was reflected in their jewellery; it often featured animal motifs and amulets.

An example of a popular animal motif was the falcon. This was associated with the god Horus who was often depicted with a falcon head. Falcon motifs were used in jewellery to symbolise strength, power and protection.

The falcon was often depicted in gold or other precious materials and was worn as a pendant or brooch.

Animal parts were also very common in Ancient Egyptian jewellery; these included shells, ivory and feathers, an example being ostrich feathers. Ostrich feathers were believed to have protective powers and were often worn by royalty and priests.

feather necklace

Ancient Greece and Rome

In Ancient Greece and Rome, jewellery was often worn as a way to show off wealth and status.

Common animal motifs included lions, snakes and eagles.

The Greeks and Romans believed that animals were symbols of different virtues and qualities and often wore jewellery depicting animals that they admired, such as eagles, who were associated with the god Jupiter and represented power and authority.

The Middle Ages

It was during this time that animal jewellery became increasingly popular in Europe.

This period was a time of great religious and political upheaval and people turned to animals for comfort and guidance; consequently animal imagery became very common in art, architecture and jewellery.

Dragon jewellery was popular at this time; they were used in jewellery to symbolise strength and power and were often depicted on shields and banners. Other popular animal motifs at this time included lions, eagles and serpents.

The Baroque Period

Animal motifs continued to be popular in jewellery, and they were often used to create elaborate, decorative pieces that reflected the opulence and grandeur of the Baroque style.

A popular animal motif in Baroque jewellery was the serpent. Serpents were commonly depicted as coiled around gemstones or pearls, or as forming the band of a ring.

bee earrings

The Victorian Period

Animal motifs that were popular in Victorian jewellery included insects such as bees, butterflies, and beetles. These creatures were often depicted in intricate detail, with their wings and bodies made of precious metals and their eyes made of gems. Insect jewellery was seen as a symbol of the natural world and was often worn as a way of expressing one’s love of nature.

Birds were another popular motif; they were seen as a symbol of freedom and beauty, and were often worn as a way of expressing one’s love of these qualities.

20th Century

One of the most influential designers of animal jewellery in the early 20th century was French jeweller René Lalique. He was known for his innovative use of materials and his use of organic shapes and motifs in his designs.

He often incorporated animals, such as dragonflies, fish, and swans, into his pieces, and his jewellery was highly sought after by collectors and art enthusiasts.

Modern Day

Animal jewellery continues to be popular in the present day.

One trend in modern animal jewellery is the use of eco-friendly and sustainable materials.

Many designers are now using recycled metals, ethically sourced gemstones, and other environmentally friendly materials in their creations Some designers are creating pieces that raise awareness about endangered animal species or that support conservation efforts.

Others are using animal motifs to represent personal values, such as strength, resilience, or freedom.

Horse Jewellery

snaffle bit bracelet

 Horse-themed jewellery is popular among horse lovers and equestrians, as well as anyone who appreciates the beauty and majesty of these magnificent animals.

It can be worn as a statement piece, or simply as a subtle nod to one’s love for horses.

Horses have been a popular theme in jewellery design for centuries, with many cultures and civilizations incorporating horse motifs into their jewellery creations.

For example, in ancient times, horse motifs were often used in jewellery to symbolise strength, speed and beauty. Many cultures also believed they had spiritual or mystical powers.

In the modern day, horse-themed jewellery continues to be a popular theme in design. Some designers create horse-themed necklaces, bracelets, and earrings that incorporate horsehair, leather, or other natural materials, while others use more traditional materials like gold, silver, and diamonds.

It is becoming increasingly common to incorporate horse hair in jewellery as memorabilia for a horse who has passed.

Bird Jewellery

pheasant pendant

Bird-themed jewellery is popular among nature lovers, bird watchers, and anyone who appreciates the beauty and grace of these creatures.

Many cultures and civilizations have incorporated birds into their jewellery creations.

Birds have long been admired for their beauty, grace, and freedom, and are often associated with spirituality, wisdom, and good luck.

Some designers create bird-themed necklaces, bracelets, and earrings that incorporate feathers, while others use more traditional materials like gold, silver, and diamonds to create pieces that feature bird shapes and forms.

Dog Jewellery

border terrier charm

Dogs have been a much loved companion animal for thousands of years, so of course they have been a popular theme in jewellery through the ages.

Dog-themed jewellery is popular among dog lovers and pet owners, as well as anyone who appreciates the bond between humans and their canine companions.

In ancient times, dogs were often depicted in jewellery as symbols of loyalty, companionship, and protection.

In ancient Egypt, dogs were depicted in jewellery as symbols of strength and power due to their hunting skills.

In the modern day, dog jewellery is still sought after. Popular jewellery includes dog-themed necklaces, bracelets, and earrings that incorporate paw prints or dog bone shapes.

Animal Jewellery from Gemma J

To conclude, animal jewellery is still very popular.

Jewelers continue to create beautiful and unique pieces of jewellery so make sure you always spend some time picking the perfect animal jewellery for you.

These pieces are a reminder of our deep connection to the natural world; they offer us a way to express our love of animals.

Want to know more? Then get in touch with our team today.