How Was Ancient Egyptian Jewelry Made?

How Was Ancient Egyptian Jewelry Made?

The ancient Egyptians are renowned for their extraordinary achievements in architecture, mathematics, and not least, their jewelry making. Egyptian jewelry is celebrated for its beauty, craftsmanship, and the rich symbolism embedded within its design. This article delves into the ancient techniques and materials that made Egyptian jewelry truly remarkable.

What was ancient Egyptian jewelry made out of?

Gold and Its Purity Levels: Gold was the most prized material in ancient Egyptian jewelry making, cherished for its enduring beauty and its association with divinity and immortality. The purity of gold in ancient Egyptian artifacts varies, but it was often close to what we consider as 18-22 karat gold today. The Egyptians mastered the art of alloying gold with other metals like copper to adjust its hardness and color, enabling them to create intricate designs with lasting durability.

Silver and Other Metals: Although less common than gold, silver was also used, particularly in the Middle Kingdom period. Other metals, such as electrum (a natural alloy of gold and silver), copper, and bronze, were utilized for different jewelry pieces, especially for those of lower social status.

Gemstones: The Egyptians adorned their jewelry with a variety of gemstones, each selected for its color, brilliance, and symbolic significance.

  • Lapis Lazuli: Revered for its deep blue color, symbolizing the night sky and the heavens.
  • Turquoise: Cherished for its vibrant hue and associations with protection and health.
  • Carnelian: Valued for its reddish color, representing blood and vitality.
  • Amethyst: Sought after for its royal purple shade, symbolizing wealth and power.

Organic Materials: Pearls, ivory, and even glass were incorporated into jewelry designs, expanding the range of aesthetic and symbolic expression available to ancient craftsmen.

Use of Alexandrite in Ancient Egyptian Jewelry

The use of alexandrite, a gemstone that changes color based on the lighting, in ancient Egyptian jewelry is a subject of some debate. Alexandrite was not identified and named until the 19th century, making its presence in ancient Egyptian jewelry unlikely. However, the Egyptians were adept at using color-changing materials, such as certain glass compositions, which could mimic this effect.

Gold Purity in Ancient Egyptian Jewelry

The gold used in ancient Egyptian jewelry was remarkably pure, often exceeding 20 karats. The Egyptians mined gold from the Eastern Desert and Nubia, refining it through heating and washing to remove impurities. This high level of purity not only gave their jewelry a radiant glow but also a softness that allowed for intricate detailing and shaping.

Craftsmanship and Techniques

The craftsmanship of ancient Egyptian jewelry is a testament to their advanced technological skills and aesthetic sensibility.

  • Stone Carving and Shaping: Craftsmen skillfully carved gemstones into beads, amulets, and inlays using abrasives like sand.
  • Metalworking Techniques: Techniques such as casting, soldering, and forging were employed to create complex designs. The use of the "lost wax" casting method allowed for the production of detailed amulets and fittings.
  • Engraving and Decorative Techniques: Engraving was used to inscribe symbols and hieroglyphs, adding layers of meaning to each piece.

Cultural Significance and Symbolism

Jewelry in ancient Egypt was laden with symbolism, reflecting beliefs, social status, and protection. Colors and materials were chosen not only for their aesthetic qualities but also for their symbolic meanings. Jewelry pieces often served as amulets with protective properties, believed to confer health, prosperity, and safe passage to the afterlife.


The legacy of ancient Egyptian jewelry making is a testament to their unparalleled skill, aesthetic sophistication, and the profound cultural significance that jewelry held in their society. From the materials and techniques to the symbolic meanings embedded in each piece, ancient Egyptian jewelry offers a fascinating glimpse into the past that continues to inspire and captivate.


  1. What was the most common material used in ancient Egyptian jewelry?

    • Gold was the most common and valued material, revered for its beauty and symbolic significance.
  2. Did the ancient Egyptians use diamonds in their jewelry?

    • Diamonds were not known to the ancient Egyptians. They preferred colorful gemstones and materials that were locally available or could be traded.
  3. How did ancient Egyptians color their glass for jewelry?

    • They added metal oxides to molten glass to achieve a range of colors, from deep blue with cobalt to green with copper oxides.
  4. What was the significance of animal motifs in Egyptian jewelry?

    • Animals were highly symbolic, representing deities, strength, protection, and qualities admired by the Egyptians.
  5. Were there any gemstones considered unlucky or bad in ancient Egypt?

    • There is little evidence to suggest that any gemstones were considered unlucky; most were valued for their protective and beneficial properties.
  6. How did social status affect the jewelry worn in ancient Egypt?

    • Social status greatly influenced the materials and complexity of jewelry, with the wealthiest wearing jewelry made of gold and precious stones, while lower classes wore simpler items made of beads or metals like copper.
  7. Can you still find ancient Egyptian jewelry today?

    • Yes, many museums around the world house extensive collections of ancient Egyptian jewelry, showcasing the craftsmanship and beauty of these ancient artifacts.

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