Exploring the History of Gold

Antique gold rings, Victorian pendants

The shining radiant colour of the sun, gold has a captivating, alluring and everlasting lustre, revered for its un-tarnishing brilliance. It is also the most malleable and ductile of all metals and so can be manipulated, cast, shaped and formed in endless ways.

The value given to gold has endured since its discovery. The earliest gold jewellery surviving today dates as far back as the Sumerian civilisation circa 2500BC, found in the tombs of ancient kings and queens. Gold was undoubtedly held sacred and formed their most prized possessions. Gold is the earliest and highest form of currency and has remained the principal metal used in precious jewellery from the ancient world through to the present day.

Gold mourning pendant

In early Christian Britain gold objects were reserved exclusively for sacred and ceremonial purposes. The shine of gold, its indestructible nature and its relative scarcity made it an ideal material to embody divine qualities. Temples, sanctuaries and churches were decorated lavishly with golden or gilded statues and images. This continued throughout the medieval age and jewellery largely had religious significance or amuletic properties.

It was during the renaissance that gold was first used lavishly in personal jewels as a display of wealth or to satisfy vanity. Jewellery was exchanged among the rich as part of the ceremony of courtly life and to show power and status. Gold jewellery was a sign of the wearers place in society. A sumptuary law was passed in 1363 which forbade people of lower rank to wear jewellery of gold or silver. This continued throughout the 15th and 16th centuries until James I, who ruled from 1603 to 1625, repealed most of these laws, fearing that they went against the freedom of his people.

Gold posy ring

By the 18th and 19th centuries gold became widely available for those who could afford it and items of gold jewellery were exchanged as tokens of affection and memorial pieces among the fashionable public.

With a long tradition of craftsmanship and skill going back thousands of years, endless methods of decoration have been developed from engraving and repoussé to filigree and granulation. The unique combination of the beauty and rarity, stability and malleability of gold has allowed us to make the most highly prized, everlasting objects.