On International Women’s Day, we take a look at one of the biggest differences between the sexes; the wearing of jewellery. We acknowledge that some women wear little or no jewellery and some men wear lots, but in general, women are far more likely to love, and wear, jewellery. So why do women wear jewellery?
Jewellery in History
Gold and gemstones have been part of human adornment for thousands of years. People buried in Egyptian and Mesopotamian tombs were wearing jewellery and it has been part of religion, cultures, class (and gender). The Aztecs and the Tibetans both valued turquoise as personal decoration.
Why Do Women Wear Jewellery?
There are a number of psychological studies that suggest that many girls and women are drawn to shiny, sparkly and colourful things. Perhaps this is why jewellery is almost always associated with women.
Is it because women love to look pretty?
There is a great deal of social pressure on women to look fashionable and presentable. From images of Cleopatra to Liz Taylor and Beyonce, an important element of a woman’s beauty is her jewellery.
Anthropologists and psychologists have long cited the role of jewellery in the dating-and-mating world. Humans lack the natural decoration of many animals and birds, so jewellery replaces this.
So it is possible that women have given in to that pressure and have simply accepted that clothing, shoes, accessories and jewellery are the way that this is done. Could it be that some women wear bright, large and coloured pieces in order to really grab other people’s attention? Also, the more interest shown, the more the piece makes the wearer feel good.
Similarly, a child born December may develop a life-long attachment to turquoise for no reasons other than it is the December birthstone.
Is it the intrinsic value of jewellery?
Value is not just the monetary cost. Every piece of jewellery has the potential to evoke memories and carries a sentimental value. There is lots of evidence that women have a particular attraction to rings, necklaces and bracelets, especially if they were gifts or if they represent significant moments in their lives.
Women are also more likely to be interested in the symbolism and of their gemstones and understand the meaning behind them.
There is also the fact that many men enjoy giving jewellery to their wife, girlfriend, daughters, mother and other important women in their life.
It has long been the case that rare gemstones fetch astronomical prices. In November 2015, the Blue Moon Diamond sold for $48.4m, setting a world record for any jewel at more than $4m a carat. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/12/blue-moon-diamond-sells-for-world-record-48m-geneva)
What is the Human Need for Jewellery
In answering the question, Why do women wear jewellery, let’s ask if they need to, or want to?
If jewellery is a need, it must fit somewhere into Abram Maslow’s classic analysis. The need for jewellery will in Belonging or Esteem needs. Belonging is about the need to belong to a group and esteem is about recognition and status.
Jewellery can never be a basic need like food, water or sex. But the living standards of an average person in most Western societies are such that there is no real worry about food and shelter so people we find ourselves seeking jewellery as a sign of status.
It is also reflection of our personality. If ruby symbolizes passion and if amethyst symbolizes sobriety, we may feel these characteristics asserted in ourselves by wearing them. In this way our self-esteem is reinforced.
This symbolism runs throughout the wearing of jewellery. At a simple level, the wedding ring is a simple metaphor for the idea that two people are united and committed to this union “for better for worse, in sickness and in health”.
While we often think of women wearing jewellery, it is also common for men to wear rings and bracelets.
Spiritual Benefits from Jewellery
Every gemstone has esoteric properties. Gemstones in jewellery are said to protect, heal or help the wearer. Indeed, the writer Judy Hall has published many books about Crystals, which are simply gemstones, semi-precious stones and minerals.
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