The word jewellery is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicised from the Old French "jouel" circa the 13th century. Further tracing leads back to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything. Jewellery is one of the oldest forms of body adornment; recently found 100,000 year-old beads made from Nassarius shells are thought to be the oldest known jewellery.
- 1. a. An article of value used for adornment, chiefly of the person; a costly ornament, esp. one made of gold, silver, or precious stones. Obs. in gen. sense; now restricted to a small ornament containing a precious stone or stones, worn for personal adornment (cf. sense 2): see also b.
- b. An ornament worn as the badge of an Order of honour, or as a mark of distinction or honour.
- 2. a. A precious stone, a gem; esp. one worn as an ornament. (The prevailing modern sense: in early use often difficult to separate from sense 1.)
- b. Watchmaking. A precious stone, usually a ruby, used for a pivot-hole, on account of its hardness and resistance to wear.
- c. Applied to an imitation, in glass or enamel, of a real gem; as those worn on women's [[Fashion|dresses in the end of the 19th c.; also, an ornamental boss of glass in a stained-glass window.
- 3. fig. Applied to a thing or person of great worth, or highly prized; a ‘treasure’, ‘gem’. [[Crown Jewels|jewels of the crown], a rhetorical phrase for the colonies of the British Empire (temporary).
- 4. Naut. A heavy ring, sometimes weighted, used to press together the two parts of a cable or rope which is laid round an article and then rove through the ring. Also attrib. Obs.
Jewellery (pronounced /ˈdʒu - əlri/ or /ˈdʒu - ələri/) or jewelry (see American and British English spelling differences) is an item of personal adornment, such as a necklace, ring, brooch or bracelet, that is worn by a person. It may be made from gemstones or precious metals, but may be from any other material, and may be appreciated because of geometric or other patterns, or meaningful symbols. Earrings and other body rings are also considered to be jewellery, while body art is not. Also, items affixed to a garment, such as buttons, are not considered to be jewellery, even if they are unusual and highly decorative. Also, items such as belts and handbags etc. are not considered to be jewellery, and are considered to be accessories.
Jewellery is sometimes seen as wealth storage or functionally as holding a garment or hair together. It has from very early times also been regarded as a form of personal adornment. The first pieces of jewellery were made from natural materials, such as bone, animal teeth, shell, wood and carved stone. More exotic jewellery was probably made for wealthy people or as indications of social status. In some cases people were buried with their jewellery.
Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings and many more types of jewellery. While high-quality jewellery is made with gemstones and precious metals, such as silver or gold, there is also a growing demand for art jewellery where design and creativity is prized above material value. In addition, there is the less costly costume jewellery, made from lower value materials and mass-produced. Other variations include wire sculpture (wrap) jewellery, using anything from base metal wire with rock tumbled stone to precious metals and precious gemstones.