Author Topic: Jewelry Provides Clues to Lifestyles  (Read 670 times)


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Jewelry Provides Clues to Lifestyles
| January 16, 2017, 03:24:45 PM

Jewelry is the product of human culture, the result of an idea, feeling, skill, perseverance and creativity. It is not static, but progresses with the progression of time and therefore provides clues to the lifestyle of a given time in history.

The art of making jewelry is known throughout the archipelago, practiced by each ethnic group in its own particular way. Thus, local nuances deriving from ethnic traditions, the outlook on life, symbolic values and the foreign influences that have reached the area have given immense diversity to the world of Indonesian jewelry, and yet among all this diversity we can catch glimmers of similarity. In all aspects of Indonesian life, the national motto of "Bhineka Tunggal Ika", or Unity in Diversity, is very much a reality.


People throughout the world have always worn some form of jewelry, for religious purposes and traditional ceremonies, as amulets, status symbols and beauty enhancers. Since prehistoric times, Southeast Asians, including the Indonesians, have been acquainted with jewelry and jewelry-making techniques.

During the hunting and food-gathering (Mesolithic) age, Indonesians began to live more settled lives. They made their homes in caves and produced tools for practical purposes as well as objects required for the burial of their dead. They also had the technology to make necklaces of shells and animals' bones, which they perforated with simple drills so that they could be strung together.

Jewelry-making skills had improved by the time of the agricultural age, or neolithicum. New immigrants arrived from the mainland, bringing new ideas and technologies which allowed the production of finger-rings, necklaces and bracelets from clay, semi-precious stones, iron and gold. Design continued to be simple, with some geometrical figurations.

With the metal age came the skill of mixing metals. Copper was combined with tin to produce bronze which was turned to many useful purposes, including the making of jewelry. Symbolic context was given to jewelry, which was derived from the special properties of the metal itself. This was expressed in the shape of the ornament as well as in the ornamentation thereon.

Traditional jewelry today remains an integral part of traditional wedding attire. It is also used with other forms of ethnic dress, but is not considered as essential and may be combined with or replaced by non-ethnic forms of jewelry.

Types of Traditional Jewelry

Head ornaments:
These consist of ear and nose ornaments, hairpins and combs, crowns and diadems. They may be made from wood, bamboo, beads, metal, precious stones, shells and bone, among other materials. They function as beautifiers and status indicators; some are indicative of royalty and power.

Body ornaments:
Body ornaments decorate the neck, chest, waist, upper arms, wrist, fingers, legs and toes; a good example is the kelat bahu, which encircles the upper arm. This is still very popular among many of Indonesia's ethnic groups and can be seen, for example, in dance and wedding costumes worn by both men and women.

Jewelry is, and has always been, used for a variety of functions. It is an essential part of ceremonial dress, and particularly the wedding costume. It can accompany the deceased into the grave, allowing him or her to maintain status in the after world, and to have all the things enjoyed in real life; most pre-historic beads are discovered in graves. Jewelry is an elegant feature of a dancer's costume and also accentuates movement. And finally, jewelry can function as symbols of power and status, protect the wearer from spiritual harm, and on occasion provide clues as to the personal level of development of the wearer.

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