The ancient Egyptians certainly led the way when it came to engineering, and they were at the forefront of agriculture, but did you know that they were also the masters of metallurgy, pioneers in mining, and that they perfected the art of creating spectacular jewelry using everything from copper and gold to lapis lazuli and obsidian gemstones. Personal beautification was considered very important, and elaborate jewelry including bracelets, armbands, earrings, collar pieces, and rings were worn by both women and men, no matter their social standing.

An elaborate piece from the tomb of Tutankhamun

They mainly used metals like copper and gold for their jewelry, and as a majority of ancient Egyptians were fairly poor, they could usually only afford copper. Wealthier Egyptians, however, simply could not get enough gold. Both copper and gold were in high supply—and demand—and both were mined in Nubia (today the far south of Egypt and Sudan). Ancient Egyptian jewelers used many color variations of gold, ranging from gray to rose. Jewelers used many types of mixing elements like silver, copper and iron to deliberately change the color of gold.

Gems and other stones were often molded into the metals to create more lavish jewelry. Popular stones were garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, turquoise, and obsidian; pearls and emeralds were also sought-after. Another interesting material they used in jewelry-making was faience. Faience was ground up quartz mixed with colored powders, which were then shaped to create simulations of more expensive stones like turquoise.

Mask of King Tutankhamun

Many jewelers preferred to use rare gems like purple amethyst and emeralds, since buyers of these jewels were of notably high social standing, and they knew that the prices for their work would be much higher.

As metallurgists, the Egyptians began forging copper pots at least 5000 years ago, and over time they realized that by adding tin to the copper, they could create bronze, which was much more robust.

In ancient Egypt, silver was actually more valuable than gold, as it required a more difficult process to create. The Egyptians used the same smelting process to refine silver as they did for making bronze. Egyptians believed gold was the flesh of Ra, the Sun God, and it was therefore a sacred metal. Ancient metallurgists also created an alloy known as electrum, which was made from gold, silver, and copper.

The ancient Egyptians crafted incredibly beautiful pieces of jewelry with ancient technologies, and developed mining and metallurgy principles that are still being used some 5000 years later.

Book a trip to Egypt, and discover the beautiful creations of these ancient artisans for yourself!