The history of ancient Egyptian jewelry inlaid with vitreous composition dates back to the dawn of the dynastic period. “”
Jewelry has existed in a variety of materials, shapes, and applications. Although the jewelry was designed for use in life, the ancient Egyptians placed it on mummified bodies as part of the funeral rite.
According to their belief, precious stones and amulets had to be made from specific materials that gave the cattle certain magsal powers that helped the deceased to recover life in the afterlife and achieve immortality.
We have a large number of necklaces and pectorals, as well as numerous bracelets, anklets, rings and earrings, among the various varieties of jewelry made with vitreous composition.
Photographs of opulent Ancient Egyptian jewelery
Gold necklace from the treasure of the Tanis royal tombs, ca. 1070-712 BC – Cairo Museum
Regarding their function and meaning within the funeral ceremony, precious stones were more than mere decorations; they possessed magsal powers.
In chapter XXVII of the book of e, there is a scroll of magsal for a golden vulture to be placed on the dead body of the deceased. The vignette gives precise instructions on how to make the rell, and the shape and material of the vulture is described in detail.
Tutankhamun’s great treasure has been crucial evidence for the study of ancient Egyptian glass-encrusted jewelry, as well as confirmation of how the directives of the Book of E’s were carried out.
As described in chapter XXVII of the Book of e, a gold pectoral inlaid with glass was discovered on Tutankhamun’s mummy.
Most jewelry had to be made from gold because it was the material most associated with the gods. These were then combined with various colored semi-precious stones that, due to their mineral origin, possessed magical properties.
Given the difficulty of obtaining semi-precious stones, the art of inlaid stone with the different vitreous compositions will be perfectly imitated, the ideal material because it has the same physical properties as semi-precious stones because it is also of mineral origin.
The artisans imitate semi-precious stones with speed and perfection, reaching an extraordinary level of mastery in carving and refinement.
Cairo Museum, Egypt. The craftsmen were known as neshedi nubi, the goldsmith, and hemu nub, the goldsmith. Multiple tombs of craftsmen have been discovered.
The director of the jewelry of the rrorertu of Amun and the superior of the craftsmen of the jewelry of Amun were probably royal craftsmen.
Earrings, from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, discovered in the Valley of the Kings
We can still find positions of greater importance than that of the artisans mentioned above, who were in charge of the organization of the entire industry, who never even touched the tube of the blower, in the different titles we can find the following: Inspector of gold and silver treasury, inspector of the golden land of Amun.
His main responsibility was to give precise instructions on the materials that were going to be necessary for the manufacture of the treasures as well as to follow up on each of the phases of elaboration of the piece.
Although the organization of the gold working industry did not allow them to sign personally, the name of Neferronpet, who signed their book of the dead, is preserved.
Due to the precision that the work required, before beginning the elaboration of the piece it was necessary to prepare a design on a template with the model of what was going to be manufactured.
One of the most important things that had to be planned from the beginning was detailing very well the thickness and distance of the ribs where the fragments of polished material were already embedded.
Each piece had a specific place within the design; you could never put one piece in the place of another, which made the craftsman’s job even more difficult.
The supports are mostly gold, which was worked in different techniques as necessary; laminated, cast in an open mold. When making larger pieces such as masks or sarcophagi, it was necessary to work in several parts and then weld them together.
Once the support was finished, the fragments of the glass composition were cut and polished according to the size of the hole to finally be embedded in its place.Gold necklace of King Psusennes I, from his tomb at Tanis, Nile Delta, Northern Egypt
Necklace with Lunar Pectoral – from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen
Pectoral and necklace of Princess Sit-hathor-yunet 1887–1878 BC – Metropolitan Museum
Pin, Horus Falcon from the tomb of Tutankhamun
Ring with ducks. Ramesses IV, 153-1147 BC, 20th Dynasty. Louvre, Paris
Bracelet from the tomb of Queen Amanishakheto in Nubia – Egyptian Museum in Berlin
The ancient Egyptian pectoral of Prince Khaemwaset, son of Ramesses
Goddess Hathor Image Bracelet – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston