How to Make Ancient Egyptian Jewelry

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Make jewelry inspired by the ancient Egyptians
Make jewelry inspired by the ancient Egyptians (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The Egyptians loved body adornment. While you may not be able to recreate the techniques the ancient Egyptians used to make their fantastic jewelry, you can look to these pieces as inspiration in making beautiful jewelry today. The Egyptians were also skilled at using glass beads to simulate the look of semi-precious gems. The Egyptians are sometimes credited with making the first costume jewelry -- making fantastic pieces with glass beads that resembled semi-precious gems. Use your creativity and think like an Egyptian to make an Egyptian-inspired work of art.

Things You'll Need

  • Stringing materials
  • Glass beads in various colors
  • Carved gold or silver beads or carved stone beads

Research ancient Egyptian style and design. Necklaces were often in the form of collars, with many beads in rows, or several individually graduated strands worn at the same time. Almost all necklaces were constructed in a symmetrical manner, with simple repeating patterns of beads making up most of the necklace, or with a large central pendant. Check online auction sites for one-of-a-kind pendants that have the look and feel of ancient Egypt.

Look for instructional sources. If you're an experienced beader, there are online directions for constructing complex collar necklaces. For those who want a simpler project, string several graduated necklaces.

Lay out your designs before stringing on a bead board or on a clean terrycloth towel (to prevent beads rolling away and escaping) to work out the pattern and to make sure the lengths are graduated to hang properly. If you're unsure how to judge the length of each strand, try this trick. Cut as many pieces of string as you intend to make strands, lay them around your neck where you want them to hang and measure the length of each piece. This saves trying to hold an almost completed string of beads around your neck to see where it's going to hang.

Choose and use glass beads that represent the same colors as semi-precious stones: amethyst, carnelian, lapis, coral and malachite. Turquoise was also used by the Egyptians. There are numerous sources of Czech pressed glass druk beads and fire polished beads offered by bead suppliers and store. Choose those with no applied finish, such as AB (aurora borealis) or with facets. Round, oval, teardrop and elongated beads are the most authentic.

Look for and incorporate beads carved with Egyptian hieroglyphics, or in the shape of scarabs or cats. Egyptians believed that scarabs represented rebirth. The Goddess Bastet was frequently shown as a cat. The Egyptians believed wearing amulets and figures representing these gods and goddesses would bring them good luck. Use a large bead as a center pendant or many smaller beads separated with glass beads.

Learn the appropriate symbols and their meaning if you want authenticity. The Ankh is a symbol frequently associated with Egypt. However, it was rarely used in ancient jewelry. More often it was shown in artwork as held in the hand. And it was almost never constructed in silver; it was viewed as a sun symbol and more often was crafted in gold or copper. If you are looking for an authentic Egyptian look, the Ankh as a pendant or accent bead should not be included in the piece. If you're not as concerned with absolute authenticity, then include it if you like.

Tips & Warnings

  • Egyptians usually wore many pieces of their jewelry at the same time, as it was a representation of their wealth and status. You may want to consider wearing just one piece of Egyptian-style jewelry with complementary but simpler earrings or rings.
  • Bracelets were frequently wide cuffs or bangle types. If you're a metalsmith, you can construct your own, but for most of us, replicas from museum gift shops may fill the bill. Simple cuffs in a similar metal to that in the other pieces will also work.

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