Beads are, and have always been, universal. They have been universal throughout history and the world! This is significant because beads are one of the only aspects of culture that is universal! Even though they are universal, they have different meanings and play different roles across all cultures throughout history. In the early days of civilization, B.C., and after Western Asia moved from a hunting and gathering society to settled, permanent villages in which people were able to produce and store food, time was freed up for them to engage in making crafts; beads and jewelry included. Since beads were made of raw, scarce, and durable materials to which value was easily assigned, they became a major commodity for trade between cultures. “The demand for exotic and rare materials to be used for adornment helped to establish trade networks in Western Asia and the Mediterranean at a very early date,” (Dubin, 1995:11), prior to 6500 B.C. Jewelry became an important art form within Mesopotamia (present-day northern Syria and Iraq), India, and Egypt (Dubin, 1995:11).
As a result of settled village life in Neolithic society, an unprecedented level of handmade crafts began to flourish, including the first ever weaves, pottery, and new beads. Beads were traded long-distance between Mediterranean civilizations and the mountain cultures of Western Asia. “The uneven distribution of the regions’ resources created networks of commercial relations that united these societies and encouraged the exchange of cultural artifacts” (Dubin, 1995:11). In other words, a surplus of goods in one culture and a lack of those same goods in the other culture caused and perpetuated a relationship of commercial trading between them, and beads were a major trading commodity the same way that money is a major trading commodity in cultures worldwide today. This commercial relationship united them (Dubin, 1995).
In addition to the ritualistic and magical meanings already assigned to beads, they also became a status symbol among the wealthy in the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Indian cultures after these cultures developed into hierarchical societies with different social classes. As a result, full time jewelers were hired by Mesopotamian and Egyptian priests and kings. The degree of craftsmanship and the extent to which rare and precious stones were incorporated into necklaces determined the level of prestige of necklaces during this time period (Dubin, 1995).
One of the stones that became a status symbol is Lapis Lazuli (Dubin, 1995). For the Egyptians, this stone was symbolic of the night sky and the power of the gods. For eons, Lapis represented royal power. In addition, if people with medical conditions believed that they could be cured or healed, then Lapis was the stone used to enhance such beliefs. In other words, people believed that Lapis could cure and/or heal people with medical conditions as long as the people with such conditions believed that they could be healed or cured in the first place (Hall, 2011).
Today, it is believed that Lapis has the power to channel the pureness of being through its high electrical conductivity, which stimulates or intensifies one to higher vibrations. “By transmuting mental and emotional blockages, Lapis sets your soul free to express itself fully (Hall, 2011:118).
If you would like to give wearable art gifts that are natural, handmade, unique, and incorporate Lapis Lazuli, (and/or any other stones that are meaningful to you or the beautiful women in your life,) please contact me for a private jewelry consultation at elizabeth@WirednTwistednStoned.com or (919) 649-2123.
Dubin, Lois Sherr. 1995. The History of Beads: From 30,000 B.C. to the Present, Concise Edition. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated.
Hall, Judy. 2011. 101 Power Crystals: The Ultimate Guide To Magical Crystals, Gems, And Stones For Healing And Transformation. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press, a member of Quarto Publishing Group, USA Inc.