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Objects designed for the adornment of the body, usually made of gold, silver, or platinum, often with precious or semiprecious stones and such organic substances as pearls, coral, and amber. Jewelry evolved from shells, animal teeth, and other objects used as adornment in prehistoric times. Over the centuries it came to be a sign of social or religious rank. In Renaissance Italy, jewelry making reached the status of a fine art; many Italian sculptors trained as goldsmiths. From the 17th century the decorative function of jewelry again came to the fore, overshadowing its symbolic significance. By the 19th century, industrialization brought jewelry within the reach of the middle class. Firms opened by jewelers such as Carl Fabergé and Louis Comfort Tiffany achieved great success by making fine jewelry for the wealthy.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on jewelry, visit Britannica.com.