V0016592 Various gold trinkets, pieces of gold jewelry, gold amulets,<br /> Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images<br /> images@wellcome.ac.uk<br /> http://wellcomeimages.org<br /> Various gold trinkets, pieces of gold jewelry, gold amulets, stools, gold nuggets and scales for measuring gold. Engraving.<br /> Published: -<br /> Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Metalworking finds its origins deep in human history more than 10,000 years ago with works in copper.

COPPER – Copper is an element (Cu) and is one of the few naturally occurring metals. It is a soft metal with many uses, and is also used as a component of sterling silver, brass and bronze. It is an element essential to human life, and also is known to have antimicrobial qualities.

BRASS – Brass is an alloy of copper and the element zinc (Zn) that has been used since for at least 5,000 years. (Another copper alloy – bronze is a combination of copper and the element tin (Sn).)

SILVER – Silver (Ag) is another element in its pure form, though it is usually mixed with copper and other elements to form sterling silver. Sterling silver is a harder metal that pure silver and is made up of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. (It is usually given the designation 925.) Silver has been used for over 5,000 years. Some forms of silver also have antimicrobial qualities.


Humans have been working with stones in various ways since Paleolithic times, the earliest works being tools.  The Neanderthal created jewelry as early as 130,000 years ago.  Currently the oldest known human jewelry found are shell beads dating from 100,000 years ago found in Israel. The oldest stone jewelry dates from about 40,000 in Siberia created by the Denisovans, another relative of modern humans.

Along with metals, gemstones have also been valued throughout human history.

It was common during ancient, and especially during medieval, times for people to use lapidaries, which were books that assigned various meanings and medicinal qualities to rocks and minerals.  These lapidaries were often found in 3 categories: scientific, Christian symbology and astrology.