What Is Ethnic Jewelry?

Ethnic jewelry is any jewelry that is distinct to a region or group of people. Jewelry makers use local crafting techniques and local materials to create beautiful pieces that are often symbolic, relating to the culture or religion of the region, and which may even be talismans to bring good fortune or protection. Wearing ethnic jewelry shows an affinity for the culture and people that created it, and allows people to express their unique personalities.

What Is the Symbolism of Ethnic Jewelry?

Many ethnic and traditional pieces have a symbolic meaning, or they relate to religion or pagan beliefs. For example, in Egypt, the Ankh is the symbol of life, while a scarab is a potent talisman providing energy, courage, and protection. Some people believe that the Celtic cross is a combination of the Christian cross and the sun cross, and represents Christ's supremacy over the pagan sun, while Celtic knotwork symbolizes the spiritual evolution of humanity and the interconnectedness of all life in the world

How Do You Care for Ethnic Jewelry?

Ethnic jewelry may be antique or contemporary, but in either case, the jewelry is often handmade from materials that require special care. Many of the materials are not waterproof, and suspension in cleaning solution could cause more harm than good. Furthermore, soaking gemstones in hot water may leach their color or even cause cracks. To clean silver pieces with elaborate knotwork, apply a thick paste of bicarbonate of soda mixed with water, using a soft brush to get into the intricate details. Rinse the jewelry, and then blot with paper before polishing with a soft cloth. Caring for wooden or seed jewelry involves the application of plant-based oils to keep the natural materials supple and glossy, while gold jewelry requires only polishing with a soft cloth, as it is an inert metal that does not rust or tarnish.