Jewellery has a chequered history when you really look into it. Baubles worn by men and women in the past, especially the ancient past, to signify wealth and position. Rings we all know, as they continue to be popular today, are signs of engagement and marriage. Certain clubs and secret societies have their members wear rings to identify one another. Exclusive clubs like the winners of National Basketball Association (NBA) championship are awarded rings to commemorate their victory. Jewellery is today very much associated with gender, as it is worn more prominently by women than men.
Alternatives to Jewellery: A Feminist Viewpoint
The recent popularity of body piercings has seen a proliferation of jewellery worn as studs on the face and other body parts. There has in many ways been a fashionable return to aesthetic ideas about our primitive past in terms of this kind of body art. Many feminists take issue with jewellery because of its long association with patriarchal power and trophy wives. Sparkling and shiny pieces of art adorning a woman’s body have signified ownership by their male husbands and fathers. Which leads me to ask what are the alternatives to wearing jewellery?
This question touches on the form versus function component inherent in the wearing of jewellery. In the pre-zipper and button ages, a clasp called a ‘fibula’ was worn to affix a cloak around a person’s body. These fibulae were gender specific in most cultures, with a woman’s fibula generally being bow shaped and a man’s might be in the shape of a weapon. They quickly became adorned with jewels or made out of precious metals. So, form and function are combined in the fibula. Rings, as we have seen have meanings, as do religious necklaces and chains with crucifixes and other religious iconography attached.
Looking at modern culture and technology, have the ubiquitous ear/head phones attached to today’s youth crossed over from mere functionality into body art? Similarly, mobile phones and their colourful cases accompany people everywhere, and are they now physical accoutrements? Apple watches and Google glasses are likewise placed to be considered as things that adorn individuals. Even, hearables for those people with hearing disabilities can be included in this rapidly expanding category driven by technology. Art has been defined as something that’s value has transcended its functionality. Its function may be obsolete, but it is now valued more for its form. Jewellery, in the main, fits into this definition.