In prehistoric times people were more interested in decorating their body, then in making clothes. The climate was different and the tools for making clothing were not invented yet. But there was an unquestionable urge to make your self beautiful and stand out of the crowd. Show your status, your wealth, human connection and commitment were important.

The people that live along the beach decorated themselves with shells, mother of pearl, fishbones, and teeth, and colored pebbles.

Others, who live more inland made themselves beautiful with feathers!

Stuffed bird necklace, decorated with embroidery beads and sparkling stones. The artist removed the internal parts of the bird and replaced them with foam or wool. Afke Golsteijn and Floris Bakker, Netherlands 2010

Stuffed bird necklace, decorated with embroidery beads and sparkling stones. The artist removed the internal parts of the bird and replaced them with foam or wool. Afke Golsteijn and Floris Bakker, Netherlands 2010

Fine feathers make fine birds

In many cultures, birds are an important source of food. The feathers and beaks that remain after the meal, are used for decoration. Especially in the Amazon region (Brasil) where you find very colorful birds, the feathers are a popular material to make jewelry.

Not all the birds are killed for their feathers. Some colorful feathered birds are caught and plucked. And after 6 or 7 weeks the feathers grow back again and the process can repeat itself.

People in those days believed that feathers can have spirituals powers. Since the birds and other flying creatures are seen as the link between heaven and earth. And feathers are a symbol of status and power. The more colorful and rarer the feathers in the jewelry, the higher the status of the bearer. Or… ‘fine feathers make fine birds’.

Bracelet made of feathers

Anklet ornament, made of parrot feathers, from Paraguay, pré 1913

Indian feathers

One of the most striking pieces of a status symbol is the ‘crown’ of an Indian chief. Originally the warbonnets are used in the wars, to impress the opponent. Now they are primarily used for ceremonial festivities.

The native Americans consider their feather headdress as a symbol of spiritual and political power. You have to earn the right to wear them and it is an honor given by others to own great headpieces, made of feathers, like this.

American native chief

American native chief

The technique using feathers in jewelry

There are many techniques to make gorgeous jewelry out of feathers. You can add a layer of one color feathers on top of another color. With those colors, you can make a certain figure or symbol. You knot the feathers together to make a headdress of another type of jewelry.

Besides the technique, there is also a range of regulations, who can wear what kind of feathers. Only the men of the Ka’apor tribe, an indigenous people in Brasil, can wear the red tail feathers from the scarlet macaw. The scarlet macaw is the symbol of the sun and only men may identify themselves with the sun.

The yellow down from the toucan is reserved for the women. The yellow color is the symbol of the land, where the women work on. And blue feathers are the symbol of the sky, where the mythical heroes live.

Earrings made of the feathers of a guinea fowl

Earrings made of the feathers of a guinea fowl

Trading feathers

Before 2000 BC rare and colorful feathers are traded from the Amazon region to the coast. Only rich people can afford them and can use them for decoration purposes. Especially the toucan and parrot feathers were popular since one thought that those feathers had special powers.

And the popularity goes on.

The popularity of wearing feathers as a decoration never stopped. In the 1920s the peacock feathers are very popular and used in brooches and hand fans. Also in that time, many hats got a peacock feather on top.

In Iran, the Emporer even had a peacock feathered throne. That was originally the throne of the Indian Moghuls, but the Persian Emperor Nadir Shah took it as a war trophy in 1739.

And the jewelry designer in those days likes to use feathers too. Not the rare ones, due to the ecological sentiments, but you can see the feathers of the guinea fowl, doves and other common birds used in jewelry.

 

When you want to know more and want to know everything about jewelry and gemstones, ask for my ‘tips and secrets’. I will send you every 2 weeks new tips about jewelry and gemstones. Just let me know where to send them too.

 

Hug, Florence from FlorenceJewelshop.

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