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The malleability, reflective qualities and smooth finish of worked metals made them desirable materials for the production of jewelry. Both precious metals, like gold and silver, and base metals, like copper bronze, iron and lead, were used.

Cold hammering, annealing (heating and hammering) and open-mold casting were the most common methods of producing metal jewelry. The use of elaborate decorative techniques, such as granulation and filigree, was rare.


Jewelry production spurred the development of innovative techniques and materials. Archaeologists discovered some of the earliest examples of steel -- in the form of bracelets or anklets -- in a 12th century burial from the Baq'ah Valley in Jordan. Steel is a hard, strong, durable, malleable alloy of iron and carbon.

Cavea for steel

Metal jewelry was often set with precious and semi-precious stones. In addition, pendants and beads were often made of glass, faience, and frit.

Glass is made from silica (e.g. sand) that has been melted and cooled without recrystalization. Faience has a fused crystalline body and a thin glaze coating (normally a distinctive turquoise blue). Faience-glazed pendants were extremely popular in Egypt as good-luck talismans and protection against evils. Frit is like unglazed faience; often it was produced as a colorant, especially in glass. Throughout the Near East before the Early Bronze Age, faience and frit already were produced. Glass was produced sporadically, and perhaps accidentally, until the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1800 BCE) when specialized production began in Northern Mesopotamia.

As the technology to create blown glass had not yet been invented, glass objects were created method called core-forming, which was practiced by the Phoenicians. Core-forming, originally developed by the Egyptians, was used for the production of glass beads and various other glass objects. In core-forming, a core of clay is shaped around a metal rod. Semi-molten glass is then wound around the core in "trails," often of a variety of colors, which were added, until the object was sufficiently built up. The soft glass could be inscribed with a sharp tool to create decorative patterns. Once the glass object was finished, the clay core was scraped out.

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