The history of jewelry is long and rich, spanning cultures around the globe. Of those cultures, ancient Egypt is probably most famous for its jewelry-making. While the jewelry crafting skills of ancient Egyptians have long been known, it was recently discovered that they were far more advanced at it than previously thought.
In 1911, archaeologists excavated a tomb containing tube-shaped beads that had an unusually high nickel content. Published studies from this year examined these beads in greater detail, revealing new discoveries. Using x-ray testing, scientists were able to determine that the beads were made of meteoric iron.
Iron from meteorites is usually found as lumps of ore that are difficult to work with. And yet, it was somehow formed into tube-shaped beads. Egyptians were able craft such objects, but only after they discovered blacksmithing. However, these beads were found in a tomb pre-dating the Iron Age by at least 2,000 years. This indicates that ancient Egyptians were developing advanced metal refining techniques long before anyone else.
The reason why ancient Egyptians famously favored gold jewelry so much was not just because it was valuable, but because gold is easy to shape and mold. Perhaps this preference for gold was why their early iron-smithing capabilities didn’t catch on.