In this gallery, we showcase 40 precious items that illustrate the love of valuable shiny things that can sparkle up our daily lives is far from being a modern phenomenon. Gold has always been valued for its gleam and incorruptibility, while the appeal of certain rare and lustrous stones has never dimmed. The gallery goes back in time in a general chronological sequence from modernity to Neolithic times, taking in cultures from around the world along the way. In many cases, these pieces are miraculous survivors and have been rediscovered from tombs and buried hoards, revealing that keeping precious things in a safe place and associating them as inseparable from their one-time owners, are also concepts that go back to the dawn of time.
In the Inca civilization of Peru gold was considered the sweat of the sun god Inti and so was used to manufacture all manner of objects of religious significance, especially masks and sun disks. In ancient Colombia gold was similarly revered for its lustre and association with the sun and in powdered form was used to cover the body of the future king in a lavish coronation ceremony which gave rise to the legend of El Dorado.