"The enjoyment of beauty produces a particular, mildly intoxicating kind of sensation. There is no very evident use in beauty: the necessity of it for cultural purposes is not apparent, and yet civilization could not do without it. The science of aesthetics investigates the conditions in which things are regarded as beautiful; it can give no explanation of the nature or origin of beauty; as usual, its lack of results is concealed under a flood of resounding and meaningless words. Unfortunately, psychoanalysis, too, has less to say about beauty than about most things. Its derivation from the realms of sexual sensation is all that seems certain; love of beauty is a perfect example of a feeling with an inhibited aim. Beauty and attraction are first of all the attributes of a sexual object."
That is what Sigmund Freud wrote in his essay "Civilization and Its Discontents." And his words serve very well as an introduction to the question as to why we wear jewels. In fact, beauty and sexual attraction are two of the attributes man seeks to attain by self-adornment.
But if jewelry is worn primarily for the sake of beauty and sexual attraction, we shall see in the course of our investigation that there are other factors in our relationship with jewelry. In fact, jewelry must always be considered as closely related to the wearer; like clothing, it is only that relationship that brings it to life. In nature, beauty and the sexual instinct go hand in hand as a matter of course; in human society jewelry is their point of coincidence. Jewelry is the artistic sublimation of a natural human urge. This concept is amply confirmed by examples provided by the history of civilization, literature, and tradition.
- Ernst A. and Jean Heiniger, The Great Book of Jewels