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Worldbuilding: Jewelry

People have always been drawn to pretty shiny things from rocks glistening in the water to ores picked from cave walls. We have spent an inordinate amount of time learning to refine and polish ordinary, even ugly, rocks into diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and opals. The rarer the item, the more expensive it became.

Jewelry and accessories turned paupers into princes and maids into queens.

What items did people wear: Chokers, crowns, tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, cuffs? Did they contain poison, deflect bullets, or indicate level of wealth?

Were ears pierced or did they wear clipons? Were piercings elaborate? Did they wear pierced jewelry on other body parts?

Did they wear rings? What kind? Why? Did they have wedding rings, signet rings, or seals? Did they indicate membership to secret societies, carry poisons or triggers, admit the wearer, or open portals?

Did they have pins or broaches? Did they hold up kilts, fasten scarves, dress up a hat, or simply dazzle? Were pins used as weapons? Were broaches made of loved ones' hair? 

Did lockets have images of loved ones or cyanide tablets or spy cameras?

What meaning does jewelry impart in your Historical, Fantasy, or Science Fiction world? 

What does it say about your character's personal preferences? Are they ostentatious, simple, outlandish, or modest?

Do jewels convey status, position, power? 

Next week, we will explore gemstones.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbuilding: Metals


From the earliest societies, metallurgy paved the way from crowns to guns and steel and changed the course of history. Let's take a brief look at the history of metals.

Bronze is a mixture of copper, tin, aluminum, manganese, nickel, or zinc. In the Bronze Age (3300 – 600 BCE), bronze was used in the Near East with the rise of Sumer, in India, and China. Tin had to be mined and smelted separately then added to molten copper to make bronze alloy.

Copper occurs in nature in directly usable metallic form and was in use in 8000 BCE. It was the first metal to be smelted from its ore in 5000 BCE, cast into a shape in a mold in 4000 BCE, and alloyed with tin to create bronze in 3500 BCE. Copper was principally mined on Cyprus during the Roman Empire. (Mined in Greece, Chile, Utah, New Mexico, Indonesia, and Peru.)

Gold has been used for coinage, jewelry, and other arts throughout recorded history. Gold coins ceased to be minted as a circulating currency in the 1930s, and the world gold standard was abandoned for a fiat currency system after 1976. Gold artifacts in the Balkans appear from the 4th millennium BCE. Gold artifacts appeared in Central Europe from the 2nd millennium BCE Bronze Age. Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BCE describe gold as "more plentiful than dirt." Large mines were also present across the Red Sea in what is now Saudi Arabia. Bronze Age gold objects are plentiful, especially in Ireland and Spain. The first written reference to gold was recorded in the 12th Dynasty around 1900 BCE. Gold is mentioned in the Bible. In China, during 6th or 5th century BCE, a square gold coin was in circulation. (Mined in Bulgaria, Georgia, China, Russia, Australia, United States, and India.)

Iron metal was widely used about 1300 – 500 BCE. Beads made from meteoric iron in 3500 BCE or earlier were found in Egypt. Meteoric iron was highly regarded due to its origin in the heavens and was often used to forge weapons and tools. Items that were likely made of iron by Egyptians date from 3000 to 2500 BCE. Iron production started in the Middle Bronze Age but it took several centuries before iron displaced bronze. The Hittites established an empire in north-central Anatolia around 1600 BCE and were the first to understand the production of iron from its ores and regard it highly in their society. The practice spread to the rest of the Near East after their empire fell in 1180 BCE. The subsequent period is called the Iron Age. Iron objects were found in India dating from 1800 to 1200 BCE. There is evidence of iron being smelted in Zimbabwe and southeast Africa as early as the eighth century BCE. Ironworking was introduced to Greece in the late 11th century BCE, from which it spread quickly throughout Europe.


Silver was coined around 700 BCE by the Lydians. Silver is mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Slag heaps found in Asia Minor and on the islands of the Aegean Sea indicate silver was being separated from lead as early as the 4th millennium BCE. Roman currency relied to a high degree on the supply of silver bullion. The principal sources of silver are the ores of copper, copper-nickel, lead, and lead-zinc. (Mined in Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, China, Australia, Chile, Poland , Serbia, Argentina, Canada, and Tajikistan.)

Steel has a lower carbon content than pig iron but more than wrought iron. It was first produced in antiquity. Blacksmiths in Persia were making good steel by 1000 BCE. Improved versions in India and Damascus were developed around 300 BCE and 500 CE respectively. These methods were specialized, and so steel did not become a major commodity until the 1850s. In the Industrial Revolution, new methods of producing bar iron without charcoal were devised and these were later applied to produce steel. In the late 1850s, Henry Bessemer invented a new steelmaking process involving blowing air through molten pig iron to produce mild steel. This made steel more economical, thereby leading to wrought iron no longer being produced in large quantities.

Platinum was first used by pre-Columbian South American natives to produce artifacts. Early references date back to the 1500s. It was found in ancient Egyptian tombs and hieroglyphics as early as 1200 BCE. However, it is quite possible they did not recognize there was platinum in their gold. The first European reference to platinum appears in 1557 CE as found in Mexico. It was considered an impurity of gold and often discarded.

Suggested References:

1. Introduction to Precious Metals by Mark Grimwade
2. Recovery and Refining of Precious Metals by C.W. Ammen
3. Ironwork in Medieval Britain: An Archaeological Study by Ian H. Goodall
4. Iron Making in the Olden Times as instanced in the Ancient Mines, Forges, and Furnaces of The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls
5. Ancient Egyptian metallurgy by Herbert Garland & Charles Olden Bannister
6. Gold and Platinum Metallurgy of Ancient Colombia and Ecuador: Ancient Metals Microstructure and Metallurgy by Dr. David Arthur Scott
7. Ancient Science Through the Golden Age of Greece by George Sarton

Next week, we will explore jewelry.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbuilding: Accessories

In addition to clothing and shoes, people love to accessorize.

When building your story world, what types of accessories did people wear? What were the connotations?


From pocket watches to cuff links, your characters' choices define their social status, wealth, position, and personal affectations. 

What accessories are available and/or popular? 

Hats could be mitres or berets, cowboy hats or top hats, bowlers or tams, fedoras or cowboy hats, ski masks or musketeer feathers, Royal Ascot works of art, or modest bonnets, military helmets, chain mail, or visored jousting helmets. Plumed or plain, hats can be useful, boastful, or utilitarian.

Belts can be functional or ornamental. Pants can have drawstrings or suspenders. Elastic changed the pant suspension game. Large belt buckles can advertise passions such as rodeo or motorcycles. Belts can be utilized to tie up victims or morph into horsewhips. They can hold gun holsters or ninja knives.

Scarves can cover one's hair or one's face. It can be used to keep hair out of the way or dress up a Chanel suit. It can be a cotton kerchief or the finest silk shawl, a mantilla or hijab.

Gloves could be for protection, warmth, fashion, or to prevent fingerprints. They can have suction cups to hold onto glass buildings or shoot laser beams.

Handkerchiefs can be offered in consolation, dropped for seduction, or used to wipe down crime scenes. They can be monogrammed or dusted with poison.

Handbags and purses can be decorative clutches, expensive fashion statements, or backpacks utilized for hiking. They can hide weapons, carry one's dearest possessions, hold loot from a heist, or clobber an enemy.

Ties can be frothy cravats, suave business suit accessories, or double as a garrote.

Wallets can carry money, provide identification of a victim, or carry tech-hacking credit card hacking devices.

Watches and time pieces can keep track of the hour and day, set off a bomb, or hide cameras.

Next week, we will take a look at metals.

The new SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.

Other titles in the series:
Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon Heist & PrisonBreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary (drama), MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.


SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.

Worldbuilding: Footwear

At some point people decided to protect themselves from frost, snow, ice, rain, thorns, sharp objects, and animal excrement. Thus began the curious trip from sandals and moccasins to four-inch high heels and platform shoes that resemble horse hooves. From foot-binding to bunion-inducing, toe-squishing fashion foibles, humans have taken footwear from function to fetish.

From a historical perspective, sandals were the easiest to produce. From tying pieces of wood to one's foot to crafting sandals from skins and wrapped fabric, footwear made it easier for the upright-walking creature to navigate difficult terrain with their feet intact. Perhaps it resulted in weaker foot pads, but once begun, the practice of foot coverings flourished.

Slippers were a natural evolution and could be crafted from all manner of fabrics sewn to hides or padding.

Then cobblers added higher heels to keep clothing out of refuse lining the streets or to add inches to one's height. In some cultures, wooden clogs did the trick. From wood to metal, the platforms went from useful to outrageous. 

Leather was a natural choice to make books and shoes sturdy enough to survive rain and snow. Then came rubber for galoshes and athletic shoes.

Once we dispensed with practicality, shoes became an art form with silks, brocades, precious metals, and gemstones fit for a queen. There were pumps, wedges, flats, and curled toes. Artists love to show off their wild imaginations.

With dreams of space, special gravitational boots became necessary.

What type of footwear did your characters wear and why? What did the choice say about their character, position in society, or occupation?

What did footwear say about the people in your story? As you move up and down the societal structure of your story world, do they go from rags to ostentatious impracticality?

What footwear does your main character wear and why does s/he choose it? Do they have a collection that fills a room or only one pair?

What do their choices reveal about their character? Do they imagine themselves a pirate, a cowboy, or ballerina? 

Do they need special footwear for their profession? Do shoes have hidden weapons in the toes, jet packs, or magical transportation capability?

In a Fantasy or Science Fiction tale, what do your characters wear and what materials were utilized to make them? Are they made for fighting, flight, or leisure?

Suggested references:


1. Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More  by Linda O'Keeffe
2. Shoes: A Brief History  by Linda Woolley and Lucy Johnston
3. Shoes: The Complete Sourcebook by John Peacock
4. Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers  by Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeilby
5. Shoes: Their History in Words and Pictures by  Charlotte Yue and David Yueby
6. A History Of The Shoe And Leather Industries Of The United States Together With Historical And Biographical Notices; Volume 2 by Charles H. McDermottby
7. The Book of the Feet - A History of Boots and Shoes by J. S. Hall

Next week, we will discuss accessories.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary (Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience Fiction,
 
Team VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.  

Worldbuilding: Fabrics

At some point people decided to protect themselves from cold, wet, insects, and stinging plants. Thus began the convoluted journey from fig leaves to New York Fashion Week.

In Science Fiction and Fantasy worlds, you can introduce us to stunning and unusual clothing items based in reality or magic.

Let's examine some of the realistic options.

Animal furs from brown and black bears, polar bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs, rabbits, raccoons, and others were worn by the earliest cave dwellers. Other animal parts such as tails, claws, teeth, heads, and quills were also utilized for decoration.

Bird feathers from all species were collected and adorned everything from hair and wigs to hats and clothing.

Grasses and woven plant fibers were worn by Polynesian dancers and African chieftans.

Leather is produced by tanning animal hides and skin such as cows, horses, lamb, pig, ostrich, kangaroo, ox, yak, deer, elk, eel, alligator, stingrays, ostrich, and snake. At different times in history, leather made from more exotic skins were highly desirable. Leather was used for everything from book-binding, shoes, boots, coats, hats, furniture, whips, belts, gun holsters, vests, to saddles. The skins are cleaned, prepared, soaked, then stretched and dried. They can be further treated, oiled, stained, coated, and embossed.

Angora comes from the downy coat of a rabbit originating in Ankara (present-day Turkey). Phoenicians found the rabbits while exploring Spain. They were responsible for exporting the rabbits to other people around the globe. The Romans raised rabbits for food before they used their hair. French monks began to domesticate the rabbits and through breeding developed the French angora rabbit. They later developed machinery that could process the fine wool. French angora rabbits were imported to the U.S. in the 1920s. The majority of angora is currently produced in China.

Broadcloth was a milled wool that was carded and loom spun. It was popular in the medieval period in England.

Brocade is made with colored silks, with or without gold and silver threads. Dating back to the Middle Ages, it was considered a luxury and worn by nobility throughout China, India, Greece, Japan, Korea, and Byzantium. Brightly colored brocade was also woven by Mayans in Guatemala.

Cashmere (Kashmir) is obtained from goats and is finer and softer than sheep's wool. It is manufactured largely in China and Mongolia. Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, and other Central Asian Republics produce lesser amounts. It was in use as early as 300 BCE. It gained popularity in the Middle East in the 1400s. Cashmere shawls were introduced to France in the early 1800s.

Cotton grows on a shrub found in the Americas, Africa, India, Iran, China, Egypt, South America, Mexico, and Australia. Cotton was independently domesticated in the Old and New Worlds. Fibers are combed, spun, then woven into cloth, crocheted, and knitted. It runs from fine to coarse and is turned into calico, cambric, chintz, denim, seersucker, terrycloth, and twill. It was used in clothing, bedding, window treatments, paper, bookbinding, thread, embroidery floss, tableware, fishing nets, sails, coffee filters, and tents. Earliest records are in the Indus Valley during the Neolithic Period (6000 - 5000 BCE) and became widespread across India (2000 and 1000 BCE). It was used in Persia (5th century BCE), Ancient Egypt, and the Han dynasty (207 BCE - 220 CE). Britain mechanized weaving it and exported cotton in the 1700s. It was brought to the American colonies from England.

Hemp is found primarily in the Northern hemisphere. Samples of hemp were found in Japan dating back to 8000 BCE. Hemp paper was made during China’s Han dynasty over 2000 years ago and samples date back to the Neolithic age. It is believed to have been utilized as a drug during the Neolithic age in many areas of the world including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Ukraine, East Asia, Tibet, and China. However, it is believed it wasn’t used as a textile until the Iron Age. Hemp rope was used on sailing ships. Use of hemp spread to South America then North America in the 1500s.

Linen is made from the flax plant and dates back to 34,000 BCE. Flax fibers are separated from the stalk, the inner fibers are rotted by soaking them in water. The outer stem is scraped away then pulled through combs. The strings are then spun and woven. Linen is used in clothing, damasks, lace, sheeting, twine, rope, and canvas. Linen was the predominant fabric from 300 to 600 CE.

Lace was originally made from linen, silk, and gold or silver threads. It was hand-tatted or crocheted. Cutwork lace was made by removing threads from a woven fabric. Bobbin lace, such as Chantilly lace, was made with wood, bone, or plastic bobbins and pins stuck into pillows to form patterns. Tape lace was made using a machine or hand loom then joined together. Knotted lace combined hand tatting and macramé (knot tying). Irish, pineapple, and filet lace were crocheted with a crochet needle. Shetland lace was knitted. Machines eventually took over to mass produce lace. Needle and bobbin lace became widespread and popular in the 1500s. It was used for collars, cuffs, shawls, mantillas, and embellishments. Missionaries introduced lace to the native Indian tribes in North America.

Mohair comes from the Angora goat, originating in Ankara (historically known as Angora), in present day Turkey.

Sackcloth was a coarsely woven fabric, usually made of goat's hair. It was popular in the Middle East as a loin-cloth. It was also worn for religious purposes, on very special occasions, or at mourning ceremonies.

Satin is warp-face weaved from silk. It is now also made from nylon and polyester.

Silk is produced by multiple insects including caterpillars and spiders. The most famous are Chinese silk worms. Silk has been produced in China, South Asia, and Europe since 3630 BCE. It spread to India (2450 - 2000 BCE). It was traded to the Roman Empire. Italy produced silk during Medieval times. From the 4th to the 6th centuries, there was no public knowledge of silk fabric production except for that which was kept secret by the Chinese.

Synthetic fabrics were first developed in the early 1880s. Synthetic silk was invented in the 1870s. Rayon and acetate are made from wood. Nylon was made by Dupont in the 1930s and was used for stockings, parachutes, and ropes. Polyester (Dacron) was introduced in 1941. Acrylic and polyolefin followed.

Velvet weaves two thicknesses of material at the same time and was expensive to make. Velvet pile is created by warp or vertical yarns and velveteen pile is created by weft or fill yarns. Velvet can be made from silk, cotton, linen, mohair, wool, and modern synthetics such as rayon.

Wool is woven from sheep or goat hair. Fleece is collected then spun and woven. It is water resistant and holds heat. Sheep were domesticated 10,000 years ago. Woolly-sheep were brought to Europe from the Near East in 4 BCE. It was known to ancient Greeks and Romans. Wool was also a predominant fabric in 400-600 CE.

Suggested references:

1. World Textiles: A Concise History by Mary Schoeser
2. Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles by Phyllis G. Tortora
3. History of Lace by Mrs. Bury Palliser
4. Tatting: Technique and History by Elgiva Nicholls
5. Leather: History, Technique, Projects by Josephine Barbe
6. History and Fashion by Anne Kraatz
7. Home Tanning and Leather Making Guide (1922): A Book of Information for Those who Wish to Tan and Make Leather from Cattle, Horse, Calf, Sheep, Goat, Deer & Other Hides and Skins by Albert Burton Farnham
8. Home Manufacture of Furs and Skins: A Book of Practical Instructions Telling how to Tan, Dress, Color and Manufacture Or Make Into Articles of Ornament, Wear and Use by Albert Burton Farnham 

Next week, we continue our exploration of apparel with the topic of footwear.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.


Other titles in the series:  Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary (Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at www.dianahurwitz.com.