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Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials. Gemstones and similar materials such as amber and coralprecious metalsbeads,and enamel has often been important. In most cultures jewellery can be understood as a status symbol, for its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols. Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings, and even genital jewellery. The patterns of wearing jewellery between the sexes, and by children and older people can vary greatly between cultures, but adult women have been the most consistent wearers of jewellery; in modern European culture the amount worn by adult males is relatively low compared with other cultures and other periods in European culture.

The word jewellery itself is derived from the word jewel, which was anglizied from the Old French "jouel", and beyond that, to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything. In some contries is spelled jewellery, while the spelling is jewelry inAmerican English. Both are used in Canadian English, though jewelry prevails by a two to one margin. In French and a few other European languages the equivalent term,joaillerie there, may also cover decorated metalwork in precious metal such as objects the art and church items, not just objects worn on the person.