via National Geographic.
The oldest jewlery ever found has been discovered in Moracco. The thirteen tiny clay coated shells are estimated to be around 82,000 years old and have perforations for being strung together to be worn as a bracelet or necklace. The major implications of jewelry making for human developmental history are thought to be that the symbolism involved with the creation of such artifacts is the root of modern cultures.
"In a paper published in the June issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the archaeologists suggest that the beads mark a shift in human development and the beginnings of modern cultural behavior. "We think that they were capable of thinking symbolically and able to use one thing to represent another," Barton said. Possibly the beads were used to establish group identity and indicate where certain people belonged. Similar cultural signs, such as specialized tools and personal decoration, didn't arrive in Europe until around 40,000 years ago."
Another interesting tidbit is that the animal shells used are only now native to Tunisia, hundreds of miles away, suggesting a very early exchange network between different groups, or fairly long distance travel. Similiar shells have been found as far away as Israel, and could be even older (perhaps as much as 100-135,000 years ago), although they have not been dated to the same precision as the Moraccan samples and thus are not yet claimed to be the oldest. Other samples found in Algeria are much younger (around 35,000 years), but show that the use of these shells as decorative cultural items was both long lasting and widespread.