The appearance of jewelry has changed dramatically over the centuries, but the fact that men and women have sought beautiful things to adorn themselves has not. From centuries ago, master craftsmen have woven precious stones and beautiful metals into designs fit for kings and queens.

Expanding technology over the past couple of centuries has wrought some important changes. Most notably, jewelry has become more intricate and elaborate. Custom designs are highly prized as more of the jewelry manufacturing is done by machine.

Materials have also changed. Instead of pure gold which is not always durable, chains and other jewelry are often made of tougher materials and plated with gold. New materials have also emerged, including titanium – one of the hottest new jewelry trends on the market.

Titanium comes in several colors, is very durable and – most importantly – is considered extremely fashionable.

Fashion trends are the most important thing to shape the jewelry industry. From one decade to another, the trends have changed. Often, jewelry trends reflect the ideas, passions and goals of the times. Who can forget the terrific jewelry of the 1960s and 1970s? The "peace sign," "flower power" and other symbols of the "hippie era" were all the rage. And many of those designs are seeing a return to popularity, along with some of the clothing fashions of the day.

The stones of jewelry have also changed over the decades though some classics remain constant. Pearls, diamonds, emeralds and rubies have remained important. A half century ago, no self-respecting socialite had a jewelry box without a string of pearls – though some were faux pearls.

But pearls did not have their first chance at popularity in the 1950s. Thirty years earlier, strings of pearls (or beads if pearls were just out of the question) were a must for those enjoying the Flapper phase.

The costume jewelry of that period, along with jewelry fashions distinctive to other times, have become collectors' items. Entire businesses are built around the ability to provide those pieces to the movie industry.

What will be next year's fashion statement? You may think we've seen it all with multiple ear piercings, belly button rings, nose rings and tongue rings. But it's pretty much guaranteed that those trendsetters who start the fashion rages already have something new in mind.