Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mastery of Design: A Hellenistic Gold, Emerald and Garnet Necklace, 200 B.C.-100 B.C.

Gold, Emeralds, Garnets, Glass
Greek, 200-100 B.C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In Greece, during the Hellenistic period (323-27 BC), all of the arts thrived and artists of every conceivable medium began to examine the relationships between different colors. Even Hellenistic jewelers had become fascinated with the concept of color and began to play with different combinations of gold and gemstones. 

During this period, garnets were the most popular gemstone—prized for their deep, wine color. Garnets were often combined with emeralds, carnelian, rock crystal, agates, onyxes or lapis-lazuli to great effect. While the gems were not faceted in the manner of more modern gem cuts, they were often elaborately carved, pierced, and polished. Jewelers even began to toy with the idea of using colored glass to simulate the look of costlier stones. In this necklace, for example, glass was used to imitate onyx and pearl.

The fashion of the day dictated that necklaces should be worn tight around the neck like a modern-day choker. This magnificent necklace of gold, polished garnets and emeralds, originally featured a ribbon at the back to allow the wearer to fasten it snugly against her throat. Necklaces such as this were meant to be worn with others, rising high upon the neck. Usually, the central piece was ornate, as is the case of this one, augmented by tight strings of beads in matching colors.

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