Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Etruscan jewelry

The tomb group represents one of the richest and most impressive sets of Etruscan jewelry ever found. It comprises a splendid gold and glass pendant necklace, a pair of gold and rock-crystal disk earrings, a gold dress fastener (fibula) decorated with a sphinx, a pair of plain gold fibulae, a gold dress pin, and five finger rings. Two of the rings have engraved scarabs that revolve on a swivel bezel. One is decorated with embossed satyr heads, and the other two have decorated gold bezels.

Very little jewelry from the Villanovan Era, an Early Iron Age culture dating c. 900 BCE – 700 BCE, has been discovered in modern times. The Villanovan Etruscans seem to have left few items of luxury, and thus appear modest. Yet extant Villanovan jewelry confirms that in Etruria great effort was placed in the production of decorative arts.

Trade networks with the Greeks and the ancient Near East, particularly the Assyrians,  Phoenicians, and Egyptians, brought techniques such as granulation and filigree to the Etruscans during the Orientalizing period beginning in the late 8th century BCE. The period is characterized by a shift from the prevailing geometric style to a style with Eastern-inspired motifs filled with animals and mythological monsters.  These themes were thought to have been emphasized by migrating seers and healers who transmitted their skills in divination and purification ritual along with elements of their mythological wisdom.

The Etruscans love of color led them to decorate their work with faience, colored gemstones and glass beads as well as enameling after the 7th century BCE.

Gold was scarce to the Etruscans and this is expressed by the lightness and precision workmanship on an incredible minute scale. Much of the sheet gold used is less than 0,1 mm thick. Where thicker rods were needed, sheet gold would be rolled up to form hollow tubes. Gold wire was used in filigree, the most typical being the spiral beaded wire that was made by rolling a knife-edge over a smooth wire causing a screw-thread like decorative wire to be produced. The most famous technique of the Etruscans is their perfect granulation that was applied without any solder. - Antique Jewelry University https://www.langantiques.com/university/etruscan-jewelry/

Etruscan jewelry can be roughly divided into two periods: Early Etruscan and Late Etruscan. As Etruscan civilization declined because of attacks from the Celts in the north and the Romans in the south, their jewelry declined in workmanship.   Flimsy sheet gold pieces with simple embossing replaced the meticulously crafted jewelry from the early period. Granulation and filigree were used only rarely in the late period.  

Image: Set of jewelry, early 5th century BCE, Etruscan, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


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