Gold was exceptionally rare and costly in ancient Greece, as it could only be acquired by foreign trade. This precious material appealed to jewelry manufacturers and customers for its shimmering beauty and imperishable nature. When it came to Greek jewelry design, lavish flourishes and exceptional artisanship would visually communicate the high status of its owner. These factors enabled gold to be considered a luxury, a prestige which it has maintained for millennia.
It was only after the conquests of Alexander the Great that significant quantities of gold began to flow into Greece and the market for high quality gold jewelry bourgeoned amongst the highest echelons of society, reaching unprecedented levels. Wealthy patrons would commission complete suites of jewelry, with each piece matching in its style and embellishments.
This magnificent set, encompassing Hellenistic gold earrings and a necklace, is a treasure that would have been cherished by generations of the noble family that commissioned it. The necklace is formed by hand-drawn wires of elaborate loop-in-loop chain that was fastidiously linked to ornamented collars and joined to the splendid Herakles-knot centerpiece. With an extravagant display of filigree, spiral wires, granulation and finely-hammered sheet, an acanthus bursts forth at the very center of the showpiece. The matching lion-head earrings are examples of a fashionable form with tapering twisted wire hoops. Illustrations in contemporary coins portray women wearing these earrings with the lions facing downward. Here they have been augmented with modern ear pins to allow for wear without compromising the ancient goldwork. Still presented together after close to 2500 years, this stunning jewelry suite continues to enhance the beauty of its passionate owner. A precious possession even today, this suite can still be worn, directly connecting the wearer of today to the Hellenistic woman it once enriched.
Formerly Collection Braun, Munich.
With D.C., London, 1980s.
Exhibited, TEFAF, Maastricht, 28th March 2011.
Private Collection, London, 2011-2016.