Ancient Jewellery

See also: Ancient Jewellery: Introduction - Middle Eastern Jewellery - Egyptian Jewellery - Roman Jewellery - Byzantine Jewellery - Medieval Jewellery - Eastern European & Near Eastern Jewellery

Eastern Mediterranean, European & Greek Jewellery

Minoan Jewellery


Ancient Greek Jewellery

Greek Jewellery : Hellenistic Period

During the Hellenistic Age (330-27 BC), after the conquests of Alexander the Great, rather opulent gold pieces with precious and semi-precious stones became popular. Greek jewellery design and manufacture was influenced by the "new" of Oriental influences of the conquered lands as well as a revival of interest in Egyptian themes and styles.

Greek jewellery of the Hellenistic Age saw small gold workings fashioned into pendant vases, little delicate winged victories, cupids, and doves becoming common motifs. At the same time, an important innovation into Greek jewellery manufacture was the introduction of quite large coloured stones, especially garnets, as a centre-piece of designs. This style was copied by the Romans, who greatly increased the variety of stones and began to set them in rows bordered with pearls.

The Hellenistic Age also saw the introduction of new styles and decorative themes into Greek jewellery. Polychrome, achieved by using semi-precious and precious stones, rock crystal , chalcedony, amethyst, cornelian, and garnet, and for the less expensive pieces, glass paste beads, were used to vibrant effect.

New motifs appeared in Greek jewellery of the period - and later carried over into Roman times - such as the knot of Herakles, and, taken from Egypt, the crown of Isis which is especially common on earrings from the second century BC.

Western Asia provided the inspiration for the crescent, commonly found in Greek jewellery of this period, and frequently employed as a necklace pendant. However, a truly Greek motif found in Greek jewellery of the period, and widely used, was Eros.

Another important type of earring appearing around 330 BC and carried on into early Roman times was the plain hoop with a finial in the form of animal heads, maenads, the full figure of Eros and other motifs.

Within Greek jewellery of the period pendant earrings were the commonest type - with pendants containing Eros, Nike, a dove, or amphora designs. The pendants were regularly further enhanced with colourful stones or enamelling, and often suspended from a gold rosette topped by the Isis crown.

Ancient Greek necklaces of this time were typically broad strap chains from which hang fruits or calyxes, or were round chains with animal-head or dolphin terminals.

Ancient Greek rings have bezels in many different shapes, some set with seal stones or ordinary stones.

Typical Greek jewellery contained several types of bracelet. Widely worn were the snake-shape type bracelet and those with cut-out vine leaves and inlaid stones.


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(alternative spelling: Minoan jewelry, Ancient Greek jewelry)