Gold bracelet with antelope heads

2nd century BCE
more object details

General Description

Ancient Greek gold and silver bracelets are rare. Because bracelets require considerably more metal than any other form of jewelry, most Greek bracelets appear to have been made from bronze, which, when polished, shines like gold. From the Archaic period onward, Greek bracelets were more or less restricted to two types: snake bracelets and animal-head bracelets like this one.

The lion-head bracelet has been considered a Near Eastern invention. The earliest known Greek example, found in a grave on the island of Rhodes, dates to ca. 600 BCE. The basic shape, already firmly established at this early stage, remained unchanged over the following centuries, but the animals' heads and the decoration of the cuff the joins the hoop to the terminals reflect artistic changes.

The hoop of this bracelet, allegedly found in Eretria, is composed of plain and beaded wires of equal diameter, twisted around a central rod. Both of the overlapping ends terminate in an antelope's head, constructed from two halves. The horns and ears of the antelopes were made separately and attached to the hollow head. A cuff made from sheet gold, which coveres the join between hoop and finial, is decorated with pointed tongues outlined in filigree.

In antiquity, bracelets were usually worn in pairs. However, the number of surviving Greek and Etruscan bracelets is surprisingly small.

Adapted from

Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art in association with the University of Washington Press, 1996), 65-66; 139.