Silver bracelet with gold finials

end of 4th century BCE
more object details

General Description

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 that joins the hoop to the terminals reflect artistic changes. This silver bracelet with golden lions' heads, for instance, was made about 200 years later than the Etruscan lion-head bracelet with a hoop of blue glass [1991.75.21], also in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. Both represent the same basic type, but the comparatively plain palmette of the early piece has been replaced by an elaborate floral design on the later one.

The most important source for our knowledge of Greek jewelry from the Classical period are the burial mounds of Thracian and Scythian chieftans on the northern coast of the Black Sea and several richly furnished graves in the Greek colonies in this area. Some of the jewelry found in this region, such as this bracelet, might have been imported from Greece, but most of it was produced locally by Greek craftsmen working for a wealthy barbarian clientele.

The heavy penannular hoop of this bracelet is made of thick silver wires twisted together. Both ends terminate in a gold lion's head with a remarkably long decorative cuff. The heads, made from two repoussé decorated halves, have carefully indicated details. A beaded wire covers the seam between head and cuff. The cuffs feature a carefully arranged decorative pattern of tendril scrolls, trumpet flowers, leaves, and elongated palmettes rendered in repoussé. The lions' heads and the scrollwork on the cuffs of this bracelet show close affinities to the most spectacular metal vessel made by a Greek craftsman for a Scythian client, the silver-gilt amphora from Chertomlyk (see web resource below).

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), 61-62; 65-66; 138.

Web Resources

Hermitage Museum
Compare this bracelet with the Scythian silver-gilt amphora from Chertomlyk.