Necklace with pendants

CULTURE:
Roman Empire
DATE:
1st century CE
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General Description

As far as Roman jewelry is concerned, the 2nd century CE is not well-represented, except for a few finds from the provincial areas of the Roman world. This necklace is a rare example. Its clear lines and completely abstract use of gold and emeralds perfectly embodies the forms of Roman jewelry.

Attached to the chain of gold links are twenty-one emerald pendants; a twenty-second emerald has been lost. Emeralds (smaragdus) were highly favored by the Romans, prized not only for their rich green color and connections to fertility but also for their perceived healing properties. Except for a drilled thread hole, these stones were left unworked; their natural beauty was obviously considered sufficient. The clasp is formed by a simple hook at one end and an eye at the other. Each link consists of a flattened wire in the shape of an "8," which is inserted into the previous link and bent backward so that it forms a double link. The emeralds, left in their natural crystal form as hexagonal prisms, are attached at regular intervals to the central part of the chain. Each pendant is formed of a length of round wire, one end of which is pushed through a chain link and then coiled around the end that holds the emerald. The necklace is closely related to one found in a Roman grave dating to about 170/80 CE.

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), 108; 144.

Fun Facts

  • According to Pliny the Elder, Roman jewelers would often sooth their strained eyes by looking at or through emeralds while they worked.