Hinged lion head bracelet

3rd century BCE
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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 B.C.E. 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 pennanular hoop of this bracelet is formed of two segments of equal length and shape. Each segment terminates at one end in a long decorative collar and a lion's head, at the other in a cuff. At the center of the hoop, opposite to the lions' heads, the two segments are held together by a modern wire loop inserted into the cuffs. A small wire loop is attached to each lion's mouth. One loop supports a short length of chain. The 2 hoop sections are made of bronze covered by sheet gold and are decorated on the outside with longitudinal ribbing. The collars joining the hoop and the finials are decorated with floral scrollwork, rendered in fine filigree. Different parts of the scrollwork appear to have been enhanced with green and blue enamel. The bracelet has been restored.

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.