A Bauletto Earrings (Etruscan jewelry)

A baule or a bauletto means "little bag," and this Etruscan earring type obtained its Italian name from their resemblance to a valise. An Etruscan design of the 6th century BCE, the basic form consists of a broad strip of gold bent into three-quarters of a cylinder. The two ends of the strip are joined by a wire or narrow band, which attached the cylinder to the ear. This wire is usually masked from the front by a decorative extension. The surfaces of the cylinder that were visible when the earring was worn are elaborately decorated. The hidden side is usually left plain or is less carefully decorated. These differences make it clear whether an earring was meant to be worn on the right ear or the left.

Even though the basic shape of a bauletto earrings always remains the same, the number of different interpretations is immense. The lavish use of supplementary decoration, separately made of thin sheet gold, allowed endless variations on the basic scheme. Decorations included rosettes, pomegranates, little figures such as lions' heads (1991.75.17.a-b), reclining lions (1991.75.16.a-b), and sphinxes (1991.75.14.a-b, 1991.75.15.a-b); granulation; filigree; looped-wire work; and coiled or undulating strips of sheet gold. The latest example of a bauletto earrings in the collection, a splendid pair featuring the fascinating reverse-silhouette style (1991.75.12.a-b), date to the first half of the 5th century BCE. Soon afterward, this type of earring went out of fashion.

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), 35.