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Etruscan jewellery

The Etruscans took great pleasure in wearing ostentatious gold jewellery. Etruscan metalworkers produced many fine items not only in gold, but also in bronze and silver. The gold jewellery was often ornamented with filigree (fine wire) and granulation (tiny gold granules) formed into patterns. This latter technique has been mimicked in recent times but modern goldsmiths have never achieved the powder-fine granules of the Etruscan metalworkers.

Some of the showiest pieces of Etruscan jewellery date to the seventh century BC (the 'Orientalizing' period). Between the sixth and the fourth centuries BC (the Archaic and Classical periods), Etruscan goldsmiths maintained their skills and techniques but produced less flamboyant jewellery, much influenced by contemporary Greek styles. Etruscan jewellery of the Hellenistic period (the third to the first centuries BC), is often indistinguishable from that of the Greek world, though the Etruscans also adopted some Gaulish types of jewellery, notably the torc. A uniquely Italian form of ornament persisted throughout Etruscan times and was adopted by the Romans. This was the hollow, usually round, pendant (bulla), which was worn as an amulet.

Around 550 BC, engraved gems were reaching Etruria from the Greek world. Soon afterwards, Greek engravers probably began working in Etruria and Etruscans started to engrave semi-precious stones like carnelian. Gem carving reached its highest achievement in Etruria during the Classical period (480-300 BC), but did not continue long into the third century BC. Engraved gems were used in Etruria as jewellery rather than as seals.

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