Italian Renaissance masterpieces, £19.99
Diameter: 2.400 cm (each disc)
Weight: 17.000 g (about)
GR 1877.9-10.16-17 (Jewellery 1672-3)
Room 22: Alexander the Great
Gold earrings from the Kyme Treasure
Greek, about 330-300 BC
From Kyme, Asia Minor (modern Turkey)
A love charm
These elaborate earrings are among a group of nearly a hundred pieces of gold jewellery known as the 'Kyme Treasure'. The group is said to have come from a tomb at Kyme in Aeolis, on the coast of Asia Minor. A single tomb is in fact unlikely, as the time-span represented by the jewellery is considerable. Nonetheless, the 'treasure' included a large and homogenous group of late fourth-century BC jewellery. These objects, which include the earrings shown here, may have accompanied four or more female burials, possibly in a large hypogaeum, or underground communal tomb.
The earrings are of the disc and pyramid form widely found throughout the Greek world. East Greek jewellers, though, seem to have particularly favoured the use of decorative figures of Eros (Love) and Nike (Victory) such as those seen here. A winged figure of Nike connects the disc and the pyramid of each earring. The goddess kneels to the left with her right hand extended, probably playing knucklebones. Paired figures of Eros are suspended by chains on each earring. These are also winged and each pair holds a iunx or magic love charm - the precursor to Cupid's bow and arrow. Overall, the symbolism evokes success in the 'game' of love.
The intricate designs on the main elements of the earrings are achieved by applying a variety of different kinds of gold wire and gold granules of different sizes to sheet gold. The figures are of sheet gold, die-formed in two halves, and traces of enamelling can be seen in places.
D. Williams and J. Ogden, Greek gold: jewellery of the c (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)