Gold earrings shaped like wild goat heads

Hellenistic, around 200-100 BC
Probably from Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece

Animal-headed earrings were an extremely popular design during the Hellenistic period. Lions, bulls, dolphins, birds, panthers and gazelles were amongst the most frequently used creatures. The use of wild goats on jewellery were also favoured amongst the Hellenistic élite classes. The fashion may have been inspired by motifs commonly found in the near east, and these designs have been associated with Achaemenid craftsmen. In this region, however, it was usual practice to have the animal heads facing the ear, and upside down. The Hellenistic Greek manufacturers changed this practice and thereafter the animal heads on hoop-shaped earrings were still upside down, but the animal would face the viewer, not the wearer.

These earrings are intricately worked with the hoop consisting of twisted gold wires terminating in the head of a wild goat. The goats large eyes are set with a garnet, and above the animal's brow is another garnet in a gold casing. The use of semi-precious stones became popular after the military campaigns of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) opened up trade routes with the east. Garnets were a particularly popular stone, the finest of which were found in India.

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More information

Bibliography

F.H. Marshall, Catalogue of the jewellery, Gr (London, 1911)

R. Higgins, Greek and Roman jewellery (London, Methuen, 1980)

Dimensions

Diameter: 2.700 cm (both)
Weight: 117.000 g
Weight: 117.000 g

Museum number

GR 1866.5-4.77-78 (Jewellery 1803-4)

GAA36074;GAA36075

Bequeathed by James Woodhouse

Location

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