Diameter: 3.200 inches
Room 13: Greece 1050-520 BC
Gold earrings with elaborate granulation
Greek, Geometric period, 8th century BC
From around Athens
The collapse of the Mycenaean civilization at the end of the twelfth century BC was followed by a period of depopulation and decline in Greece. Many of the arts and crafts that had evolved during the Greek Bronze Age were lost or at least temporarily forgotten. Not surprisingly, the production of sophisticated gold jewellery in Greek lands ceased. General recovery from this decline began at different times in different areas, with artistic impetus coming particularly from the east. The process of recovery was essentially completed in the Geometric period of the ninth and eighth centuries BC, though times remained hard and gold jewellery was a rarity.
Nonetheless, these finely worked earrings show the extent to which the jeweller's craft had revived in Athens in the eighth century BC. Technically they are very skilful. Both sides of the discs are decorated with fine granulation arranged in intricate wave and zig-zag patterns. The centres of the discs and the other settings would originally have been inlaid, probably with amber or rock crystal. The shape of the earrings makes it difficult to know exactly how they were worn.
The earrings were collected by Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin, in the early nineteenth century, along with other jewellery from tombs in and around Athens.
L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)