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Element of a necklace

 

Length: 39.500 mm
Width: 29.500 mm
Weight: 6.960 gm

M&ME 1980,5-1,1

Prehistory and Europe

    Element of a necklace

    Late Antique, 4th century AD
    From Asia Minor (modern Turkey), possibly Constantinople (modern Istanbul)

    A pierced-work gold plaque set with garnets

    This trapezoidal plaque was originally part of a larger necklace composed of similar elements. It was stitched to the other plaques through perforations along the reverse of the long sides. The primary motif of the pierced work surface is two lozenges, set against a background of vegetal scrolls. Both contain smaller lozenges within a guilloche pattern. The upper inner lozenge bears four crosses while the pattern of the lower lozenge can be read as the Greek letters chi and rho. These letters, known as the christogram, are the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek; this example is one of their earliest appearances on a piece of jewellery.

    Another plaque of the same size, set with garnets in the same pattern, appeared on the art market at the same time as this (in 1980), but unfortunately was stolen. It was said to come from Asia Minor and probably formed part of the same necklace. The second plaque was decorated with vine leaves, which, together with this plaque, may have had a Christian significance as symbols of everlasting life. The guilloche on this element is similar to that on a gold 'lion-hunt' plaque from Asia Minor, and to a pattern on a coin-set pendant, both in The British Museum. The comparisons suggest that this element was made in the fourth century, possibly in Constantinople.

    A. Yeroulanou, Diatrita, gold pierced-work je (Athens, Benaki Museum, 1990)

    D. Buckton, 'The beauty of holiness: opus interrasile from a Late Antique workshop', Jewellery Studies, 1 (1983-84), pp. 5-19

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