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The History of Jewellery: Etruscan Jewelry

Etruscan Jewelry - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Etruscan Jewellery (7th to 5th century BC)

Article Copyright © 2012 AllAboutGemstones.com

The Etruscans lived in Etruria (western Tuscany, Italy) and were a non Italic people whose culture was based largely on the Greek culture. The Etruscans had a profound influence on the Romans from the 7th century BC to the 5th century BC. They were eventually overcome by the Romans in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

During the Early Etruscan Period (7th century BC to the 5th century BC), they developed their own unique methods of workmanship and characteristic styles, producing many pieces featuring intricate detail and a wide variety of styles, as shown in the examples below (from the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

During this early period the metalworking technique of granulation, which uses finely-grained "shot" gold to create delicate patterns and textures, became popular throughout the ancient world. The granulation technique was also used in 5th century BC Elamite and Neo-Assyrian jewelry from the Iranian plateau. Although the Etruscans are generally credited with the development of this technique, granulation was also used in Minoan jewelry from the Late Minoan II period, around 1450 BC.

Etruscan Jewelry - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Etruscan Jewelry (Metropolitan Museum of Art collection)

A popular jewelry item for the women of Etruria was the "bulla," which was a flat, thin disk-shaped pendant or pendants with a pattern stamped into their surface. Greek style diadems (headbands) and wreaths were also popular, decorated with acorns, flowers and laurel leaf foliage. For metal, they used gold, silver, and a naturally-occurring alloy of gold, silver and a trace amount of copper which was called "electrum."

Etruscan Pendant of Achelous

Etruscan pendant of Achelous head 480 BC

   Mask of King Tut

Etruscan ear stud c. 500 BC (photo: Jastrow)

Both the men and women of Etruria wore rings, and finger rings were often made with a scarab or a long engraved oval bezel set with a single gemstone. Favorite gemstones of the Etruscans were carnelian, chalcedony, jasper, onyx and sard, many of which were purchased from the Phoenician traders. The Etruscans also had a fondness for amber which was imported from the Baltic region.

During the Late Etruscan Period (4th centuries BC to 3rd centuries BC), the workmanship took on a simpler quality. Many pieces were made with filigree openwork patterns without any backing, and often used colored beads from Phoenicia, inlay and enameling.

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Bibliography on Ancient Roman Jewelry

1. John Tsangarides, Ancient Roman Jewellery . Hadrians.Com

2. Luna Nuova, Etruscan Jewelry . www.lunanuova.com

3. Otto J Brendel, Etruscan Art. New Haven,Yale University

4. Bonfante, Larissa, Etruscan Life and Afterlife. Wayne State University Press

5. Oppi Untracht, Jewelry Concepts & Technology - Complete Reference Guide . Doubleday

6. Dean Wukitsch, Etruscan Granulation and Filigree . www.mmdtkw.org

7. Wikipedia, History of Etruscan Jewellery . wikipedia.org

8. F Borrelli, M Cristina Targia, S Peccatori, The Etruscans . Getty Trust Publications

9. Crystalinks, Clothing in Ancient Roman . www.crystalinks.com

10. Barbara F. McManus, Roman Clothing & Jewelry . www.vroma.org

11. Woodrow Carpenter, History of Cloisonné Technique . www.ganoksin.com

12. Clare Phillips, Jewelry: From Antiquity to the Present . Thames & Hudson

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