The Jewelry of Ancient Greece

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The Jewelry of Ancient Greece

Pictured: Athena Ring - Carnelian and Gold. MFA Boston.

Since the Ancient Grecians were greatly inspired by other cultures and nations such as the Romans, Assyrians, and Egyptians, they portrayed this influence in their fashion and jewelry, taking different styles from different cultures. The influence of Roman culture is evident in Ancient Greek jewelry due to the appearance of precious stones such as topaz, amethyst, and aquamarine. The Ancient Grecians used their jewelry to represent the high rank of their gods, goddesses, and important events in Ancient Greek history, through picturesque pendants, detailed filigree techniques, and granule work. To understand Ancient Greek jewelry and the concepts behind it better, let’s talk a bit about the importance of jewelry in Ancient Greek and what it represented in Ancient Greek society.

 

Importance of Jewelry in Ancient Greece:

From Zeus to Aether to Helios, it’s clear that the Ancient Grecians worshipped their sky deities blindly, so it only makes sense to incorporate them in and showcase their importance through jewelry. Selene, the goddess of the moon, was honored through crescent earrings featuring sophisticated granule work.

Although the Ancient Grecians used jewelry to symbolize their respect for their gods and goddesses, their main purpose to showcase their immense wealth, status, and taste since jewelry was expensive and hard to attain during that time. The world’s current collection of Ancient Greek jewelry mostly comes from funerary graves, because the Ancient Grecians believed their jewelry to be so important and valuable that it would travel to the afterlife with the deceased owner. That fact is enough to tell the importance of jewelry in Ancient Greece, so let’s move on to the different themes and styles that define the entire concept of Ancient Greek jewelry.

Shown: Necklace with Butterfly Pendant. Walters Art Museum.

 

Themes in Ancient Greek Jewelry:

From the Bronze Age to Classical Greek Era to the Hellenistic Period, Ancient Greek jewelry styles differed in terms of dominating, distinct themes which would give it a signature style. While it can be hard to describe Ancient Greek jewelry without going into detail about the three different ages of Ancient Greece, several trends lasted hundreds of years and dominated Grecian jewelry design. Below are a few of the themes that appeared throughout most of the eras when it came to jewelry and fashion.

 

Gods and Goddesses:

Ancient Grecians were a polytheistic people and their gods often manifest in gold. Eros is a most popular choice, but many deities are represented in surviving works.

Photo: Eros earrings from the Met Museum.

 

Animals:

 

Incorporating depictions of animals and insects into jewelry was a common practice during the Minoan era, including lions, snakes, cows, sheep. These Assyrian's popularized the rams heads motif shown in these earrings - but the theme continued to be showcased into Greek and then Roman jewelry and depictions.

Shown: Rams head earrings.

 

Filigree & Granulation:

Detailed works such as the filigree techniques and granule work became highly popular in the Classical Greek era, also known as the Golden Era, and showed up in the form of delicate bracelets, typical rosettes, and laurel wreaths. Gold became the most used metal in the era and sheets upon sheets of the expensive material were forged to make the most delicate and intricately detailed jewelry for the elites.

Pictured: Aegean Bracelet 

 

Celestial Bodies:

 

From Zeus to Aether to Helios, it’s clear that the Ancient Grecians worshipped their sky deities blindly, so it only makes sense to incorporate them in and showcase their importance through jewelry. Selene, the goddess of the moon, was honored through crescent earrings featuring sophisticated granule work.

Shown: Selene Crescent Earrings

 

Pearls:

 

In Greek Mythology, pearls are said to be the tears of joy of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, which shows that pearls are a sacred stone to the Ancient Grecians. Pearls were also associated with Isis, the goddess of healing.

Photo: Sheherazade Pearl Earrings

 

Incorporating pearls in jewelry was also a tribute to Poseidon, the god of the sea, and was believed to help with health and immunity when worn frequently. This made pearls a popular stone when it came to sparkling up jewelry with brighter stones.

Shown: Poseidon Pearl Earrings

 

Not only did the Ancient Grecians leave their mark on the world with advanced technology that is unmatched still to this day but they also made the world of fashion and vanity a better place with their intricate, luxurious, and breathtaking inventions of Ancient Greek jewelry. One thing that’s evident in Ancient Greek jewelry and fashion is that they valued their gods and deities above all. Without saying anything at all, Ancient Greek jewelry represented all that Ancient Grecians stood for and especially their wealth. If you find yourself greatly dazzled and inspired by Ancient Greek jewelry, much like us, head on over to our gift shop and browse our wide range of Ancient Greek inspired jewelry to add to your collection!

Reproductions:

Ancient Greek Jewelry

References and Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewellery#Greece

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search#!/search?department=13&material=Jewelry&geolocation=Greece

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hjew/hd_hjew.htm

 


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