ANGLO-SAXON JEWELLERY (FIFTH TO SEVENTH CENTURY)—MEROVINGIAN JEWELLERY Part 2: Earrings and Necklaces

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A certain number of earrings have been found, but they are not common. They are generally a ring of silver wire, plain, or twisted into a spiral form, and hung sometimes with beads of colored glass or clay.

The earrings worn by the Franks during the contemporary Merovingian period are of a type unrepresented in Anglo-Saxon jewelry. They differ in size, but are nearly all of the same pattern, and have a plain hoop. One end is pointed to pierce the ear, and on the other end is a polygonal metal cube, each side of which is set with a slice of garnet or red glass.

Anglo-Saxon necklaces are composed of beads of many varieties. The most common, of glass and numerous colors and shapes, are very similar to the Roman beads. Beads of amethystine quartz, probably of Transylvanian or German origin, and particularly beads of amber from the Baltic, are found strung on necklaces, or were hung singly from the neck. When one remembers the superstitious respect which was universally paid to precious stones, and especially to amber, in early times, it is probable that these were regarded as amulets.

The more sumptuous necklaces, which must have been worn by ladies of rank, are composed of gold beads or of precious stones in delicate settings of twisted or beaded gold. The pendent ornaments hung to the necklaces are very beautiful. Some are formed of large, finely colored garnets cut into triangle or pear shapes and mounted in gold. Others, generally circular, are of pure gold worked in interlaced or vermiculated patterns and set with precious stones.

A striking group of pendants is formed of coins of foreign origin. These are industrial arts of the Anglo-Saxons Roman or Byzantine, or rude copies of them made in England by Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths.

In the British Museum is an elaborate necklace of glass and terracotta beads with pendent gold coins of the seventh century, which was found, together with a splendid brooch, at Sarre, in Kent. Three of the pendants are coins of Emperors of the East — Mauricius and Heraclius—and the fourth is a coin of Chlotaire II of France.

The central pendant, also circular, is ornamented with a section from a rod of Roman millefiori glass set in gold. Besides coins—the frequent use of which in late Roman jewelry has already been noticed—there exists a well-known class of personal ornaments known as nummi bracteati, bracteate coins, and sometimes as “spangle money.” They are thin discs of metal stamped in a die, so that the design appears in relief on the face and incuse on the back. They are generally of gold, have a beaded edging, and are supplied with loops, also of gold, for suspension.

Continued in part 3

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Author: connielimon2014

Bead Jewelry Artisan, mother of one daughter and grandmother of two grandsons, daughter of Korean War Veteran.

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