Etruscan Jewelry Part 2: Jewelry for the Head and Earrings

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As might be expected, important collections of Etruscan jewelry are preserved in museums close to the sites where the objects themselves have been discovered. One of the most extensive of such collections is that in the museum of the Vatican, which was brought together by Pope Gregory XVI from the districts which till 1870 formed part of the papal domain.

The British Museum, the Louvre, and the museums of Berlin and Munich all contain a large number of ornaments from the old cemeteries of the Etruscan races. The earliest Etruscan jewelry coincides roughly with Greek work of the late Mycenaean period, and betrays, from the religious symbols expressed on it, a marked Oriental or Egyptian influence.

At a somewhat later date, that is from about 500 to 300 B.C., it is evident that the Etruscans largely followed Greek models, or imported from Greece, especially from Ionia, some of the finest artists in the precious metals.

Etruscan jewelry can then be divided into three distinct styles: the primitive, somewhat Oriental in character, and of fine but not artistically attractive work ; the later, when the primitive art had been subjected to Hellenic influence and produced work of the highest artistic and technical excellence; and the latest style, in which Greek art, still followed, but in a vulgarized form, results in ornaments noticeable for their size.

The Etruscans appear to have paid particular attention to the decoration of the head. Following a custom in vogue throughout Greece, men as well as women adorned themselves with fillets ; while women also wore highly ornate hair-pins, with heads shaped like balls, acorns, and pomegranates, decorated in granulation.

Many of these pins must have served to fix the diadems and fillets for which the Etruscans appear to have had an especial liking. The latter are composed for the most part of the foliage of myrtle, ivy, and oak, in accordance with the symbolical ideas attached to these leaves.

The greater number are of plate of gold, so thin and fragile that they can only have been employed as sepulchral ornaments—like the wreath of ivy leaves and berries of thin gold still encircling the bronze helmet from Vulci in the Room of Greek and Roman Life in the British Museum, and a similar wreath of bracteate gold around a conical bronze helmet in the Salle des Bijoux Antiques of the Louvre.

Earrings of the finest period bear a striking similarity to Greek ornaments of the same date. The first type is pen-annular in shape, one end terminating in the head of a bull or lion, and the other in a point which pierces the ear. To this ring is next attached a pendant.

In the third type the hook which pierces the ear is hidden by a rosette or disc from which hang tassel-shaped appendages, and in the middle between them small animals enameled white, such as the geese, swans, and cocks in the British Museum, and the peacocks and doves in the Campana Collection in the Louvre.

Earrings of another class are saddle-shaped, formed like an imperfect cylinder, one end of which is closed by an open-work rose cap, which completely enclosed the lobe of the wearer’s ear. The latest Etruscan earrings, of pendant form, are mostly of great size and in the shape of convex bosses.

Continued in Part 3

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