The Hellenistic period, beginning with the death of Alexander the Great, is renowned for its artistic efflorescence. Gold flooded into the Eastern Mediterranean after Alexander’s conquest of Persia, and with an abundance of material to work with, the skill of Hellenistic jewellers reached new heights of refinement and inspiration. The various designs of the gold beads used in this necklace show the inventiveness and expertise typical of the era.
This elegant necklace uses delicately translucent amethyst beads to full effect. It is composed of biconical amethyst beads alternating with hollow gold beads of a similar size. The central five gold beads are decorated with an intricate and unusual flower pattern. Four gold beads beyond these have an almost frosted surface, and the remaining five shine gently among the amethyst beads. It is finished with an antique gold clasp.
In the Ancient World, amethyst was believed to guard against drunkenness. It was a highly-prized gemstone, often used in jewellery pieces on account of its hardness, and of course its colour. The British Museum holds two fine Hellenistic amethyst necklaces in its collection. This necklace is remarkable for the lambent hue of the gems used, offering an interesting contrast to the darker stones, such as garnet and lapis lazuli, which were often chosen by Ancient jewellers.