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Three Sections of a Necklace Set with Cabochons

Early Byzantine
late 4th century
gold and gems

On view


Additional Images
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Additional Image Side view, three section piece
Side view, three section piece
Additional Image Top edge, double C strut
Top edge, double C strut

Certain late antique images of well-dressed women depict them wearing a necklace in the shape of a broad collar, as in the early fourth-century mosaics from Piazza Armerina in Sicily. Surviving examples of such necklaces are exceedingly rare, so these three fragments, probably once part of such a necklace, are precious specimens indeed. In this case, there may have been eighteen or twenty sections, each combining four pierced-work rectangles into a gradually flaring trapezoid. Each section includes a cabochon set first with an emerald at the top, followed by a pearl, another emerald, and finally an oval amethyst. The goldsmith reinforced the trapezoid from behind with gold straps (visible wherever a stone is missing) and then gave the piece depth by attaching it to a lower trapezoid by the use of struts of fine braided wire. The small garnet at the top right corner of the most complete piece is set in a goblet-shaped piece that may have been used to hinge the sections together.
J. Hanson

Catalogue of Ancient Jewellery, Classical, Celtic, Egyptian and Western Asiatic Antiquities and an Important Group of Early Byzantine Gold Medallions, Coins and Jewellery, from Various Sources: which will be sold at auction by Christie, Manson & Woods... Monday, October 19, 1970 (London, 1970), 65, no. 201, pl. p. 62.

B. Deppert-Lippitz, "Late Roman Splendor: Jewelry from the Age of Constantine," Cleveland Studies in the History of Art 1 (1996): 30-71, esp. 62-63, 67, fig. 25, 26a-b.

A. Geroulanou, Diatrita : Gold Pierced-work Jewellery from the 3rd to the 7th Century (Athens, 1999), 90, no. 47, fig. 150.

M. C. Ross, S. A. Boyd, and S. R. Zwirn, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, vol. 2, Jewelry, Enamels, and Art of the Migration Period, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C., 2005), 159-166, no. 182, pl. CXI-CXIII, colorpl. J.

Exhibition History
Washington, DC, Freer Gallery of Art & the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, “Ancient and Medieval Metalwork from Dumbarton Oaks,” Dec. 16, 2005 – Apr. 1, 2007.

Acquisition History
Said to have come from a Libyan private collection.

Offered at auction by Christie's, London, October 19, 1970.

Collection of Mrs. Kring, dealer from the Netherlands, 1970.

Collection of Richard Falkiner, London.

Purchased from Richard Falkiner by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, February 1977.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.