Greek: 8th century BC - 6th century AD Design Period

Greek: 8th century BC - 6th century AD

Greek 8th BC-600 AD

Greek: 8th century BC - 6th century AD

Greek: 8th century BC - 6th century AD

The ancient Greeks excelled in intellectual and artistic practises, and the creation of jewellery was no exception. Greek jewellery was produced not only in Greece as we know it today, but also throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), and Greek city settlements in areas such as Sicily and southern Italy. Despite this, the jewellery designs and styles found throughout these parts are surprisingly similar, with a few local exceptions.

Today we recognise three important eras of ancient Greece; the Archaic period, the Classical period and the Hellenistic period. Very little jewellery has survived from the Archaic era, and we rely on other forms of art, such as pottery and mosaics, which suggests that jewellery was popular and varied in this time.

In the Classical period which followed, jewellery showed magnificent goldwork. Lots of our knowledge of Greek jewellery from this era comes from burial mounds and wealthy graves, as people were often buried with jewellery. Wreaths crafted out of gold in the form of foliage came out of this time, emulating the olive wreaths worn by victors of the ancient Olympic games. These wreaths were often worn at religious ceremonies and parties, and were worn by both men and women.

Earrings were very popular and their designs were increasingly elaborate often featuring human figures and animal heads. These included lions, bulls, goats and dolphins, amongst others, and animal head earrings quickly became the most popular form of ornamentation for the ear. Other key styles included pendant earrings, often taking the form of an inverted pyramid suspended from a disc. Necklaces were increasingly complex, featuring acorns and human heads, and bracelets were created in a spiral form. We also see much enamel work and filigree techniques to create decorative patterns, but the use of granulation and inlay of glass or stones were rarely seen. Despite this, towards the end of the Classical era we see the beginning of engraved gemstones set in rings

The Hellenistic era was a particularly prosperous and progressive period in Ancient Greece, and is often characterised by cultural and technological advancements. Alexander the Great’s conquests in to the East meant that vast new territories were gained, bringing with them mineral wealth in the form of gold and gemstones. The increased availability of gold meant that jewellers grew more accomplished and experimental with their techniques. Designs inspired by nature, including zoomorphic and naturalistic forms were particularly popular during this period, as were the reef knot, adopted from the Egyptians, and the crescent moon from Western Asia. Hooped earrings and new forms of necklaces which consisted of chains with animal head finials were increasingly popular. Cameos were also introduced and inlays of stone and glass created a colourful appearance that was typical of jewellery in the Hellenistic period.

Whilst there is no direct evidence that the Ancient Greeks wore rings specifically related to a betrothal or marriage ceremony, there do exist however a number of rings which symbolise the matters of the heart such as the Hercules Knot (reef knot) which may have been worn as a talisman or lucky charm, reminding the owner of the giver’s affection for them. After being at the height of its power for many centuries, the Greek civilisation declined in 146 BC when it fell to the Romans. However, its artistic practices, including the creation of jewellery, continued to hold much influence in other civilisations.

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Examples from our catalogue

Ancient Greek silver ring hunting scene hatton garden berganza
Ancient Greek silver ring with hunting scene, circa 2nd century BC.
Greek filigree gold earrings berganza hatton garden
Greek filigree gold earrings, circa 5th-3rd century BC.
Ancient Greek Hellenistic earrings berganza hatton garden
Ancient Greek Hellenistic earrings, circa 2nd century BC-1st century AD.
Ancient Parthian carnelian earrings berganza hatton garden
Ancient Parthian carnelian earrings, circa 2nd century BC-1st century AD.
front view Ancient Greek gold ring
Ancient Greek gold ring, circa 5th century BC.

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