Composed of a necklace of alternating gold filigree, garnet, and banded onyx beads, with a central sheet gold and filigree crescent pendant set with a banded agate cabochon and garnets at the tips of the crescent. The pair of gold earrings are each in the form of an ear hoop of wire, ornamented with a plaque of sheet gold set with a garnet. There is a green glass ivy leaf above, with two chains of alternating emerald, carnelian, and glass beads suspended below. In between there is a banded onyx bead with tiers of filigree work above and below forming a stylised amphora, terminating in emerald and carnelian beads.
German private collection, acquired in the 1970s Property from a princely collection
After Alexander conquered the Persian empire and seized its fantastically rich treasures, vast quantities of gold passed into circulation and the appetite for intricate gold and gem-set jewellery exploded. A wide variety of jewellery types were produced in the Hellenistic period, frequently in matched sets such as the Kallos suite. Many pieces were inlaid with pearls and gems or semi-precious stones such as emeralds, garnets, carnelians, banded agates, sardonyx, chalcedony, and rock crystal.
The exquisite Kallos necklace comprises some sixty-four garnet and forty-four filigreed gold beads, and a crescent-moon-shaped gold pendant set with ivy-shaped garnets and a central, crescent-cut banded onyx cabochon. In the Greek world, such vibrant red garnets were sought-after gemstones, imported from as far away as modern Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Aristotle’s successor Theophrastos in his De Lapidibus, tells how the best quality garnets, as well as agates and onyx, sold at a high price.
The Kallos necklace finds its closest parallels with a necklace in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (M.1-1966) and a necklace in the Cleveland Museum of Art (1928.234). For other examples, see C.A. Picón, ‘Glass and Gold of the Hellenistic and Early Roman World’, in J.R. Houghton ed., Philippe de Montebello and the Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1977 - 2008, New York, 2009, p. 21.
The crescent-moon pendant demonstrates the Eastern influence on the Hellenistic style. The crescent is a very ancient motif. In the Greek world a pendant of the type was named meniskos and had amuletic properties. For a contemporary example of a crescent pendant decorating a necklace, see British Museum inv.no. 1905,1026.1: F.H. Marshall, Catalogue of the Jewellery, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman, in the Departments of Antiquities, British Museum, London, 1911, no. 2718.
The meticulously-crafted earrings further exemplify the ‘Hellenistic Baroque’. Composed of several hundred minute components, and assembled by delicate soldering and mechanical linking, the earrings are remarkably intact. The bright green spherical beads of the amphorae and flanking chain-pendants are emeralds; their vibrant colour and excellent clarity suggest they may have originated in the Swat Valley, Pakistan.
Amphorae were associated with wine and thus, likewise, with both fertility and Dionysus. Pendants of this form were popular in women’s jewellery in the Classical world. The amphora earring is a well-known late-Hellenistic type, known throughout Alexander’s empire from the Aegean to Syria, Egypt and up to the Black Sea. A pair of earrings from Taranto (Bari Archaeological Museum 1.662bis) offer the closest parallel to the Kallos earrings. Two other similar examples were found at Vulci and are now in the Louvre: BJ 289, BJ 298 & BJ299: G. Nicolini, ‘Pendants d'oreille en or de la période Hellénistique Tardive au Musée du Louvre’ in Revue Archéologique, Nouvelle Série, Fasc. 1, 2001, pp. 3 - 35.
For further discussion and examples, see A.A. Trofimova, Greeks On The Black Sea: Ancient Art From The Hermitage, Los Angeles, 2007, pp. 288 - 289; B. Deppert-Lippitz, Griechischer Goldschmuck, Mainz/Rhine, 1985, pp. 283-286; R.A. Higgins, Greek And Roman Jewellery, Berkeley, 1980, p. 179, pl. 55; H. Hoffmann and P.F. Davidson, Greek Gold: Jewelry from the Age of Alexander, Boston, 1965.