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Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 111, The Hellenistic World
Collection of Ptolemaic Jewelry (16)
Egypt (Place Created)
Gold with various inlaid and attached stones, including garnet, carnelian, pearl, bone, moonstone, amethyst, emerald, and glass paste
In the Hellenistic period, the Greek world was flooded with gold. Greece itself had few sources of this precious metal, and they had been depleted by the late Classical period. Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire, which included Egypt, made vast resources of gold available for the first time. The various royal courts of Alexander's successors, including the Ptolemies in Egypt, comprised a wealthy clientele with a taste for luxury, which, in combination with this new abundance of gold, led to an immense outpouring of gold jewelry.
This spectacular assemblage may have belonged to an important and wealthy woman in Ptolemaic Egypt. It comprises a hairnet with an image of Aphrodite and Eros; a diadem with an elaborate Herakles knot; two pairs of hoop earrings with antelope-head finials; a pair of disk pendant earrings with a figure of Eros; one pair of upper-arm bracelets in the form of a coiled snake; one pair of wrist bracelets in the form of coiled snakes; two rings inset with intaglios, one representing Artemis, the other Fortuna holding a double cornucopia; 28 miscellaneous beads and one stud; and a string of gold beads in the shape of cowrie shells.
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Picon, Carlos, and Sean Hemmingway, eds. Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 225-227, no. 159, ill., entry by Mary Louise Hart.