Armband with a Herakles knot, Hellenistic, 3rd–2nd century b.c.
Gold, garnet, emerald, enamel; W. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm)
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Christos G. Bastis Gift, 1999 (1999.209)
This massive armband, of the highest quality Hellenistic metalwork and in superior condition, belongs to a type of which there are only a few other complete examples. It is constructed of a Herakles knot and an openwork band decorated with ivy tendrils bearing leaves and berries. The leaves are delicately chased, and each group of three berries is soldered to a triangular pallet. Their stems are made of hammered and tapered solid-gold wire.
The knot is composed of inlaid garnets set between two large rectangular cabochons. Its design is enriched by a flowering plant bearing six gold blossoms and a whorl of leaves at its base. The large center leaf is represented by an emerald, and the lesser leaves were enameled in green, which survives on only one small leaf. Distal to the garnet cabochons are imbricated filigree bands with extensive traces of reddish purple (manganese), green, and possibly white enamel. According to the Roman writer Pliny, the decorative device of the Herakles knot could cure wounds, and its popularity in Hellenistic jewelry suggests that it was thought to have the power to avert evil.