Ganymede jewelry

Period: Hellenistic

Date: ca. 330–300 B.C.

Culture: Greek

Medium: Gold, rock crystal, emerald

Dimensions: length of necklace 13 in. (33 cm); H. of earrings 2 3/8 in. (6 cm); width of bracelets 3 1/8 in. (8 cm); width of fibulae 1 15/16 in. (5 cm); H. of ring 13/16 in. (2.1 cm)

Classification: Gold and Silver

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1937

Accession Number: 37.11.8–.17


The pieces in this group were found together in Macedonia, near Thessaloniki, sometime before 1913. Although the assemblage forms an impressive parure (matched set)—earrings, necklace, fibulae (pins), bracelets, and a ring—it is not certain that they belong together. Many do not share a clearly uniform style.
The gold strap necklace, (ca. 300 B.C.) is made of three double loop-in-loop chains with double interlinking, and a fringe of beechnut pendants. The terminals take the form of an ivy or grape leaf and have a border of beaded wire and a rosette in the center. Strap necklaces have been found in many areas of the Greek world, including southern Italy, Asia Minor, and the northern Pontus region (around the Black Sea).
The superb gold earrings, (ca. 330–300 B.C.) consist of a large honeysuckle palmette below which hangs a finely worked three-dimensional figure of the Trojan prince Ganymede in the clutches of Zeus, who has assumed the guise of an eagle. Zeus coveted Ganymede for his beauty, and carried him off to Mount Olympus to be a cupbearer for the gods. The pendants are sculptural masterpieces in miniature, no doubt reflecting in their basic conception a famous large-scale bronze group of the same subject, made by Leochares in the first half of the fourth century B.C. The idea of airborne figures is ingeniously adapted here to an object that hangs freely in space.
The rock-crystal hoops of the bracelets (ca. 330–300 B.C.) have been carefully cut, carved, and polished to produce a twisted appearance, highlighted by wire bindings fitted into the valleys. The rams heads emerge from long elaborate collars decorated with three friezes enclosed within bands of darts and bordered by plain beaded wire. The upper frieze, an ivy chain on a vine, is tied at the center with a Herakles knot and bears four bunches of grapes; the middle frieze has palmettes with pointed leaves; the third frieze, a palmette complex.
The two pairs of gold fibulae, of Macedonian type, (ca. 330–300 B.C.) belong to a northern Greek type characterized by "paddle-wheel" decoration, were usually worn in sets of six. Two more matching fibulae have been identified, one in Berlin and one in the Gans collection. Each hinge plate, all produced with the same die, is decorated with the head of a woman wearing a lion skin. She can be identified as either Omphale, the queen of Lydia, wearing Herakles' lion skin, or Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
The toothed setting of the gold ring holds a fine-colored but flawed cabochon emerald. A similar ring was found at Derveni in a tomb of the late fourth century B.C. Emeralds first appeared in jewelry at this time and probably came from mines in the eastern Egyptian desert, though it is possible that some came from the Ural Mountains.