Gold Chain with 52 Pendants

unknown380 AD - 425 AD

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

This unique gold chain, which was found in 1797 by two shepherds in what was then Szilágysomlyó in Hungary, has a total of 52 amulet-like pendants. The two boys were picking plums when they stumbled upon the gold hoard, which in addition to this chain also had a series of 17 medallions as well as a large number of other gold objects: a disc-shaped pendant set with garnets, 24 rings of goldfoil, a finger ring, a fragment of a bracelet, and a decorative element depicting a person. The treasure was subsequently taken to Vienna. Another hoard was discovered on the same site in 1889, almost 100 years later. Today it is in the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest. There is little doubt today that the two finds belong together. After being collected over several generations, they were hidden by an eastern Germanic (Gepidic?) dynasty of kings and buried in two different places in about the 2nd quarter of the 5th century AD. The chain consists of two almost equally long strands, which are connected at two points by small rings. The central breast ornament is a bead of smoky quartz in a setting with two lions standing on either side of a mixing vessel. It may rightfully be considered an amulet. On the connecting ring above the quartz bead is a pendant depicting a man in a dug-out boat. The other 50 pendants are miniature tools and weapons. Apart from the yoke at either end of the chain and a trident, they are suspended in pairs from rings on the chain and separated at intervals by five grape-leaf pendants (a sixth has been lost). This magnificent chain remains one of a kind and used to be considered the “chain of honour” of a Germanic prince. More recent research, however, suggests that it was most likely worn by a woman. It hung across the chest and back with the two loose ends hooked into the (only partially preserved) eyelet at the bottom of the smoky-quartz pendant. © Kurt Gschwantler, Alfred Bernhard-Walcher, Manuela Laubenberger, Georg Plattner, Karoline Zhuber-Okrog, Masterpieces in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2011


  • Title: Gold Chain with 52 Pendants
  • Creator: unknown
  • Creator Death Place: unknown
  • Creator Birth Place: unknown
  • Date Created: 380 AD - 425 AD
  • Weight: 712.8 gram
  • Style: Germanic
  • Provenance: found and bought in 1797 in Szilágysomlyó (today Şimleu Silvaniei, Romania)
  • Place Part Of: Romania
  • Length: 176 cm
  • Inventory Number: ANSA VIIb 1
  • Excavation: Szilágysomlyó (today Şimleu Silvaniei), Romania
  • Type: jewelry
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/collection-of-greek-and-roman-antiquities
  • Medium: Gold (22.3 carat), smoky quartz

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