Gold diadem of twisted ribbons with a Herakles knot


British Museum

British Museum

This unusual and lovely diadem is made up of three long sheets of gold twisted to form ribbons on each side of a Herakles knot. The Herakles knot is found in Greek jewellery from the Mycenaean period, but became particularly popular in the fourth century BC. Its symbolism is closely connected with marriage, and the knot that tied the bride's garment and was untied by the groom. In many cultures the tying or untying of knots marks moments of transition, whether from maiden to married woman or even from life to death. The untying of knots is also connected with the easing of childbirth. The central ribbon has a rosette on each frontal plane: the petals are convex with spiral-beaded wire borders and contain traces of enamel. The rings attached to the two ends of the diadem are modern. The Herakles knot has a circular garnet in the centre (though it may be a replacement). The bands of the knot are elaborately decorated with seven twisted wire ropes and six small rosettes, their petals filled alternately with green and blue enamel. Collars where the knot joins the ribbons are decorated with filigree, and with scale patterns filled with green and blue enamel.

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  • Title: Gold diadem of twisted ribbons with a Herakles knot
  • Date Created: -300/-280
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 27.90cm; Weight: 32.70g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: enamelled; filigree; beaded wire; twisted (wire)
  • Subject: classical deity
  • Registration number: 1872,0604.815
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Melos
  • Period/culture: Hellenistic
  • Material: gold; garnet; enamel
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Castellani, Alessandro


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