Necklace with Coin Pendants

unknown238 AD - 300 AD

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

With its use of precious stones, glass paste and faïence, the jewellery of the Roman imperial age was more colourful than that of Greece. Following the conquest of Egypt and Asia Minor, enormous treasures of gold and precious stones were brought to Italy. Costly gold jewellery became a status symbol, reflecting the luxurious lifestyle of the time. Jewellery fashions in Rome were influenced by the imperial house and adopted in the provinces of the Roman Empire, but local elements remained as well. In the development of individual types of jewellery, there was important Hellenistic influence in the East, Celtic in the West, and Etruscan in Italy. Among the typically Roman types of jewellery were diadems, wreaths and pins, bracelets and rings, but there was a particular wealth of ear- and other pendants, chains and necklaces. The styles and methods of wearing particular types of jewellery are documented in grave reliefs from the Roman period and mummy portraits from Egypt. The fashion of making jewellery out of coins became widespread only in the later Roman imperial age. From the late 2nd century AD, gold coins were worn in wide settings as pendants on necklaces. Judging from finds and depictions on mummy paintings, this type of jewellery was particularly popular in Egypt. The present piece consists of four woven chains of adjustable length that run through two moveable spheres. Four gold coins serve as pendants. They depict Faustina the Elder (died 141 AD), her husband, the emperor Antoninus Pius (reigned 138 – 161 AD), the emperor Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161 – 180) and Gordian III, whose rule as emperor, from 238 to 244 AD, also provides the earliest possible date for the piece. The coins are in openwork settings, two of which are shield-shaped and two decorated with floral motifs. © 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


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