Formed from a length of three-fold, double loop-in-loop chain, adjoined to a gold oval box bezel and set with a bevelled oval stone, this stunning necklace radiates quality. The simplicity of the design suggests this could easily be a piece of contemporary jewellery. A beautiful oval piece of agate has been carved and polished with a deep reddy-purple colour that draws the eye in towards this elegant necklace would have no doubt adorned a wealthy Greek woman over 2,000 years ago, worn at festivities at rituals throughout her life. Gold jewellery was often passed on as family heirlooms or adorned the dead in the burials in ancient Greece, and is occasionally listed in temple inventories as religious offerings.
The ancient Greeks were renowned for their mastery of jewellery making, and in particular their goldsmithing. Expert craftsman created exquisite understated adornments for the female population, with a complex knowledge of stones and metals. Hellenistic Greek jewellery spread with the conquests of Alexander the Great, and was much admired throughout the Mediterranean and further afield. With the conquering of Persia, vast amounts of gold came in to circulation, and along with it, new metalworking techniques that could were exported back to Greece. Workshops flourished, creating a Greek industry for jewellers, the best of which were summoned by royal courts to make eye-catching pieces that would compete with other elite family’s collections. Therefore, it is possible to admire this piece as both a necklace, and a fine work of art.
Much evidence for the wearing of jewellery comes from Greek vase painting. Women are displayed during rituals such as funerary processions or wedding preparations, often adorned with necklaces such as this, such as a scene of women gathering at a water fountain to socialise painted on a terracotta black figure hydria now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which the left figure wears a single banded necklace with a red stone on the end, much like this example. These scenes give a glimpse in to the everyday life of Greek women in Antiquity, and provide a view of where this necklace would have once been worn.
A similar gold and agate necklace exists in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which features a gold chain made of the same construction, and an oval piece of deep red agate that would also hang at the front. Slightly more decorative than this example, but lacking the beauty of simplicity, the Metropolitan Museum necklace is part of a set along with matching earrings, suggesting ours too may have once had matching accessories. Combined, these pieces speak of an Ancient Greek love for beauty and refinement, and a passion for the fine crafts for which they quickly gained a reputation.
 C.A. Picón and S. Hemingway; Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, Metropolitan Museum of Art Press, 2016, P.235.
 R.A. Hggins; Greek and Roman Jewellery, University of California Press, 1980, P.165.
 Archaic Attic Black Figure hydria, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, attributed to the class of Hamburg, 1917.447, terracotta, height: 37.5 cm., 06.1021.77 (Detail)
 Late Hellenistic gold, agate and garnet necklace, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1st Century BC., length: 31.8 cm. 1994.230.4-6.
Private collection early 1990's.
Masterpiece London, 2017.