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Ancient Carnelian Beads with Gold Winged Discs (2)




Carnelian, 20k gold


The necklace is 19 ¼ inches (49 cm) in length. The necklace weighs 14.6 gm.







A necklace of seventy carnelian beads and twenty-four 20k gold tabular beads. The carnelian beads are flattened in shape; the top and bottom surfaces are curved so that they meet meet as an edge on the sides. The largest bead in the center is 2 cm in length, 9.5 mm in width and 3.8 mm in thickness. The diameter of the perforation is 3 mm. The very smallest beads at the back of the necklace are just 2.5 mm in length and 3 mm in width. The drill hole diameter is 1 mm. The gold beads also graduate in size, the largest being 8 mm in length and 1 mm in width. The smallest is 4 mm in length and 5 mm in width. The shapes are oval rather than circular, with a raised rib in the center. Two thin sheets of gold have been joined so that these ribs match up and become the channel through which the bead is strung. The clasp and beading tips are also handmade from 20k gold. The carnelian beads are strung in groups of three with the “winged disc” gold beads separating the groups. The gold beads are made to be just slightly larger in width than the carnelian beads to each side. The squared off shapes of the carnelian beads, with their right angle corners, contrasts with the oval gold beads, so that the impression is of circles and squares alternating. There is some whitening of the surface of some of the beads, the result of chemical interaction with the alkaline soil in which the beads were buried. The beads come from the Swat Valley of what is now northern Pakistan. They are probably around two thousand years old. The necklace is light in weight and delicate, resulting from the flattened shapes of the beads which eliminates about two-thirds of the mass of a similar bead that is round in cross section. The gold discs are also light in weight and make maximum effect of the flat reflective surface. This type of bead was developed over four and a half thousand years ago and appears in gold jewelry from the archaic period.