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Bronze Age Etched Carnelian Eye Bead and Lapis Lazuli


Swat Valley


Carnelian, Lapis Lazuli, 22k gold


The necklace is 17 1/8 inches (43.5cm) in length. The necklace weighs 17.3 gm.







A necklace of twenty-seven carnelian beads, nine of which are artificially patterned (“etched” carnelians), alternating with twenty-eight lapis lazuli beads. Each stone bead is separated by a granulated 22k gold ring bead, fifty-four in all. The beading tips and hook and eye clasp are also 22k gold. The center bead is a tabular etched carnelian 1.7 cm in width, 6.2mm in thickness at the center and tapering to 3.6mm thickness at the edge. The drill hole is 2.5mm in diameter. The carnelian is translucent so that when held up to the light it can be sen that he drill hole is one continuous drilling, and not two holes drilled from each end that meet in the center of the bead. This also reveals some internal cracks; the larger one emerges on the back of the bead but does not extend to the front. These appear to be caused by the heat treating that is part of the process of “etching” the white line into the face of the bead. This is done by applying a strong alkaline substance (such as natron ) mixed with a vegetable gum extracted from plants and then heating the bead until the applied design fuses with the stone matrix of the bead. This process was perfected by the Harrapan civilization over four thousand years ago. There was a second period of production two thousand years ago and later during the Sassanian period in Persia after 525 A.D. This single circle, “eye” bead is typical of the earliest period. The two lozenge shaped tabular carnelian beads are likewise etched with an infinity or “eyeglass” pattern on both sides. These beads are 9mm and 9.5 mm in height, 5.5mm and 6mm in width, and 4mm in thickness. The drill holes are 1.5mm in diameter. This pair is typical of the middle period of production. There are an additional six carnelian bicones that are etched with two white bands. One of these is 1cm in length; the remaining ones are 1.1cm in length. They are 4mm, 4.5mm in width at the centers and 3.2mm in width at the ends. The drill hole diameters are 1.5mm in diameter. This type is also typical of the earliest period, but the size of the drill holes suggests that all of these beads are from two thousand years ago, the middle period. The twenty-eight lapis beads that alternate with the carnelians are from 6mm to 9 mm in length and 3.5mm to 4.5 mm in width. The ends are slightly rounded. The drill holes are 2.5mm in diameter. There are an additional eighteen small carnelian beads3.5mm in width and 3mm in length. The drill hole diameters are 2mm. These beads came from the Swat Valley region of northern Pakistan. Two thousand years ago, this area was part of the trans Himalayan culture that included influences from ancient India, Persia, Tibet and China through the Silk Road.