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Tiny Ancient Barrel Beads of Lapis Lazuli, Carnelian, Turquoise, and Gold


Swat Valley


Carnelian, Lapis Lazuli, Agate, Turquoise, 20k gold


The necklace is 24 inches (60.5 cm) in length. The necklace weighs 15.5 gm.







A necklace of twenty-eight carnelian beads, fourteen lapis lazuli beads, sixteen agate beads, and fifty-eight turquoise disc beads. Most of the carnelian beads are three lobed and 5-6mm in length, faced on either side by 20k gold six-sphere granulated spacer beads. These modules alternate with long tubular beads each faced with a turquoise disc bead. The tubular beads alternate lapis lazuli tubes with black agate tubes. These tubes are of decreasing size towards the back of the necklace; the center bead is 4 mm in diameter and they decease to 3.2 mm. The tubes vary in length from 1.5 cm to 5 cm. The necklace is lightweight and delicate but the use of the contrasting colors in a precise geometric structure gives it a dramatic presence and chromatic richness. The beads are said to have come from the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. In the ancient world, this was at the cross roads of the trade routes between Asia and the Mediterranean. The beads are similar to beads found in India from the Kushan dynasty and by the mid first century C.E. the Swat Valley was part of this empire. Due to its commercial and strategic importance, Swat was conquered by the Persians in the sixth century B.C.E., the Greeks under Alexander the Great, and the Indian Mauryans who introduced Buddhism to the region in the middle of the third century B.C.E. Subsequent conquerors included the Graeco-Bactrians from Afghanistan, Scythians from Central Asia and Partians from Iran. All of these groups had their own types of beads and bead traditions which left their imprint on the culture and contributed to the cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic society.