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Ancient Etched Carnelian, Agate, Chalcedony, and Lapis Lazuli Necklace with Silver Clasp


Swat Valley


Agate, Chalcedony, Lapis Lazuli, Carnelian, Silver


The necklace is 23 3/8 inches (59 cm) in length. The necklace weighs 52.5 gm.







A necklace of sixty-one stone beads of various sizes, shapes and materials: agate, chalcedony, lapis lazuli and carnelian, some of which have been artificially patterned or “etched.” There are barrel shaped beads, tabular and spherical ones as well as some with irregular shapes. The tabular agate bead in the center of the necklace is 1.7 cm in diameter and 7.3 mm in thickness. The diameter of the drill hole is 2 mm. To either side of the center bead are two round carnelian beads 7 mm in diameter and then two barrel shaped carnelian beads that have been artificially patterned. They are around 1.5 cm in length and 8 mm in width at the center. Although they are known as “etched” carnelians, this is a misnomer that resulted from a misunderstanding of the patterning process. 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 third later during the Sassanian period in Persia after 525 A.D. These seem to be from the middle period. The barrel bead that is a dirty white with black lines and a zigzag in the middle is the result of chemical interaction with alkaline soil. It would have originally been orange with white lines. After the small lapis lazuli spacer beads are two tabular artificially patterned carnelian beads 1.4 cm in diameter and 5 mm-6mm in thickness. The one to the left in the photograph has four triangles positioned to make a cross in the negative space between the triangles. It is probably from the middle period or about two thousand years old. On the other side is a tabular carnelian bead with six diamond shapes that all point towards the center forming a six pointed star. Although the pattern is found in middle period beads, there are reasons to believe it is from the late period (or no older than 1,500 years). The bead is slightly thicker and has a flat edge instead of the tapered edge; on this flat edge a white line has been applied. The drawing of the six pointed star is slightly irregular and tentative as opposed to the designs from the middle period. The barrel shaped carnelian beads, (1 cm – 1.2 cm in length, 8 mm in width, drill hole diameter 2 mm), each have four white lines that form longitudinal stripes. These are also middle period types. The necklace continues with tabular beads separated with smaller spacer beads and an occasional barrel bead. “Etched” carnelian beads should probably be referred to as “artificially patterned.” The bead to the left was altered from its original orange and white colors by exposure to alkaline soil which changed the orange to white and the white lines to a dark gray color. This is the same chemistry that is used to fuse the white lines into the stone beads, but occurring naturally over a long period of time. The necklace has a hand made clasp and beading tips made of Fine (999) silver.