A Mesopotamian Melon and Lapis Bead Necklace, ca. 3rd millennium BC


The feature of this necklace are the nine large rock crystal melon beads, oval in form with lines grooved from hole to hole.  Such beads are known in several stones, lapis lazuli being reserved for royalty, but all representing wealth and power.  These fine rock crystal melon beads are interspersed with lapis lazuli and quartzite beads, that graduated in size. Four 14K antique gold beads highlight the arrangement.  Just stunning!

Eisen (1930, a: 20-43) suggested melon beads served amuletic purposes and the many burials at the Royal Cemetery at Ur in Mesopotamia had a single lapis lazuli melon bead as the only funerary offering supports this idea.  

For related examples, see

Lankton, James W. A Bead Timeline: A Resource for Identification, Classification and Dating. Washington, D.C: Bead Society of Greater Washington., n.d. Print. p.31.

Eisen, Gustavus A. (1930) Lotus and Melon Beads, American Journal of Archaeology 34(1): 20-43.

Condition:  With expected signs of wear and some surface weathering, all beads are all intact and in very good condition overall.  Restrung with 14K gold terminals.

cf. Christie's, Ancient Jewelry, December 6 2000 lot 31, for a rock crystal melon bead.

Dimensions:  Length: 18.5 inches (47 cm)

Provenance: The Nourollah Elghanayan Collection of Ancient Art, assembled 1950-1970's. Nourollah Elghanayan (1915 - 2009), NYC, Iranian-born businessman started buying land in Manhattan in the 1950s and 1960s focusing on Manhattan property on Second and Third avenues. His sons turned the holdings into a booming real-estate business. Now, the family is worth $1.9 billion and has more than 20 million square feet of residential and commercial holdings to its name, split among two firms.

Related Items