A Roman Amethyst Bead Necklace, ca. 1st century BC/AD


the biconical beads ranging from a soft, light hues to deep, rich purple are subtly but steadily graduated, which lends the larger central beads a more voluminous, massive effect.  The bead forms are biconical but a little irregular, as is to be expected from the hand-polishing process used in their fabrication.   Interspersed are fine, 14K gold spacer beads dating to around the time of the 19th century "Grand Tour" era when such well crafted examples were in high demand.  There are a total of fifty five fine amethyst beads and twenty six antique gold beads.  To ensure it can be worn, the necklace has been restrung with an 18K gold S clasp.  

Background:  The name of this exquisite purple quartz crystal comes from the Greek word "amethystos" that literally translates as “remedy against drunkenness”.  In antiquity, this stone was believed to keep the wearer sober no matter how much wine he might consume. All the great ancient civilizations valued the gem; it was particularly popular in Egypt for scarabs and in Greece and Rome for intaglio rings. Because of its wine-dark color and its use to prevent intoxication, many were carved with the head of the wine-god Dionysus. The oldest known stone in the Crown Jewels of England is an amethyst first worn in the 11th century by Edward the Confessor. Even today, the rings of high-ranking ecclesiastics often have amethysts as their center stones. Many wonderful and therapeutic properties are ascribed to the gem: it can cure gout, it cleanses the body of impurities, it keeps the mind clear and alert and improves the memory, it gives the wearer pleasant dreams and keeps them immune from infection and contagious diseases.

Condition:  All beads display signs of ancient wear; they are all intact and in very good condition overall. 

Dimensions:  Overall length: 18.25 inches (46.35 cm)

Provenance:  Private Californian collection, acquired in the late 1960's and then by descent. 

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