Friday, August 12, 2016

Etruscan Gold

The Etruscan civilization dominated the north of what is now Italy from about 700 B.C.E. until about 300 B.C.E. It is known that they had a language not related to that of the Italic tribes.
Etruscan kings ruled in Rome and other Italian city states and had extensive trade routes by land and sea. Their arts flourished, most notably their outstanding goldsmithing.
The Etruscans took great pleasure in wearing ostentatious gold jewellery. Etruscan metalworkers produced many fine items not only in gold, but also in bronze and silver. The gold jewellery was often ornamented with filigree (fine wire) and granulation (tiny gold granules) formed into patterns. This latter technique has been mimicked in recent times but modern goldsmiths have never achieved the powder-fine granules of the Etruscan metalworkers.
Etruscan goldsmiths learned the basic technique of granulation from the Phoenicians, but all agree that the Etruscans took this technique to new heights of excellence and delicacy through extreme miniaturization. Granulation refers to the side by side application of tiny beads of gold. Twisted, or "corded" gold wirework was also applied to jewels in the Etruscan style.

To this day, modern jewelers have been unable to duplicate the skill and precision of these ancient craftsmen.
Around 550 BC, engraved gems were reaching Etruria from the Greek world. Soon afterwards Etruscans started to engrave semi-precious stones like carnelian. Gem carving reached its apex in Etruria during the Classical period (480-300 BC), but did not continue long into the third century BC.