Greek Gold Hair Ornament
Greek · 7th-6th century B.C.
L: 4.5 cm
H: 2.5 cm
Here, a thick, solid gold wire, which is beaded and ribbed on the outside and plain on the inside, revolves two full turns. The ends of the spiral are splayed out, and each one supports an identical decorative finial that is composed of a base with beaded edging similar to that on the spiral; a wall formed of horizontally ribbed, domed elements with granules in the central elements, and a vertically ribbed, domed cover that also displays granulation in the center.
Gold ornaments in a spiral shape are well known throughout the history of Greek jewelry, appearing with either a strictly abstract decoration, as in this early example, or fitted with animal (and even female) heads. They are often interpreted as hair ornaments, as they usually do not have a device to fasten them to the earlobe. Representations on coins, however, prove that they were ear ornaments. There is a small, gold spiral in the Burton Y. Berry Collection, Indiana University, which was part of an eastern Greek group of jewels dated to between the seventh and sixth century B.C. That piece preserves the suspension device, which consisted of a gold strip that wound around the spiral, forming a hook that suspended it horizontally from the ear.
Art market, prior to 1950s;
Ex-collection Sancey, Switzerland; collected in the 1950s-1960s.
COOK R.M. – DUPONT P., East Greek Pottery, London, 1998, pp. 132-134.
For related spiral earrings from Camirus and Ephesos in the British Museum, London, see
F. H. MARSHALL, Catalogue of the Jewellery, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman, in the Departments of Antiquities, British Museum (1911), nos. 1173-74, 948.
The finials of this spiral compare with the head of a pin from the Artemision in Ephesos, suggesting an eastern Greek origin in the sixth century B.C. For the spiral in the Berry Collection, see
W. RUDOLPH, A GOLDEN Legacy: Ancient Jewelry from the Burton Y. Berry Collection at the Indiana University Art Museum (1995), p. 65f., no. 10.B.1-2.
For the pins from Ephesos, see Marshall, nos. 959f. For representations on coins, see
B. DEPPERT-LIPPITZ, Griechischer Goldschmuck (1985), p. 150, figs. 99f, 103.