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Sarmatian Gold Choker with Mythical Beasts Inlaid with Turqoise and a Large Amethyst Cabochon

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: Wa-Avar, Sarmatian, Scythian
: 1st century B.C. - 1st century A.D.
: Gold, Garnet
: 36.5cm

Ex- Swiss private collection, collected in the 1960’s


This exquisite necklace is in superb condition. All of the elements, the chain, the animal terminals, and the pendant, are remarkably well preserved. There is no apparent damage present on this necklace.


Reference 18742

The neck-ornament is composed of three different elements, a complex, rope-like loop-in-loop-chain, its finials in the shape of crouching animals inlaid with turquoise, and a rectangular centerpiece set with a large oval amethyst of exceptional fine color. The most fascinating part is the crouching animals; rear legs and front legs tugged under, posture. The modeling of the body and the ferocious appearance are that of a lion, but the twisted, curving horn above the head makes it a lion-griffin. The fantastic creatures are generously inlaid with turquoise, set into openings that make the inlays an integral part of the bodies. Haunch, ribs, ears, eyes and cheeks are indicated by drop-shaped inlays varying in size. With their muzzles one lion-griffin holds a square setting also filled with turquoise, set above a hinge, the other hook, also covered with a similar setting, links the chain to the central ornament. The clear, geometric lines of this ornament form a remarkable contrast to the liveliness of the animals. A rectangular gold base supports the slightly raised oval setting holding a domed amethyst surrounded by a ledge.

While the multiple chain and the central setting of this impressive neck ornament fit perfectly into the jewelry of the late Hellenistic and early imperial Roman periods, the crouching animals with turquoise inlays integrated in their bodies suggest a late Sarmatian origin. The Sarmatians, a multi-tribal confederacy of Iranian people akin to the western Scythians, favored a very particular gold work marked by their own colorful interpretation of the famous “Animal Style”. Oval, drop-shaped, circular and even rectangular turquoise was generously used to indicate parts of the bodies of fantastic animals. Splendid examples of Sarmatian work and style have been found in rich burials of these nomads who inhabited the steppes from Afghanistan in the east to the Ukraine in the west.

Late Sarmatian gold work of the 1st century B.C. to 1st century A.D. sometimes shows the influence of goldsmiths of the Classical World; for instance this impressive neck ornament, a Sarmatian interpretation of the Hellenistic animal head necklace. A similar hinged clasp with oval mount on a rectangular base was used for a Hellenistic bracelet now in the Museum of Historical Treasures in Kiev. Together with an armlet decorated in the characteristic Sarmatian “colored animal style” it was found in a rich Sarmatian tomb excavated in Nogichik on the Crimean peninsular, dated to the 1st century B.C. – to the1st century A.D.


For the bracelet and armlet from Noichik in the Museumin Kiev s. M.Y. Treister.

Concerning the Jewelry items from the Burial Mound at Nogaichik, Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia, vol. 4, 1997, pp. 122ff, fig.2 and fig. 17f.

For the armlet s. also L`oro di Kiev, echib. Cat. Florence, Italy, 1987, no. 47.

For Sarmatian gold work in general s. V. Guguev, The Gold Jewelry Complex from the Kobyakov Pit-Burial, in: A. Calinescu (ed.), Ancient Jewelry and Archaeology (1996), pp. 51ff.


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