The images you'll see as you scroll down to the current text are all part of the story telling in my novel, Realms of Gold:Ritual to Romance.

Bianca Caldwell, pen name, Bianca Fiore, is a writer for an art magazine. In each of her monthly stories she describes an object used in ancient ritual.

Ancient Gold: Ganymede Jewelry

Ganymede Jewelry, Hellenistic, 330–300 B.C.

The pieces in this group were found together in Macedonia, near Thessaloniki, sometime before 1913. Although the assemblage forms an impressive parure (matched set)—earrings, necklace, fibulae (pins), bracelets, and a ring—it is not certain that they belong together. Many do not share a clearly uniform style.

The gold strap necklace, dated circa 300 B.C., is made of three double loop-in-loop chains with double interlinking, and a fringe of beechnut pendants. The terminals take the form of an ivy or grape leaf and have a border of beaded wire and a rosette in the center. Strap necklaces have been found in many areas of the Greek world, including southern Italy, Asia Minor, and the northern Pontus region (around the Black Sea).

The superb gold earrings, dated circa 330–300 B.C., consist of a large honeysuckle palmette below which hangs a finely worked three-dimensional figure of the Trojan prince Ganymede in the clutches of Zeus, who has assumed the guise of an eagle. Zeus coveted Ganymede for his beauty, and carried him off to Mount Olympus to be a cupbearer for the gods. The pendants are sculptural masterpieces in miniature, no doubt reflecting in their basic conception a famous large-scale bronze group of the same subject, made by Leochares in the first half of the fourth century B.C. The idea of airborne figures is ingeniously adapted here to an object that hangs freely in space.

The rock-crystal hoops of the bracelets (ca. 330–300 B.C.) have been carefully cut, carved, and polished to produce a twisted appearance, highlighted by wire bindings fitted into the valleys. The rams heads emerge from long elaborate collars decorated with three friezes enclosed within bands of darts and bordered by plain beaded wire. The upper frieze, an ivy chain on a vine, is tied at the center with a Herakles knot and bears four bunches of grapes; the middle frieze has palmettes with pointed leaves; the third frieze, a palmette complex.

The two pairs of gold fibulae, of Macedonian type, date to 330–300 B.C. Such fibulae (pins), which belong to a northern Greek type characterized by "paddle-wheel" decoration, were usually worn in sets of six. Two more matching fibulae have been identified, one in Berlin and one in the Gans collection. Each hinge plate, all produced with the same die, is decorated with the head of a woman wearing a lion skin. She can be identified as either Omphale, the queen of Lydia, wearing Herakles' lion skin, or Artemis, goddess of the hunt.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ancient Gold: Hellenistic Jewelry

When Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire in 331 B.C., his domain extended from Greece to Asia Minor, Egypt, the Near East, and India. This unprecedented contact with distant cultures not only spread Greek styles across the known world, but also exposed Greek art and artists to new and exotic influences. Significant innovations in Greek jewelry can be traced even earlier to the time of Philip II of Macedonia (r. 359–336 B.C.), father of Alexander the Great. An increasingly affluent society demanded luxurious objects, especially gold jewelry. With technical virtuosity, Greek artists executed sumptuously ornate designs, such as the beechnut pendant, the acanthus leaf, and the Herakles knot.

Armband with a Herakles knot, Hellenistic, 3rd–2nd century b.c.
Greek, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
This massive armband, of the highest quality Hellenistic metalwork and in superior condition, belongs to a type of which there are only a few other complete examples. It is constructed of a Herakles knot and an openwork band decorated with ivy tendrils bearing leaves and berries. The leaves are delicately chased, and each group of three berries is soldered to a triangular pallet. Their stems are made of hammered and tapered solid-gold wire.

The knot is composed of inlaid garnets set between two large rectangular cabochons. Its design is enriched by a flowering plant bearing six gold blossoms and a whorl of leaves at its base. The large center leaf is represented by an emerald, and the lesser leaves were enameled in green, which survives on only one small leaf. Distal to the garnet cabochons are imbricated filigree bands with extensive traces of reddish purple (manganese), green, and possibly white enamel. According to the Roman writer Pliny, the decorative device of the Herakles knot could cure wounds, and its popularity in Hellenistic jewelry suggests that it was thought to have the power to avert evil.

Pair of armbands, Hellenistic, ca. 200 b.c.
Greek, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

These imposing serpentine armbands represent two tritons, male and female, each holding a small winged Eros. The hoops behind the tritons' heads were used to attach the armbands to the sleeves of a garment, for otherwise their weight (each over 6 1/2 ounces) would have caused them to slip down the arms.

Bracelet with central medallion, Hellenistic, 2nd century b.c.
Greek, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The most distinctive feature of this bracelet or armlet is the treatment of the outer surfaces of the hoops, which are covered with a delicate network of filigree created by placing parallel rows of wire in a zigzag pattern and dotting the points of contact with granules. This unusual decoration is best paralleled in a few exceptional works from Thessaly. It is a rare forerunner of a popular kind of Roman bracelet featuring twisted hoops and hinged box settings decorated with gemstones.

Openwork hairnet with medallion, Hellenistic, 200–150 b.c.
Greek, Ptolemaic, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This hairnet, with its combination of delicate filigree, carefully hammered decorative bust, and spool-shaped beads, is a superb example of the Hellenistic goldsmith's skill. The medallion represents the head of a maenad, a female follower of the god Dionysos, wearing spiral earrings, a wreath of vine leaves and grapes, and a panther skin.

Hinged ring, 2nd–1st century b.c.; Hellenistic
Greek, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This large and flamboyant ring belongs to an unusual group of finger rings distinguished by the fact that they are hinged. Despite their wide distribution across the Mediterranean world and the minor variations in their design, this and the few other known examples were mostly likely produced in a single workshop. The size of the hexagonal bezel set with a plain but impressively large oval garnet and the circular bezel with a smaller garnet placed on the bottom of the ring suggests that it was meant to be worn on the thumb, and in fact the hinge mechanism allows it to be fitted securely onto the thumb below the knuckle. The mechanism, with its tiny gold pins, must have been rather awkward to open and shut, however, and probably required the assistance of a servant. The use of garnets is typical of jewelry of the late Hellenistic period, when it became fashionable to decorate gold ornaments with colorful exotic gemstones and pearls. This ring is a striking example of the extravagant and ostentatious lifestyle of the rich in the Hellenistic world.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art