A Greek gold Leaf from an Olive Wreath, ca. 2nd century BCE
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This delicate olive leaf was created by hammering a pure gold ingot to paper-thin thickness, then cut to form and accentuated with repoussé contour lines along the three lobes. It originally formed part of a solid gold victory wreath.
For related examples see: Rudolph, W. A Golden Legacy: Ancient Jewelry from the Collection of Burton Y. Berry, Indiana University Art Museum, (1995)pg. 158-9, fig. 33.B.
Background: Gold wreaths were made imitating their natural counterparts in various forms, including oak, olive, ivy, vine, laurel, and myrtle. Most of these trees or plants have associations with various deities. Mythology says, for example, olive wreaths were made from the sacred olive tree that grew from where Athena struck her spear on the ground at the Acropolis.
Because of their fragility, gold wreaths were probably not meant to be worn very often, only during special functions such as banquets, as victors' prizes in war or athletic competitions, or on religious or civic occasions, but they are also frequently recovered from burials. In a funerary setting, the gold wreath symbolized immortality and designated an individual who had led a distinguished life. For the ancient Greeks, the olive tree was a symbol of peace, wisdom, and triumph.
Condition: Small tear and apex to one lobe missing, otherwise intact and in very good condition overall.
Dimensions: Length: 1 3/4 inches (4.5 cm)
Provenance: Paul Ilton private collection, acquired prior to 1958 and then by descent.