A Byzantine Gold Crescent Pendant with Peacocks, ca. 6th - 7th century CE
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This handsome Byzantine pendant was not just a cherished piece of jewelry. It also made a statement about the faith of its wearer. In this example, the openwork pendant is delicately formed into a crescent, with two arches along the inverse side and outlined with a granulated border. The interior features two peacocks drinking from a central vase with water emerging from the top. Such peacock-and-fountain motifs appeared in Christian contexts during the late Roman era and remained popular throughout the Byzantine period, representing immortality, resurrection, and eternal life. These qualities would have been enhanced by the intrinsic value of the pendant. Because gold never lost its monetary value, such jewelry was a form of portable wealth, emphasizing status.
The pierced open work technique employed to create the design is called opus interrasile, an ingenious method of forming patterns by making openings in flat metal surfaces. This approach highlights the play of light and shadow and was one of the more innovative jewelry-making methods used in Late Antique and Early Byzantine styles.
For related earring examples with the same motif, see: The Metropolitan Museum of Art accession number: 38.171.1; and The Victoria and Albert Museum accession number: M.6&A-1970.
Dimensions: Pendant length: 3/4 inch (1.9 cm).
Condition: Tiny loss to the left tip of the pendant otherwise intact and in excellent condition overall. Shown strung on a modern 18-inch chain of 18K gold, suitable for wearing.
Provenance: Private East Coast collection, acquired prior to 1979 and then by descent.
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