Guest Author - Diane Geisel
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in an area corresponding roughly to Tuscany in central Italy after about 800 BC. The Etruscan civilization was responsible for much of the Greek culture imported into early Republican Rome, including the twelve Olympian gods, the growing of olives and grapes, the Latin alphabet (adapted from the Greek alphabet). Architecture like the arch, sewerage and drainage systems in addition to figurative sculpture in terracotta (particularly life-size on sarcophagi or temples) and cast bronze, wall-painting and metalworking (especially engraved bronze mirrors) were well known for this time period.
For our discussion focused on jewelry we break the Etruscan time period into several eras:
Villanovan Era- Jewelry was a status symbol and represented, like in present times, wealth and prosperity. Not many pieces exist from this era.
Orientalizing Era- Geometric design was such a regular motif in the orientalizing era. Mediterranean influences brought by Syro-Phoenician jewelers settled in southern Etruria and taught local apprentices the art of granulation (tiny beads of gold are soldered to the surface to form a pattern) and filigree as the Etruscans did not invent these decorative techniques. Much of the jewelry found was not worn by Etruscans, but were made to accompany them in the after world. Examples include gorgons, pomegranates, acorns, lotus flowers and palms were a clear indicator of Greek influence in Etruscan jewelry
Archaic Era- Among the jewelry found in tombs of the archaic period was large disc earrings. The techniques here are difficult to define but they actually used granulation in concentric patterns. They also used filigree and glass paste. Less jewelry was made in the 5th century due to decline brought on by navel defeat.
Classical Era- Etruscan jewelry suffers a regression. Such techniques as filigree and granulation gradually disappeared. During the archaic period, "bigger was better". Large hanging earrings, long necklaces and heavy pendants or bullae (A bulla was worn around the neck as a locket to protect against evil spirits and forces worn by male children ) were in style and worn by both men and woman alike.
Hellenistic Era- During the Hellenistic periods, technical decline and excessively complex shapes and decoration characterized the jewelry. Jewelry becomes universal during the Hellenistic period. It becomes unisex and is worn by people whether they are naked or dressed.