The Etruscans were a tremendously influential ancient civilisation which thrived in what is now Western Italy between the 8th and 2nd century BCE. They were originally the dominant force in the region, subjugating their neighbours which included the early Roman people.
Etruscan craftsmen produced beautiful jewellery from precious stones and metals which their wealthiest people were often buried with. They had their own language and culture which heavily informed the earliest Roman culture. In fact the word “Rome” is itself a word in the Etruscan tongue.
Unfortunately for the Etruscans their dominance over Rome was not to last. The smaller kingdom eventually eclipsed the Etruscan League in terms of territory and military might. When Rome adopted republicanism and ejected the Etruscan kings it spelled the end not just for Etruscan dominance, but also for their language and identity.
Whether it was a punishment for the years Rome was subjugated or an intentional attempt to remove any record of Roman weakness from history, the Etruscan civilisation was effectively destroyed after their forced assimilation into an empire that would one day span 5 million square kilometres of territory.
Although the Etruscan civilisation was ended the Romans did not destroy everything. Art, jewellery and other crafted items remained sealed within the tombs of the Etruscan nobility for centuries. Above ground the tales of their people were forgotten, their language fell from use, and almost every single written record of their existence was lost. Still, something remained, and later generations would find inspiration in the remnants of this dead nation.
The Etruscan Revival
In the later Georgian period archaeologists unearthed the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, finding within a trove of treasures from antiquity. The discoveries captured the imagination of the people of the British Empire and jewellers began to take note of the styles and designs coming from these ancient world.
Etruscan jewellery was heavily influenced by ancient Greek religion, which worshipped a pantheon of gods that were later renamed and adopted by the Romans. Figures from this mythology were often depicted in Etruscan artwork, and their classical, legendary themes were extremely popular in Britain.
The Etruscan jewellers worked high carat gold into elaborate, complex designs which had more in common with the regalia of ancient pharaohs than contemporary jewellery from the west. The mythic themes and otherworldly nature of these pieces were an inspiration for a new and important trend which took hold during the Victorian era.
Etruscan Revival Jewellery
Victorian Britain was experiencing a period of great prosperity and innovations which allowed its jewellers access to a greater amount and variety of precious materials to work into their creations. New technology allowed them to work with these materials in ways never before seen, but the new discoveries in the remains of the Roman empire spurred many to use these resources to crafts loving homages to the long dead artisans of yore.
The Etruscan Revival created impressive arrangements of gold painstakingly engraved to create dazzling, timeless pieces. At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we have discovered a great many Etruscan revival pieces over the years. Below are a few of the most beautiful examples we have found:
In this Victorian bracelet a large cabochon cut garnet has been placed at the centre, with rows of smaller garnets set at intervals along an elaborate and carefully constructed sequence of nested links. The central stone is surrounded with gold ropework patterns, which nest within a complex series of tiny gold rings to form an open and distinctive gallery.
Whilst it is unmistakeably Etruscan in its inspiration the use of garnet in particular marks this as being a product of the Victorian age, where this stone was widely used. Similarly the star which graces the front of the central garnet is a symbol which was widely used in many Victorian pieces. It is a fantastic testament to the effectiveness of the union of Victorian and Etruscan design.
This magnificent Victorian bangle also exhibits intricate golden ropework along with impressive swirls and loops of gold. In contrast to the open design of the previous piece the jeweller has here elected to base the entire piece around a single unbroken, and quite substantial band of gold. This echoes the decadence and luxury of Etruscan nobility, whilst also paying tribute to other ancient civilisations.
The central amethyst is held in place by a simple circular gallery, but with the addition of the ropework curves it forms an eye – extremely similar to the Eye of Horus which would have adorned the jewellery of the Pharaohs of ancient Eqypt.
This suite of Victorian Etruscan revival pieces looks fit for a queen – a demonstration of wealth, taste and power in physical form. Once more the stellar theme is present, with an eight-pointed, diamond studded star in the centre of each of the pieces. Whilst this celestial motif is impressive it is the amount of gold, and the cleverness with which that it has been worked into an array of dangling tassels that makes it such a fine example of the style.
The earrings have also been crowned with an angled knot that simultaneously echoes the intertwining Celtic knots of ancient Britain and the repeating spiral patterns of the Greek civilisation that preceded the Etruscans.
Etruscan revival jewellery offers the collector a glimpse at the marvels of the ancient world through the lens of later civilisations. It shows influences which reach deep into history whilst also celebrating the ingenuity and skill of more recent antiquity.
If you are interested in Etruscan revival jewellery you can view our full collection of genuine antique pieces here.
Looking for a specific piece? Our team have spent decades acquiring the experience and contacts to source the very finest items. Why not get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on England: 0333 700 4500, and see how we can help you find your perfect piece?