Large Necklace of Four Thousand Year Old Tabular Agate Beads with Lapis and Carnelian
Agate, Carnelian, Lapis Lazuli
The necklace is 32 3/8 inches (82 cm) in length. The necklace weighs 183 gm.
A necklace of seventeen large agate beads from present day Afghanistan from the Bronze Age of four thousand years ago. The agate beads have a group of two carnelian beads and one lapis lazuli bead between each of the agate beads; there are eighteen lapis beads and thirty six carnelian beads in the necklace. The center bead in the necklace is 2 3/16 inches in length, on the large end of the spectrum for this type of agate bead. The clear quartz ends allow the drill hole to be clearly visible. The drill hole diameter is 5 mm. Large diameter holes are characteristic of early Bronze Age agate beads of this type. These beads are found in present day Afghanistan as well as in Iran and Syria. Probably based on earlier Indus Valley beads made from softer materials, these agate versions were made possible by technological innovations in drilling that allowed long holes to be safely drilled. The risk of the bit seizing up and snapping off in the hole during drilling was greatly reduced. The rounded lozenge shape is the most prevalent, but there are variations, some of which are in this necklace. All of them share the characteristic of being of flattened form, reducing the weight of the bead and allowing as much of the patterning of the layers in the stone to be visible as possible. The faces of the beads curve towards the edges, the thickest part being in the middle where the drill hole occurs. This material was carefully selected to maximize the aesthetic effects of the internal banding and the beads were designed to show it off to its greatest advantage.