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Etruscan Gold Jewelry and Its Imitation in the 19th Century

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Speaker: Dr. Gertrud Platz, Deputy Director (retired) of the Antikensammlung, National Museums of Berlin, and Corresponding Member of the German Archaeological Institute

The excavations of the Etruscan cities and cemeteries in the first half of the 19th century brought to light the most sensational jewelry.  The delicate 6th-century BC goldsmiths' work was soon highly prized by collectors and museums. The “Etruscan gold-fever” led European high society to order jewelry in the Etruscan style for grand occasions, such as royal weddings. Consequently a flourishing industry in the restoration, completion, and forgery of ancient jewelry developed.

Both the Antikensammlung in Berlin in the 1860s and the de Young Museum twenty years later acquired—like other museums in Europe and the United States—some of the finest gold work from the Castellani Collection, belonging to the leading family of jewelers in Rome at that time. The use of a microscope made it possible to distinguish their imitations from the originals. Scientific analyses as well as experiments by goldsmiths have finally unveiled the secret of the delicate and unrivalled granulation technique of the Etruscan artisans.

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Free for Ancient Art Council members. Suggested donation $5 for general admission.


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