Necklace with pre-Columbian and Ancient stone and Silver Beads


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Necklace with pre-Columbian greenstone beads and ancient quartz disks, accented by my bead and ring charms in Argentium silver granulation.

This is a simple but elegant necklace, nice to wear alone or layered with any of my other bead and chain pieces. The large disk beads are pre-Columbian greenstone, light pastel green with darker speckles and a chunky shape that is well worn by time. The smaller quartz disks are from Mali, Africa, and are quite ancient, as are so many beads found in that crossroads of trade.

The way these stone beads are drilled is a really interesting feature of many ancient beads- as you can see in the pictures, the hole on one side is quite large, but what you can’t see is that that opening is not the same all the way through. On some, it is small on the other side, while on others, it is large on both sides but narrows to a pinhole in the center.

The reason for this is that ancient technology for drilling holes used cone-shaped burs and was done first from one side, and then the other, to (usually) meet in the middle. Beads of all sizes were done this way- I have beads in my collection that are 4 inches long, drilled from both sides, which makes one wonder why smaller beads were still drilled from each side, even though the technology existed to just go all the way through from one side and then even the hole out to a uniform size.

In any case, the style these were drilled in creates a shape I have become quite fond of, as it makes me think of the ancient artisan who made it with tools that would seem both primitive and familiar to a modern jeweler.

Taking these beads into my modern studio, I combined them with one of my own silver beads, large in size and granulated in a variation of my “Byzantine” pattern. I’ve also included some ring charms that create a nice flow and punctuate the piece with interest, and it’s all on a medium weight silver foxtail chain with a simple silver S hook clasp.

Necklace is 21 inches long. The large central granulated bead is 20 mm across. The greenstone disks are each around 20 mm across by 7 mm thick, and the quartz disks are about 10 mm wide by 2 mm thick.