Necklace with very large Roman glass eye bead and my granulated beads in Argentium silver, on a handmade fine silver chain.
This substantial, powerful necklace features a colourful Roman glass eye bead from around the 2nd century, in a rare, very large size- it is just over an inch in diameter, and very solid in weight and presence. Beads this size were not made as often as smaller ones, and even fewer have survived, so this one is exceptional.
The deep blue background of the bead really sets off the eye patterns in yellow, white, and bright blue, showing off the skill of the beadmaker who created it so long ago. Glass was a much rarer commodity in the ancient world than it is now, and was considered precious because of its ability to be shaped, coloured, and used for practical and aesthetic purposes.
The eyes on this bead are a very common motif throughout the ancient world, where countless cultures made and used eye-adorned amulets for protection. As an eye that never closes and never blinks, these pieces kept watch over the wearer and stared down threats both mundane and spiritual.
Nearly every culture of the world has a tradition of eye beads and pendants, all worn for the same purpose, but the bright blue concentric circles of this one are unique to the Mediterranean cultures of Rome and Greece.
I combined the central bead with beads I created in a strong-edged lentil shape, decorated with eye-like circles and granulation in a simple but forceful pattern that is as sharp as the gaze of the eyes on the glass bead. It’s all pulled together on a fine silver chain that I knit, with granulated endcaps and a silver S-hook.