Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection

Merovingian or Frankish necklace with beads of glass pasta and amethyst

Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on January 6, 2020

Merovingian or Frankish necklace with beads of glass pasta and amethyst

From The Windmill Collection of Roman Glass

Date: End 6th – mid 7th Century AD Sizes: Necklace  ↑ max. 2.0 cm   │   → 25.0 cm, Amulet     ↑ 2.0 cm              │   Ø  3.5 cm

Provenance: Rhineland (Germany)

Description: The necklace has 38 beads, with an amulet at the bottom. The small round bronze pieces are earrings. Processed are, among other things, five amethyst beads in various designs and a large number of cylindrical and ring-shaped specimens of glass pasta in various colors and decorations. Also some so-called double and (bi-) conical ones. Most beads are opaque, a few (half) translucent. Beads often have traces (reliefs, stripes, threads, markings, etc.) that provide information about the technical manufacture. The Merovingians generally made use of two methods, namely that of the so-called stretched glass and the rolled up glass. In the first method, a mass of glass is collected at the end of a metal rod (pontil), blown or pressed with a rod, after which it is obtained by the second rod a tube is realized. Now in the desired diameter. With the drawn beads, the glass tubes are cut into beads, sometimes rounded off in the fire. Many beads have a specific shape such as biconical, cylindrical, conical, cubical, prismatic and the like. Some are rolled out on a stone or metal plate or formed with the help of tools. Cold processing was also done by polishing. In contrast to rolled-out specimens, wound beads have a wide variety of decorations.


Condition: Intact, incl. a few bronze pieces and an amulet with bone.

Remarks: This type of necklace was found in graves for several centuries. In Belgium, Germany but often also in the Netherlands as can be seen in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden where, among other things, numerous specimens are kept from rich burial fields such as the Donderberg in Rhenen (NL). Glass production centers were scarce at the time. Up to now only one workshop has been found in the Netherlands where glass was made in the early Middle Ages, namely Maastricht (Jodenstraat), there are indications of possible production in Dorestad and Leidse Rijn. In Belgium this is the case in Huy, as well as in the Cologne region in Germany.

The Frankish women wore one of several cords around it, sometimes a small one as a bracelet. Furthermore, a sort of linen tunic with a long dress over it (with fibulae on the shoulders). A fibula or coat pin is a historical utility and decorative item that served as a closing item for various items of clothing. The object, usually made of metal, has a two-part locking mechanism in the form of a pin, a pin hole. You can consider it as the precursor of our button (or zip). Around the waist the woman wore a leather belt working with all kinds of things such as keys, amulets, bag or a knife. The belt went through the bracket from the right, made those things (via a small extra strap) hung on the left leg.

Numerous scientists have made an effort to classify Merovingian or Frankish glass beads: Koch (1977), Sass and Theune (1996), Matthes (1998), Siegmund (1998) and Pion (2013). The discussion about this is complicated and does not seem to have crystallized yet.

Amulets are objects, generally worn close to the body, that protect the person (2014 A.Willemsen). But you can also protect things with amulets, such as a personal sword with men. The beads of this necklace are strung again after the find, the amulet hangs with an extra bead at the bottom near a number of amethyst beads. However, it has not always been in its current location. The original was probably either attached to the tunic or hung on the belt (as described above), possibly even around the neck. The bronze amulet has a pierced leg decoration, probably the tooth of a bear, wolf or wild boar. Important because of the supposed protective and evil-repelling (apotropic) force. Because the ferocious animal had to be killed first to be able to carry part of it. The power of the animal thus passed to the wearer of the tooth.

Incidentally, it cannot be excluded that this particular bronze with bone may not be an amulet, but was part of an earring (comment 2018 Prof. Frans Theuws, Professor of Medieval Archeology at Leiden University)

Reference: Ernesto Wolf  (2001) nr. 222


Pictures by Aad van den Born

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. wynkin said, on January 6, 2020 at 5:07 am

    Amazing, what a piece of jewellery!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: