15th Century Italian Necklace

Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus
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The necklaces are made of dark or red glass or ceramic beads forming triangles whose corners are larger pearls. There is a golden tint near the pearls in some of the illustrations.

For materials, I chose simple, dark red glass beads readily available commercially as a close match to the period beads. Lacking true pearls, I further settled for faux-pearls, also a modern bead, but hoping to achieve the same effect.

I started experimenting with thin wire, thinking that in order to hold the triangle shape, an underlying stiffness was required. I soon learned that wire simply wouldn't work well in beads the size shown in the painting so I changed to linen thread.

After studying the illustrations and much experimentation, I finally settled on four red beads per triangle side. The thread was too exposed at the pearl points where the red beads rubbed the pearls at a high angle. I then decided to use the hint of gold near the pearls in the painting to justify the use of small gold tone metal beads on either side of the pearls to act as a buffer to ease the angle and cover the exposed thread.

Several attempts later, I discovered that the pattern can actually be made very easily using a double strand of threads and that with some tightening at the end it will hold the triangle pattern very well.


COSSA, Francesco
Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus. 1476-84
Fresco. Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara, Italy





The bead pattern is one pearl through which both strands pass. Then the top strand passes through one small gold bead, four red beads, one small gold bead, and then through the pearl which forms the next corner of the triangle. The looping strand uses the same pattern but does so twice before joining the top strand at the corner pearl to form the triangle.

This pattern allows the maker to do one entire strand first and then using the same pattern of beads, connect the second strand at the appropriate pearl corners to create the final necklace. Now that I have the method worked out I can put one of these necklaces together in little more than an hour.

Given that this necklace was worn as a choker, I have tried to make the length between 16" and 17" and I have used a simple commercial metal filigree clasp to finish the piece.




This historical necklace was found at Hon, not far from Oslo in Norway. No date given other than the "viking age".
Illustration from The Viking, c. 1975 by Crescent Books, page 213.

My Replica

This replica is not at all exact. I used similar color and size beads to create the effect and added the small 4 bead twisted wire sets as per the original and the white bead circle center piece. Lacking a gold bracelet to chisel into lengths, I did not add that element. I did however add a single gold coin, suspended in the white bead circle, as a centerpiece.