Mid 17th Century Amulet Pendant of Agate
Amulets have their roots deep in history and only until modern times have these long worn objects been forsaken. Particularly during medieval years, amulet pendants were worn for a number of purposes including warding off evil, curing sickness, and protecting the wearer. Often they held sacred objects, such as relics of saints such as bits of bone, tiny strips of clothing or hair and other revered objects. It also certainly may have held unguents or other aromatics as both powerful protection from evil as well as practical given the sanity condition of the times. This is a German amulet or pomander dating to the mid 17th century, circa 1650. It is made of fire gilt silver and banded agate of an intriguing variety.
Agates (a member of the chalcedony family) were found in Germany and this one was certainly chosen for its variegations of color and stripes as well as the subtle flecks of reddish. Bloodstone, another potent symbolic chalcedony, was thought to have healing properties. The agate is exceptionally fine, with bands of whites, taupes, salmon reds and the carnelian colored flecks throughout. The stone is highly polished cabochon of a teardrop form. It is set amidst the most remarkable metal work. Entirely hand made of course, the collet is highly intricate with minute undulating blades of gilt silver in clumps of three with incised vertical lines running along the band. Open circles pierce the band so they almost form organic floral or leaf shapes. This band is punctuated by a line of chain work between each half of the amulet. The hinge is a five part hinge and the top clasp is beautifully detailed.
Powerful and majestic the entire piece is weighty and wonderful to hold and stroke. The amulet opens and inside is revealed two chambers. Each half has two perfect circles carved into the stone as depressions to hold relics or possibly even herbs, unguents or aromatic resins. Each side is divided and held distinct by a flat gilt silver divider. It closes with a pin and hole mechanism. It still retains its original O top fitting as well. The overall form is one of serene proportions and the tactile quality of this piece is irresistible. At that time, this may have been purchased after a pilgrimage to hold relics from the visited shrines and churches. In excellent condition, the only item of note is one minute loss to the agate at the 2:30 position on one side at the very edge where it meets the bezel. Measures 1 ¾ inches long by (4.5 cm) by 7/8 of an inch wide (2.2 cm) by 5/8 inches thick (1.6 cm). Rare.