Jet Necklace




Chrystal Antink

Hannah Clay

Elizabeth Foulds

This week’s Finds Friday is an intricate necklace found in the grave of a Roman juvenile, aged three to five years, buried in a cemetery to the south of Catterick. You can read more about the cemetery excavations here. The skeleton and other human remains have been archived with the Yorkshire Museum, and the NAA post-excavation team is now preparing the rest of the finds for archiving. We'll share more about this process with you in future posts but, for now, here is a chance to learn more about one of the many beautiful items.


The 28 beads of the necklace are a mix of annular, globular, hexagonal, and rectangular. Seven of the beads were made of translucent blue glass, and five of those were a crudely formed rectangular shape. These types of beads are usually dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD; and it has been demonstrated that blue rectangular beads are found only in Britain and along the Danube, which suggests that they may have been manufactured in both locations.


The remaining 21 beads are made of jet. There is one cylindrical/barrel-shaped bead, an ornate long cylindrical bead, and four double-pierced spacer beads, one of which was broken approximately in half along one of the perforations, which means that only one of the holes would have been functional. These beads were usually used to form bracelets, but the broken example from this grave suggests that it has been reused as part of this necklace. The use of jet for jewellery is usually attributed to as early as the 2nd century AD, but it became very popular in the 3rd century AD.


The necklace was partly reconstructed from site photographs and would have formed a strand approximately 207mm long. The perforations of the glass beads were very small (0.6–1.6mm in diameter), so the material the beads were strung on had to be very thin. The four double-pierced spacer beads were evenly dispersed, so that when worn there was one at the back, front, left, and right. A focal point at the front may have been created by the ornate cylindrical bead, copper-alloy loop, and long hexagonal blue bead, all of which were on the right side of the centre-front jet bracelet bead. The copper-alloy loop may have been an attachment point for an organic pendant. The large plain cylindrical bead was on the left side. The remainder of the necklace was formed by the plainer segmented (mainly three and four) jet and blue glass beads.


This necklace is of an unusual design, with it reusing the beads from at least one jet bracelet and possibly from other jet and/or glass bracelets/necklaces. A pattern was created by placing the visually less attractive beads at the back and the interesting beads at the front.

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