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A EUROPEAN GOLD BRACELET
THE PORTALEGRE BRACELETPROPERTY FROM A PRINCELY COLLECTION
A EUROPEAN GOLD BRACELET

LATE BRONZE AGE, CIRCA 1390-1000 B.C.

Details
A EUROPEAN GOLD BRACELET
LATE BRONZE AGE, CIRCA 1390-1000 B.C.
3 7/8 in. (9.7 cm.) wide; Weight: 1.32 lbs. (599 grams)
Provenance
Reputedly from Portalegre.
Art Market, Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal, acquired by 1959.
Private Collection, Switzerland, acquired by 1979; thence by descent.
Antiquities, Christie's, London, 2 May 2013, lot 139.
Literature
M. Cardozo, “Joalharia Lusitanian,” Conimbriga: Revista de Arqueologia 1, 1959, pp. 13-27.
J. M. Soler Garcia, El Tesoro de Villena, Madrid, 1965, p. 53 no. 5, pl. XXIII, 1.

Lot Essay

This magnificent gold bracelet dates from the end of the European Bronze Age. It is perhaps the only example of its type still in private hands. It was found in Portalegre, Portugal, and it relates to several other finds across the Iberian Peninsula, including a single bracelet from Estremoz now in The National Archaeological Museum of Madrid (Inv. no. 35651), and a large number from the well-known Villena Treasure now in the Museo Arqueológico, Villena. Discovered in 1963, the Villena Treasure contained more than 19 lbs. of gold, including twenty-eight bracelets, many closely related in style to the present example.

This bracelet is made from a single piece of gold weighing just under 1 ½ lbs., and the intricate and regular design was cleanly cut and shaped with a repertoire of sharp metal tools. The starting point was a cast rod or plate of gold, possibly plain or with the basic contours of the ridges cast in. This was then shaped, cut and pierced with sharp tools, the marks of which can clearly be seen under magnification. The decoration includes horizontal ridges, rows of conical spikes and perforations. The work was carried out with great skill and precision. The similarities between this bracelet and those from Villena and Estremoz raise the question as to place of production and whether there was just one workshop responsible.

The gold itself is of high purity (95%, between 22-23 carat gold), visible in the extreme golden hue. High purity results in a soft metal, which is easily malleable. The Iberian Peninsula has gold deposits, and it seems likely that a local source was used here in its unrefined state. For a recent discussion on the Villena treasure, see M.S. Hernández, The Treasures of Villena and Cabezo Redondo.

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