Made with sheet gold, they date back to the 1st century.
These earrings, judging from their material worth, the excellence of craftsmanship, and the use of royal emblems (a winged lion and an elephant) as part of their design, were most probably made as royal commissions.
The Three Gems
In addition to clusters and rows of beads, each earring is decorated with a winged lion, an elephant and the Buddhist Triratna symbol of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
From Java with love
Put on by slipping through a distended earlobe from the back, they are worn with the lion facing the wearer’s cheek and the elephant on the outside.
They were excavated in Java, and show the flourishing trade between India and Southeast Asia.
Each earring is composed of two rectangular, budlike forms, growing outward from a central, double-stemmed tendril. They have fine granulation and are beautifully executed.
The elephant and the lion of repoussé gold are consummately detailed, using granules, snippets of wire and sheet, and individually forged and hammered pieces of gold.
The two pieces are not exactly identical: On the underside they are both decorated with a classical early Indian design of a vase containing three palmettes, but the patterning of the fronds differentiates the two earrings.
They are so large and heavy that they must have distended the earlobes and rested on the shoulders of the wearer, like the pair worn by the ruler: Chakravartin.
Gems and gold
ornamented this land from the beginning of time
Sri Lanka may have been called Ratnadvipa, but India truly can claim a tradition of jewellery making that goes back to the beginning of time.
So what is the Indian aesthetic?
It is a desire for beauty in ornamentation. It is the ability to bend and coax gold and gems to suit pretty much every part of the body.