Friday, May 16, 2014

Recreation of a Merovingian Necklace

Source:Multimedia Encyclopedia sponsored by the Royal Academy of Belgium. Essay called, Glass Beads from Merovingian Gaul (5-8th centuries). This site is not in English, but Google Translate works well enough. In addition to the pictures, there is some nice general background information on this website about Merovingian beads.

Original Necklace: The necklace I choose to partially recreate from this website is image 8 (pictured below). Translated, the caption for this image reads: Bead Necklace. Glass. Verlaine "Oudoumont" (Liège), grave 245. Verlaine is a region in Belgium, so this caption is referring to a grave found at a specific dig site in the Verlaine region Belgium.


Period Necklace

Background Information
Cemeteries are the primary source of our information about beads from Merovingian graves. This is because during this time period people were buried, not cremated, and they were interred with their belongings. This type of burial practice occurred primarily between the Seine and Rhine rivers, where the majority of Frankish people were located. However, by the 7th and 8th centuries, this type of burial declined as Christianity became more popular. Beads have been found primarily as necklaces or bracelets, occasionally there were found stitched to clothing. Graves have been found with only a few dozen to a 100 or more beads, and they have been found in single or multiple strand (Pion).

According to Pion's historic overview, the necklace that I have chosen to recreate likely dates from the later 6th century to the mid 7th century. It was during this time, he says, that Merovingian bead styles became very innovative, changing from the small monochrome and transparent style favored by the Romans (and often intended to imitate precious stones), to a much more colorful and polychromatic style. By matching the style of beads found in this necklace with a chronology of Merovingian beads created by Siegmund, it is possible to narrow down slightly the most likely time frame of this necklace. The beads in this necklace come from Siegmund's E, F, G and H bead clusters, leading to an early to mid 7th century date.
Merovindian beads types arranged in groups by date (Siegmund).


Siegmund, Frank. "Merovingian Beads on the Lower Rhine." Transl. C.J. Bridger. Beads: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers, 7. p. 37-53 (1995). Retrieved from:

Pion, Constantin. "Glass Beads from Merovingian Gaul (5-8th centuries". Koregos: A Multimedia Encyclopedia sponsored by the Royal Academy of Belgium. Retrieved from:

 My Recreation

I chose to recreate this necklace, not only because I loved the vibrant color combination, but because I liked the contrast between the small and large beads.

The original necklace contains approximately 59 small beads, and 13 large beads.  I chose not to copy this necklace exactly, as I felt it would have then been too large for me to wear comfortably. Instead, I chose to produce a smaller version of it, and to so I started by picking 5 of the larger beads to recreate.

When deciding how many of the little beads to reproduce, I chose to arrange my necklace a bit more symmetrically than the extant piece (modern tastes!). In the extant necklace, the number of small beads in-between each larger bead is very uneven. However, there are approximately 4.5 beads for each larger bead. I chose to place 5 beads in between and on each side of the larger beads in the necklace, for a total of 30 beads. All together, this necklace has 35 beads in it

When choosing how many of each color of the small beads to make, I  calculated the percentage of each color from the larger necklace, and matched that percentage in my smaller recreation. The goal here was to achieve the same color balance of the original necklace.

I then strung the smaller beads on the necklace relatively randomly, to achieve the random but coordinated effect of the original necklace.

My Recreation