The Etruscans lived on the western coast of Italy, now Tuscany, from approximately 700 – 300 BC. Their culture was based largely on the Greek culture. They in turn influenced the Romans who eventually defeated them in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. During the Early Etruscan Period (7th century BC to the 5th century BC), they developed their own unique metal working techniques, which included granulation, tiny gold beads, and thin twisted wires densely applied to the surface.

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Victorian Etruscan-style bracelet

Wealthy Etruscans were buried in massive tombs, some entirely underground, accompanied by their jewellery and other possessions.  The first Etruscan pieces to be discovered were two bronzes found in 1553 and 1556 during the Renaissance. Other excavations began in the eighteenth century, but it was in the mid nineteenth century, that major archaeological sites were established in Tarquinia, Cerveteri, and Vulci.

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Victorian Etruscan gold brooch, in the style of Castellani.

The gold jewellery found in Etruscan tombs used metalworking techniques that were not currently used by goldsmiths. Fortunato Pio Castellani, an Roman jeweller, and his sons, began to study the jewellery and to re-create the techniques. The family remained the leaders in high quality Archaeological-style jewels from the 1860s until the 1930s when the last member died. Due to its popularity, other Italian jewellers began to produce Etruscan-style jewelry as did jewellers in the UK like Phillips, Streeter and Brogden. Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria by Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe has an excellent section on Etruscan revival jewelry.

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Segments from an Etruscan-style gold collar