Pendant, in jewelry, ornament suspended from a bracelet, earring, or, especially, a necklace. Pendants are derived from the primitive practice of wearing amulets or talismans around the neck. The practice dates from the Stone Age when pendants consisted of such objects as teeth, stones, and shells.
The pharaohs of ancient Egypt wore pendants that were sometimes of huge dimensions, usually bearing commemorative or auspicious scenes in which the sovereign is being deified. Other pendants were in the shape of flies, winged scarabs, vultures, the eye of the god Horus, falcons, and sacred serpents. An exquisite example of an early gold pendant is that of two hornets clasped together, found in Mycenae and dating from the 17th century BCE. Etruscan pendants were decorated with spindles and cylinders, figured, or in the shape of human heads. Greek and Hellenistic pendants usually formed the entire necklace. Pendants in the shape of a bulla are frequent in Roman necklaces, but there are also examples of cameos, intaglios, and gold coins mounted as pendants.
During the Middle Ages, characteristic jewels were the reliquary, or devotional, pendant, and the cross, chased or enameled with religious subjects and often set in an architectural frame. One of the most famous early pendant reliquaries, which belonged to Charlemagne, contained relics of the True Cross and the crown of thorns under a sapphire set with gold. In the 14th century, it was customary for noblemen to wear necklaces with pendants bearing heraldic subjects; pendants are worn by women who generally depicted sentimental subjects.
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