Jewelry of Tutankhamun

This is part of a large cache of jewelry found by Howard Carter in the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62). It was discovered with many other pieces of jewelry in a box inlaid with ebony and ivory.

Top center: Pectoral in the form of a winged scarab. JE 61886

Bottom center: Lid of an inlaid gold box

Jewelry of King Tutankhamun
Jewelry of King Tutankhamun. Photo: Kenneth Garrett

Only the lid remains of this exquisitely open-work box. The lid is vaulted in form; the central rail and ends inlaid with floral devices; the vaulted portion of three rows of seventeen Nefers (symbols of beauty) in fine à jour work. Made out of gold and colored glass.

Top right: Counterpoise of a pectoral. JE 61898

Top left: Unique jewelry clasp. JE 61979

Bottom right: Pectoral in the form of a winged scarab. JE 61888

Bottom left: Clasp of a piece of jewelry. JE 61978

“Gold and silver, the precious metals of Old World antiquity, appear in Egypt at least as early as the Predynastic Period, and remained in use thereafter for the manufacture of ritual and funerary objects and personal possessions.

Gold has been particularly associated with ancient Egypt in the minds of the public and Egyptologists alike, even before the spectacular discoveries in the tomb of Tutankhamun in the 1920s.

Our culture, like most others that have preceded it, pays more attention to gold than to silver, but certainly the relative scarcity of large or complex silver objects from ancient Egypt, particularly those dating before the Eighteenth Dynasty, has shaped our perceptions of the significance and value of silver to the Egyptians of ancient times.

Early sources of gold in Egypt and Nubia are well known from contemporary texts and from evidence of exploitation in antiquity. Gold was available from alluvial deposits in dry river beds in the desert, known as wadis, or mined from veins occurring in quartz formations.

Many texts attest to royal expeditions to mine gold, while others mention the gold received as foreign tribute and booty and through trade.

By way of contrast, silver was not readily available in Egypt, and this is reflected in both the archaeological record and in ancient texts.

Availability and value, however, did not have a consistent inverse relationship, and gold took precedence over silver in terms of economic value beginning in the Middle Kingdom, while silver was still the less common metal.

The ancient Egyptians had no true coinage until the fourth century [BCE], and our understanding of the relative values of the two metals is based on the order in which they appear on offering lists in temples of pharaonic date.”

Precious Metal Polychromy in Egypt in the Time of Tutankhamun, by Deborah Schorsch