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Golden Fleece | Gold in History and Culture

Jason and the golden fleece
This Greek krater from the 4th century B.C. shows Jason carrying the Golden Fleece.

In Greek myth, the Golden Fleece was the hide of a ram that hung from a bough of an oak tree in a sacred grove guarded by a dragon. The Fleece was finally retrieved by Jason who, with his Argonauts, set out on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece in order to claim his right to the throne of Iolcus.  

 

diamond and sapphire brooch golden fleece
Bavarian jewel with diamonds and sapphires featuring the golden fleece.

There are many versions to this myth and many potential interpretations.  One rather widespread interpretation relates to an ancient method of gold prospecting.  Sheep fleeces were submerged in streams where they collected particles of gold.  The fleeces were retrieved and hung in trees to dry before the gold was shaken or combed out.  In another version, the fleeces were burned and the gold collected from the ashes.  

 

As with many mythical legends, depictions often find their way into representations of art and jewelry. The most common appearance of the Golden Fleece in jewelry shows a gold sheep fleece suspended in a setting, as though the fleece had collected gold particles from a stream and now been hung up to dry.

 

Next, learn about “Hand Made” Jewelry | Guidelines and Examples.

 

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