Frankish Necklace

The Frankish necklace as shown below in the 3D model is a significant piece in Maastricht’s history. It signifies a shift in two eras’ namely the Roman and Frankish. This specific necklace was crafted during the 6th century, approximately 1400 years ago (S. Aarts, personal interview, March 1, 2023). It was found in the Basilica of Saint Servatius in Maastricht in a grave of presumably a wealthy woman.

3D model of the Frankish Necklace

The necklace is made of amethyst, and metal, and has a pendant visualizing Lupa Capitolina. The necklace is a beautiful representation of the inspiration the Franks derived from the Romans.

This object belongs to the following theme:



Place of Origin
Basilica of Saint Servatius, Maastricht,
The Netherlands

Time Period of Use (ca.)
500 – 600 CE

Glass, amethyst, metal

Dimensions (cm)

3D Model

Canon EOS 250D, EF-S18-135MM

Processing software
Agisoft Metashape Professional Edition

Nina Bisscheroux & Valentine Fayer

The Frankish Necklace: A transition between two eras 

The first necklaces ever crafted can be dated back to 25,000 years ago (International gem society, n.d.). During these times, the most common materials used were bones and fish bones. Throughout history, however, materials and crafting techniques have considerably evolved.

In the 5th and 6th centuries during the Frankish empire, the Roman Gaul and Rhineland were mostly known for their production of pottery, metalwork, and glass (Brown, 1981, p. 2). During the Roman and Frankish eras, jewelry was often worn as a representation of status and wealth. Many were found in the tombs of wealthy men and women, such as this Frankish necklace, which was discovered in the grave of a woman, at the Basilica of Saint Servatius, in Maastricht (S. Aarts, personal interview, March 1, 2023). 

Looking at the 3D model above, you can zoom in and examine the features of the necklace in more detail. The purple beads are composed of amethyst, and the other smaller beads and medallion are made of metal. Taking a closer look at the medallion, we can see the outlines of the remains of a visualization of Lupa Capitolina. This blog post will outline the symbolism and historical background of this necklace. Furthermore, it elaborates why the necklace is a contribution to the reconstruction of the history of the city of Maastricht. 

Rise and fall: From the Romans to the Franks

The Franks first emerged in history during the 3rd century CE as a Germanic tribe, occupying the Rhine River (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2023). It was during the 5th century CE, that the Frankish empire began to invade Western Rome, which included modern-day Northern France, Belgium, and Western Germany (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2023).

Clovis was baptized a Christian
 by Bishop Remigius of Reims, facilitated the merging of the Franks with the indigenous Gallo-Romans (image source).

By the 6th century, the Franks had taken over the western roman empire, essentially laying the foundations of the most prominent Christian-dominated Kingdom of early medieval western Europe (Buchberger, 2017, p. 10). This historical period represents the transition between two eras, going from the Roman to the Frankish empire (S. Aarts, personal interview, March 1, 2023). This transfer of power led to an entanglement of both cultures.

Essentially, symbolism found within the Roman Empire began to bleed into Frankish history. Erica Buchberger explains how after the Frank invasion, Romans slowly began to identify themselves as Frankish. By adopting different habits and merging their identities with their new rulers. “They came to be identified as Franks or Goths or Saxons, and people called ‘Romans’ disappeared almost entirely from the written record.” (Buchberger, 2017, p. 1).

Lupa Capitolina in Rome (Image source).

An example of this cultural collision can be seen in the Frankish necklace, as its medallion features the legend of the founding of Rome, the Lupa Capitolina (Mazzoni, 2010, p. 4). The Lupa Capitolina, also known as “She Wolf”, represents the story of Romulus and Remus. These types of medallions were very popular from the 2nd to 3rd century of the Roman Empire (Pinckernelle, 2007, p. 52). The merging of two traditional styles suggests the continuity of one era into another and could also indicate a desire to support the fallen Roman Empire (S. Aarts, personal interview, March 1, 2023). 

The Necklace: Materials and composition

This necklace was created using amethyst and metal. The front beads and medallion are both composed of metal, and the purple beads forming the remainder of the necklace are amethyst. The original metal chain holding the pieces together is broken, however, Centre Ceramique replaced it with a plastic cord to reconstruct the necklace. Back then, all kinds of gems used to craft jewelry were imported from abroad. Egypt was one of the main importers, specifically when it came to the following gems: lapis lazuli, emeralds, peridots, jasper, and carnelian (Gamero, 2022). Stones such as Onyx were imported from Persia and amber from Gdansk (Gamero, 2022). These gems were extremely appreciated by Romans at the time and were widely used in the craftsmanship of all types of jewels (Gamero, 2022). These types of jewels include necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings.

In fact, alongside the fall of the Roman empire, followed an abundance of stones and gems (Gamero, 2022) The way these stones and beads were crafted was quite technical. Metal, for instance, involved many techniques such as enameling, planting, soldering, and many more. (Franklin, 2022). When it comes to gems, many of them were cut and polished into rounded edges. 

Frankish-Roman Jewelry: Significance and symbolism 

At the time, not everyone could afford to wear jewelry. Most of the time, this privilege was reserved for wealthy families, imperials, and the Catholic Church (Franklin, 2022). This was due to the rarity of imported gems, as well as the difficulty that came with crafting them. The fact that the Frankish necklace was found within a grave at Saint Servatius, confirms the wealth and status of its previous owner. Only the richest families reserved the right to be buried in the Basilica, let alone with such a necklace (Aarts. S. Personal interview). This Frankish necklace, therefore, served as a symbol of economics, wealth, and status. Not only were jewels costly, but they were also used as a sign of status. 

The representation of status was an extremely important social dynamic for both the Romans and the Franks. This stems from the strong emphasis on the Roman Empire’s thrive for luxury and social status (Pinckernelle, 2007, p. 43). For women especially, jewels were seen as symbols of beauty. Many well-off women would use jewels as ornaments, displaying as many as possible all over their bodies, to further emphasize their wealth.

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Close up of amethyst beads
The Frankish necklace
Close up of amethyst beads
Close up of amethyst beads
Close up of metal beads
Close up of metal beads
Close up of Lupa Capitolina pendant
Close up of Lupa Capitolina pendant
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Kathia Pinckernelle (2007) explains how jewels almost had an “amulet purpose”, where the material and gems used in its craftsmanship symbolized the prosperity of its owner. Motifs, colors, jewelry types, and gems were all extremely vital and symbolic factors when it came to the public display of social status (Pinckernelle, 2007, p. 3). According to Pickerel, jewelry for the Romans and the Franks was an essential symbol used by people to publicly represent their identities and social class. The materials, colors, and symbols used also had a deeper social and sometimes religious significance (Pinckernelle, 2007, p. 35). 


Essentially the purpose of wearing jewelry was not only to be used as adornments, but it had a deeper meaning. It served as an element of self-expression. Jewelry essentially functioned as a representation of identity, which also showcased a distinction between social classes (Pinckernelle, 2007, p. 45). This Frankish necklace perfectly falls into that category, especially regarding the deep symbolism found behind its medallion featuring the Lupa Capitolina. Furthermore, it signifies the correlation between two eras that were both prevalent in the vicinity of Maastricht. This further emphasizes the importance of this specific necklace to complete the history of Maastricht.

A brief history of the Franks on video (Video source).

Written by Nina Bisscheroux & Valentine Fayer