Faience Necklace

Object 40
JIAAW, Bishop Collection

Faience first appeared about 6000 years ago in the Near East and its production techniques were refined and widely used in Egypt. While beads were some of the earliest faience objects produced in Egypt, the material was also used extensively on amulets, figurines, and scarabs and inlayed into furniture and walls.

Faience is made of quartz or sand (silica) mixed with alkaline salts, lime, and metallic colorants. While faience comes in many colors, blue/green is the most common and is made using copper. This bright blue color may have been used as a substitute for turquoise or lapis lazuli and, in Egypt, the color was associated with fertility, life, and the sun.

Faience objects were generally made using one of three methods. In the efflorescence method, the faience ingredients were mixed into a paste and then shaped or pressed into a mold to make small objects. Beads were often made using this method, pressing the paste into tubes which were then cut into pieces before firing. In the direct application method, a faience core was glazed with a slurry of ingredients, either by brushing, dipping, or pouring it over the core. The cementation method also used a faience core, which was buried in a glazing powder that melted and reacted with the core to form a glaze during firing. Regardless of the method of shaping and glazing used, these pieces were fired in a kiln to produce the brilliant finish.

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

Read more about faience and see other examples:

Egyptian Faience: Technology and Production | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

In ancient Egypt, objects created with faience were considered magical, filled with the undying shimmer of the sun, and imbued with the powers of rebirth. For Egyptians, the sculptures, vessels, jewelry, and ritual objects made of faience glimmered with the brilliance of eternity.

Ancient Technology: Faience Beads in the Garstang Museum

A fairly common object to see in any museum collection or to find during a dig are beads, sometimes in vast quantities. The John Lipscombe Collection, formerly belonging to John Garstang’s daughter, Meroe, and recently donated to the Garstang Museum, is no exception, containing large amounts of faience beads from various Egyptian sites (e.g.

Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum

Jennifer Torres Jennifer Torres is the Collections Technician of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum. Her primary duties include the rehousing and photography of the museum’s collection. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida, where she received her B.A. in Anthropology and Classical Studies in 2013.