Sumatra was often called the “Isle of Gold” in ancient Indian texts and inscriptions. Indeed, Sumatra’s extensive gold deposits gave it an almost mythic stature from India and China to Arabia and Greece.
The most famous region for the manufacture and trade of golden jewelry lay in Sumatra’s northernmost province of Aceh, where this finely worked bracelet was produced. Acehnese artists made intricate jewelry like this bracelet by creating a gold lattice and decorating it with twisting filigree and rock crystal; the intricate detailing relies on gold’s uniquely malleable qualities to create its effect. The region of Aceh was a gateway to the straits of Melaka, and an important port in the networks of the spice trade as well. The scale of trade must have been impressive; according to one Sumatran source, the court of Aceh in the 1600s supported more than three hundred gold workers.
(Label from Exhibition Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art)