Part of the magnificent and unprecented find called the Staffordshire Hoard.
I have found references in several articles to five "mysterious" small gold serpents that archaeologists cannot figure out - what they mean, what they may have been a part of. See, for instance, this comment from an Art Daily article: Gems to be displayed for the first time include a delicate filigree gold horse’s head and gold snakes that have left experts baffled as to what they could have been used for . . .
While searching for images of the serpents, I found this lovely little item from the Hoard, described as a millefiori stud.
Millefiori (literally "thousand flowers"), dates back to Roman times. I wonder if the archaeologists will be able to pinpoint the date this lovely piece was created? There is ongoing discussion about when the Hoard was put into the ground; and, of course, even if a date can be agreed upon for that event, individual items that make up the Hoard may be much older than 650-750 CE.
What a beautiful piece! And fascinating. For instance, notice the markings around the large inner border marked out in gold - not all of the lines are straight, and there is a distinct pattern in these lines, set at 90 degrees to each other, dividing the circle into four equal parts.
The inner-most pattern of the black/gold/white millefiori checkerboard pattern consists of a 3x3 square with curved edges to fit into the circular pattern; the outside frame increases the size of the "square" to 4x4. I was reminded of the oldest magic square known in history - from ancient China, the Lo Shu magic square that sums to 15 in all directions.
Just what are those markings on the inner border around the black and white checkered millefiore stud? Could those possibly be representations of "L"s from a liubo board?