This elegant Byzantine ring preserves an intaglio portraying the goddess Diana. In Roman mythology, Diana is known as the goddess of hunting, shown with wild animals and in the forest. She represents fertility and is a protector of women during childbirth. Known also as the guardian of the lower classes, Diana was especially revered among slaves. We identify this image as Diana by the quiver of arrows draped over her shoulder on the intaglio. Her youthful gaze is captured in this carnelian gem carved by a Roman craftsman in the 2nd century. It is likely that this intaglio was placed into the present ring during the 5th century within the territory of the Byzantine Empire. We presume that the original owner would have worn this ring for her admiration of Diana and called upon her protective and healing powers. Although Christianity was the official religion of both the Eastern and Western Empires, the pagan cult of Diana attracted many followers and rivaled the early Christian Church.
In medieval Europe sapphires were prized gemstones which had to be imported from as far away as Ceylon, Thailand or Burma.With their sky-blue color sapphires were associated with divine powers and worn by men of high status in the Church.
This highly decorative ring is densely set with rubies and was most probably given as a token of love, or as a promise of marriage. The ruby with its deep red color was emblematic of love and passion.
Following rings from the mine to the modern private collection, this catalogue of approximately fifty rings explores the roles rings played within social relations and considers how these roles transform rings into multifaceted, richly symbolic objects.