Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Roman Banded Agate Ring with Intaglio of Perseus

Italy, c. 1st century BC (intaglio); c. 1800 (mount)

Gold and agate

  • 26.400 €
  • £23,400
  • $30,000
  • Roman Banded Agate Ring with Intaglio of Perseus

    Italy, c. 1st century BC (intaglio); c. 1800 (mount)
    Gold and agate
    Weight 4.1 gr.; circumference 44.7 mm., dimensions of bezel 22 x 15.7 mm.; US size 3.25; UK size F ¾

    The flat oval intaglio in brown and white banded agate is set in an open frame with grooved surrounding. In shallow relief, it shows Perseus standing naked in three-quarter view and loosely draped with a cloak. In his right hand, he holds the head of Medusa and in his left the sword; his shield rests at his feet. Widening at the shoulders, the hoop is plain on the interior and grooved along the exterior.The type is derived from a Greek statue by Myron of the fifth century BC. The mount of the ring is of approximately the same date as a marble sculpture of Perseus in a similar pose by Antonio Canova (1757–1822), acquired by Pope Pius VII (1742–1823), and today in the Vatican Museum.

    Reference number: 883

  • Agate

    Striped version of chalcedony quartz, agate forms in layers in many colors and textures by filling in an indentation or cavity in another rock and is frequently used to carve cameos.

    Birthstone

    January-Garnet: Safe travel and a speedy homecoming
    February-Amethyst: Power to overcome difficulties
    March-Jasper: Courage
    April-Diamond: Everlasting love
    May-Emerald: Love and fidelity
    June- Pearl: Purity, Celebrate a birth
    July- Ruby: Prosperity (if worn on the left hand); Everlasting love (if worn on the right)
    August-Peridot and Sardonyx: Strength and growth; Happiness in a relationship
    September-Sapphire: Sincerity and faithfulness
    October-Opal and Tourmaline: Confidence and hope
    November-Citrine and Yellow Topaz: Strength and friendship
    December-Turquoise: Protects against evil and ill health

  • Bezel

    The upper, protruding part of a finger ring (excluding the hoop and the shoulders) often set with a gemstone.

    Intaglio

    Intaglio is a method of decoration in which a design is cut into the surface, the opposite of cameo. Signet rings are frequently decorated with intaglio, as are seals.

    Band

    A ring made from a thin, often flat, ribbon-like strip of material (usually metal). The band can be unadorned or decorated.

  • Ancient

    The term “ancient” can include everything from Egypt to Etruscan and Phoenician to Greece, literally thousands of years of history. Here we are concerned primarily with Hellenistic and Imperial Rome. The Hellenistic age extends from c. 325 B.C. until the inauguration of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C.; and Imperial Rome thereafter until the reign of Constantine from c. 306-327 and the Sack of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths led by Alaric.

    Both gold (from extensive new mining operations) and precious stones (from new trade routes) were plentiful during the Hellenist Age, and jewelry was highly prized as conveying social status. Multicolored gemstones were in frequent use, chalcedonies, cornelians, and above all garnets (from India). Seed pearls, emeralds, and amethysts also are found by the first and second centuries B.C. While Hellenistic jewelry much imitated Greek prototypes, some forms originate during this era, and they include the Heracles knot that remained popular through Roman times and the hinged ring.

    At first, Roman rings of the Imperial period were relatively simple, but by the first century the taste for luxury and displays of wealth was much noted by Roman writers. Martial and other critics of Roman society parodied the newly rich (see Spier 2012, p. 12). One of his epigrams ridicules the dandy Charinus, who wears six rings on each finger and never takes them off because he does not have a gem case (implying that he does not own them they are rented). In Petronius’s Satyricon, Fortunata the wife of a former slave is mocked for wearing at least “six and half pounds on her” during a banquet. These accounts speak to the wide availability of jewelry during this era. Among the new forms, the new pierced openwork in gold (opus interrasile) is worth noting. By the later Roman Empire, especially the third through fifth centuries, Roman jewelry becomes more sophisticated: among the forms that date from this time are double- and triple- bezel rings, as well as the pyramid setting.

    A certain amount of information survives concerning the making of jewelry in antiquity. Jewelry is almost always described by weight and if there are stones the weight without the stones is given. These weights are closely related to those of coinage, so customers may have supplied coins to itinerant or shop-based craftsmen. There were certainly guilds in Roman times. We also suspect that children worked as jewelers and engravers; there is a tombstone of a 19 year old gem engraver known. Archeological finds reveal that shops surrounding the marketplace belonged to retail traders dealing with the local market; there are transfer and rental agreements for jewelry shows (see Ogden 1982, p. 177). The shop of one jeweler was only 5 feet by 4 feet in size, much like artisan’s workshops throughout the medieval era. Certainly itinerant goldsmiths must also have existed.

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Roman Banded Agate Ring with Intaglio of Perseus

Italy, c. 1st century BC (intaglio); c. 1800 (mount)
Gold and agate
Weight 4.1 gr.; circumference 44.7 mm., dimensions of bezel 22 x 15.7 mm.; US size 3.25; UK size F ¾

USD $30,000

The flat oval intaglio in brown and white banded agate is set in an open frame with grooved surrounding. In shallow relief, it shows Perseus standing naked in three-quarter view and loosely draped with a cloak. In his right hand, he holds the head of Medusa and in his left the sword; his shield rests at his feet. Widening at the shoulders, the hoop is plain on the interior and grooved along the exterior.The type is derived from a Greek statue by Myron of the fifth century BC. The mount of the ring is of approximately the same date as a marble sculpture of Perseus in a similar pose by Antonio Canova (1757–1822), acquired by Pope Pius VII (1742–1823), and today in the Vatican Museum.

Reference number: 883

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