This is an ancient Hellenistic gold and garnet intaglio ring, dating to the 2nd century BC. The solid gold ring is expertly crafted out of a buttery yellow gold, set with a beautiful and original garnet intaglio. The intaglio appears to represent the head of Apollo (possibly in the guise of a Ptolemaic prince?). The gem is excellent and all original to the ring setting, an unusual shape that demonstrates the ingenuity of design. A similar ring with an amethyst cabochon set within a hoop of the same design is the Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Cologne (Chadour/Joppien 1985, vol. 2, no. 37, with reference to a ring found in a tomb in Pelinna, Thessaly, Greece; formerly Wilhelm Clemens Collection). Another ring with the same bezel design and a more ornate hoop is found in the Alice and Louis Koch Collection, Landesmuseum, Zurich (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 111, with references of further parallels in museum collections).
Such gems were some of the most esteemed and valuable red gemstones in Antiquity. Theophrastos of Eresos, Aristotle’s successor of the philosophical school in Athens and author of the first known mineralogical book Peri Lithon (On Stones), reported on the value of garnet, called anthrax (“charcoal”) in Greek, in Hellenistic times: even a small stone was worth 40 gold staters weighing about 10 troy ounces. He also mentioned seaports that delivered these precious stones: Carthage in Africa, Miletus in Asia Minor, and Massalia in Europe. Important manufacturing centers of garnet jewelry in Hellenistic times. This is an excellent and original ancient ring that has not been altered or resized. The marks on the side of the hoop are post-depositional damage, a crack that in my opinion requires careful laser welding to repair it. This will also assist in resizing if needed, but I have left it as found. An almost certain royal ring, possibly of a Ptolemaic prince or aristocratic nobleman.
OBJECT: Intaglio Ring
CULTURE: Ptolemaic or Hellenistic
DATE: c. 2nd century BC
MATERIAL: Gold and garnet intaglio
RING SIZE: 5 3/4 (US) L 1/4 (UK)
SIZE: 26mm x 19.34mm x 3mm (gem 12.13mm x 8.81mm bezel 16.54mm x 13.71mm x 9.02mm)
WEIGHT: 4.77 grams
PROVENANCE: Formerly in a private collection. London.
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