IMPORTANT ANCIENT SEAL Ancient Roman Sapphire Intaglio 22K Gold Signet Ring circa 2nd C AD Antique Intaglio Gold Signet Ring Antique Signet Gold Ring Ancient Greek Roman Cameo Ring Engraved Gem Pre Georgian Jewelry Gold Ring

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An extremely rare and very fine ancient sapphire intaglio gold ring, Roman circa 2nd Century AD.

The engraved natural sapphire intaglio a bust left, it likely depicts Minerva (Athena) helmeted and with characteristic penetrating and fearsome gaze, here clearly in her guise as the goddess of warfare.

This intaglio is skillfully engraved, the subject depicted so well. Minerva (Athena) as the goddess of warfare helmeted and ready for battle, protecting and inspiring her own troops and terrifying the enemy with her horrific gaze.

The visible engraved gem measures 12.35mm by 10.05mm, the edges concealed by the rub over setting so the stone a little larger than this. Fashioned from fine colour natural blue sapphire, about 4.5 carats. The sapphire intaglio is rub over set in a handmade high carat gold ring, a tapered hoop swelling at the shoulders and fashioned from gold sheet which makes for an impressive sized and striking finger ring that is still comfortable to wear. The sapphire is very transparent though of course this isn't apparent in the engraved sections but can be seen in the polished areas. In bright light it is also a slightly lighter toned blue than it appears in the photographs.

In ancient Rome sapphire intaglios were both rare and valuable partly because sapphire itself was rare and valuable but also because of the technical difficulties of engraving it. Sapphire is of much greater hardness than the gems commonly found in ancient cameos and intaglios, for example carnelian agate amethyst and so on. However once Greek artisans developed or acquired diamond tipped tools and abrasives it became possible to engrave sapphire more easily and in finer detail. Prior to this sapphire could only be worked with emery but this was a slow and laborious process.

At first the right to wear a gold ring (the jus annuli aurei) was severely restricted, granted only to ambassadors serving abroad. A right gradually extended by degrees at first to consuls and senators then the equestrian order until by the late Empire any free born citizen could wear a gold ring. In the early days of the Republic engraved stones and rings mostly served a practical purpose as signets (to impress seals) but by the time this ring was made intaglio rings were also popular items of jewelry, adornments with no such practical use.

This museum quality piece is that rarest survivor, an intact ancient Roman sapphire intaglio gold ring in very good condition and made circa 2nd Century AD.

This ring is not a reproduction or marriage, old or new. It is not a Renaissance, Georgian, Victorian or later reproduction.

The Italian Renaissance brought great interest in Classical culture and art. Popes, princes and wealthy patrons collected both genuine Greco-Roman engraved gems and commissioned reproductions. Later the discovery and excavation of Pompeii and other Roman and Hellenistic sites in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries provided many examples of ancient intaglio rings, these rings acting as both inspiration and actual models for jewelers of the period. These Renaissance, Georgian and Victorian intaglio rings are valuable antiques in their own right but most bear no close resemblance to the ancient Greco-Roman intaglio rings that inspired their creation. Most often these pieces are set with a reproduction intaglio but the ring itself is very much in the style of the later period. It is true that a small number of these pieces were set with excavated ancient engraved gems. A few Victorian jewelers were interested in rediscovering the lost skills and techniques of the Greco-Roman engravers and jewelers, the reproductions from those jewelers more closely resembling the ancient pieces.

Assessment of Condition: in very good condition, intact and wearable, the ring has been cleaned. Evidence of age and wear present. Design, manufacture, materials, tool marks of the period. Traces of wax or other impression media in places consistent with use as a signet at some time.
Construction: tapered hoop handmade from high carat gold sheet quality workmanship of the period.
Metal Fineness: greater than 22 carat yellow gold which is typical of fine rings from the period.
Dimensions: the face of the ring measures approximately 13.6 mm along the finger and rises 3.4 mm from the finger, the shank tapering from the shoulders to the rear.
Gemstones: One natural sapphire intaglio weighing approximately 4.5 carats. Looking through the polished areas with the aid of the microscope and intense focused light it is possible to make out the subtle internal banding of the natural sapphire.
Ring Weight: 4.96 grams
Ring size: 9 1/4 US S UK this ring cannot be resized.

We have pictured this ring on a man's hand but of course this ring is also suitable for a woman.

This ring has been examined by a specialist appraiser and gemologist, the appraisal document supplied with the ring.

A wonderful addition to any collection of important historical jewels. Or a very special gift for a fortunate someone. To wear, to use as a signet or for display.

Item Details

Reference #:
Antiques (approx100yrs)
2nd Century AD
(Width x Height X Depth)
x x
Ancient Ring Intact and Ready to Wear