Lion ring

early 5th century BCE
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General Description

In addition their ornamental quality, most rings in antiquity were used for the practical purpose of making impressions upon yielding material. The Etruscan rings in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection illustrate how these two uses coincided; they are signet rings as well as decorative ornaments. The exquisite gold rings of the collection have been considered purely Greek because rings of this type are frequently inlaid with engraved gemstones of Greek iconography and workmanship. However, the typological and stylistic similarities of the lions' manes to those on earrings that are clearly Etruscan (1991.75.27.a-b, 1991.75.28.a-b), leave no doubt about the Etruscan origin of the rings. The bezel of this ring was inlaid with either an engraved gemstone or an engraved gold device.

This late Archaic ring is a type similar to another lion ring in the DMA's collection (1991.75.26), although the modeling of the lions' faces and manes differs. The double-lion protome holds a flat oval bezel with beaded edging. Surrounded by a punched ornamental border, the bezel is decorated with the incised figure of a standing male, turned slightly to the left.

Adapted from

Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art in association with the University of Washington Press, 1996), 38; 130.

Fun Facts

  • Jewelry was far more than merely ornament to the Etruscans; it was often close to being a magic charm or amulet and implied the protection of the gods.