Gold ring with cameo

3rd century BCE
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General Description

Rings made from sheet gold or gold wire occur in Greek graves dating to the 10th century BCE, and there is consistent evidence that simple gold bands were worn as rings in the following centuries. As a result of Egyptian or Phoenician influence, more elaborate forms slowly became popular beginning in the 6th century BCE. The 3rd to 1st centuries BCE saw an abundance of rings and a large variety in shape and style. An exceptional piece is this large gold ring set with the cameo portrait of a woman, possibly a Ptolemaic queen.

The hollow ring has a flat shank and a nearly circular bezel, meeting at a rectangle. A box setting with a sardonyx cameo, surrounded by radiating ribbing separately made from sheet gold, is set on top of the bezel. The cameo represents the portrait bust of a woman in left profile, done in dark brown and eggshell white layers against a dark, nearly black background. A ridge of hair in front is arranged in vertical waves. The back of the head is covered with tightly arranged strands of curly hair, held by a fillet and bound a the back in a chignon. A large drop-shaped ear pendant is attached to the earlobe. A garment is fastened on the shoulder. The distinctive face, with large eye, strong nose, and full mouth, has a stern expression. The small but firm chin betrays determination. "Venus rings," or folds, are indicated on the neck.

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), 66; 140.

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.