Heavy silver ring

c. 500 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. This Etruscan silver ring demonstrates yet another aspect of ancient rings: three studs made of precious material inserted into the bezel turn it into an amulet.

The extremely thick round hoop with circular cross section tapers toward the flat, diamond-shaped bezel, which features an engraved lion within a hatched border. A pierced hole on the left of the bezel near the lion's nose, may have contained a gold or electrum stud. Two holes in the center of the bezel, one above and one below the lion, still contain their original inlays, probably electrum. These inlays are not part of the design, but had an added, apotropaic function.

This piece belongs to a comparatively large group of silver rings, most of which have an animal engraved on the bezel. Similar rings have been found in different parts of the ancient world, but particularly fine examples seem to have been made in Etruria.

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), 35; 129.

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.