Ring with double intaglio

A wide double hoop ring with a bezel set with two garnet intaglios. These have the Greek letters “E” and “K” engraved, one on either stone. There was great interest in the Roman Empire for adornment with semi-precious stones, both in the form of intaglios and cameos. Patrician families had great collections of these pieces, and after the fall of the Barbarian Empire the pieces were added to family collections of treasures and were passed down from generation to generation (mostly in the Germanic areas) right down to the epoch of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire, etc. In fact Alfonso X of Castile (called the Wise) had an important collection of engraved Roman stones which he had inherited from his mother, Beatrice of Swabia. In Roman jewellery the stones most commonly used were emerald, garnet, amethyst and rock crystal. The pieces were generally simple, while their beauty is derived from the quality of the materials, and, if they were present, the intaglios. Since antiquity the world of jewellery has had a close relationship to a determined status. Both men and women enjoyed being surrounded by luxury and enjoyed the use of precious stones and metals. However, while men introduced these into their life in general, for example, in the decoration of their houses, women were the only ones to wear adornments. The only exception in the case of men was that they did wear rings. Roman jewellery reached heights of invention never seen before and never surpassed until the Renaissance. Imperial Rome was the world centre for jewellery and great quantities of precious stones and materials were imported for use in this field. Initially the style of the pieces was typically Etruscan or Greek, but soon a style of its own developed in Rome. Pieces were ornate and sumptuous with mountings of precious stones, opus interassile metalwork and mosaics of small stones set on gold and silver. Another specialty of Roman craftsmanship was the cutting of gems, the highly-esteemed engraving and sculpting, above all on cameos of agate and onyx, stones with diverse lays of colours that, once the working on the piece was finished, produced an effect of depth and polychromy. Mostly cameos were dedicated to portraiture.

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