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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Classical Masterpieces : Roman Gold Ring Featuring a Glass Intaglio Depicting Emperor Hadrian
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Roman Gold Ring Featuring a Glass Intaglio Depicting Emperor Hadrian - X.0560
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 100 AD to 200 AD
Dimensions: 1.2" (3.0cm) high
Collection: Classical
Medium: Glass and Gold

Location: Great Britain
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This Roman Imperial gold signet ring bears the image of what is most probably the Emperor Hadrian. The curly hair and full beard is characteristic of hairstyles during his reign. He also wears a corona, most likely made of laurel leaves, evocative of auspicious occasions, holidays and military honors. The custom of employing engraved and inlaid gems was occasionally substituted with using intaglios of glass, as in the case of the present item.

Intaglio signet rings were used as seals for documents sent by the wearer, and as such verified the identity of the sender and the veracity of the document. A symbol representing the household or office of the wearer was usually inscribed in the surface of the gem, sometimes even a portrait of the wearer, if appropriate. This one may have belonged to a steward from the emperor’s household, or perhaps even the emperor himself.

The intaglio is inlaid in a gold setting. The quality of the portraiture, having survived well, other than one crack down the horizontal equator of the portrait, is still eminently visible, depicting the emperor facing right, and preserving great detail in the rendering of the locks of his hair and the curls of his beard. Such an object might have touched countless documents and letters sent by the emperor himself, or at least his most trusted servants. The historical importance of a piece such as this cannot be overstated.

Reference: H. B. Walters, Catalogue of the Engraved Gems and Cameos, Greek, Etruscan and Roman, in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1926), #2036, 2037, 2047. - (X.0560)


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