DETAIL: A nicely styled Roman bronze ring of a simple “solitaire” design, with a raised, six-sided platform bezel, of a bold size and character, which originally held a gemstone. The ring was not actually recovered with the gemstone intact, however usually this style of bronze ring was set either with a glass gemstone (glass was quite costly) or with some form of quartz crystal; i.e. clear quartz, orange quartz (“carnelian”), or purple quartz (“amethyst”). The ring is of heavy and durable one-piece construction, much like a contemporary ring. The more archaic rings produced by Roman artisans were characteristically made in two pieces; an incomplete ring (a “shank”) with a separately crafted bezel which was brazed to the shank in order to assemble the ring.
The ring was not recovered with the original gemstone it was created with. However clearly it once held a gemstone, and the empty cavity seemed to invite the remounting of a gemstone. So as to preserve a sense of continuity, we mounted a large, natural, antique, handcrafted green agate semi-precious gemstone using jeweler’s epoxy. The gemstone is quite secure, but if you at time in the future wished to remove it, this could easily be accomplished using some thinner or nail polish remover. The gemstone was produced in the 19th century by Russian artisans famed for centuries for the elaborate jewelry produced using precious and semi-precious gemstones mined in the fabled Southern Ural Mountains of Siberia.
Agate has been popularly used through recorded history for the production of jewelry, beads, and amulets due to the vibrant rainbow of colors agate naturally occurs in. Agate amulets produced by Stone Age man in France has been discovered, dating the known use of agate back to approximately 20,000 B.C. Agate was widely used and admired by the ancient Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Persians, Egyptians, etc. Though the gemstone is not as old as the ring, given the fact that the Romans made wide use of agate in their jewelry, and the gemstone itself is of historical significance, it seemed an appropriate gemstone to enhance this ring’s beauty.
Fate has been kind, and the ring has been preserved in wonderful condition. Of course the ring does evidence some (very modest) all-over wear. However this should not be a source for disappointment. You must keep in mind that the ring was produced by an artisan and sold to a patron or consumer with the idea that the ring would be enjoyed and worn by the purchaser. And without any regard to twenty-first century posterity, that precisely what happened! The original Roman owner of this ring wore it, enjoyed it, and probably never could have in his most delusional moment ever dreamed that a thousand years into the future their ring would still exist.
It should likewise come as no surprise that also detectable are the telltale signs that the ring spent thousands of years in the soil. Porosity is fine surface pitting (oxidation, corrosion) caused by extended burial in caustic soil. Many small ancient metal artifacts such as this are extensively disfigured and suffer substantial degradation as a consequence of the ordeal of being buried for millennia. It is not at all unusual to find metal artifacts decomposed to the point where they are not much more substantial than discolored patterns in the soil. Actually most smaller ancient artifacts such as this are so badly oxidized that oftentimes all that is left is a green (bronze) or red (iron) stain in the soil, or an artifact which crumbles in your hand.
However this specimen is not so heavily afflicted, and certainly has not been disfigured. To the casual admirer, it simply looks like an ancient ring, nicely surfaced, no immediately discernible blemishes. You have to look very closely to detect the telltale signs indicating the ring was buried for millennia. No denying, there is oxidation, as if you examine the ring in a jeweler’s loupe, or if you examine these photo enlargements closely, you can clearly see the evidence of porosity (corrosion, fine surface pitting). However the extent is very mild. This ring spent almost 2,000 years buried, yet by good fortune there is only a very modest degree of porosity evidenced. It happened to come to rest in very gentle soil conditions. Consequentially, the integrity of the artifact remains undiminished, and despite the slight porosity, the ring remains quite handsome, and entirely wearable.
The ring is almost modern and quite distinctive in appearance, a classic and timeless design. The ring has a very nice medium brown color with golden undertones, very characteristic of ancient bronze and very attractive. The Romans were of course very fond of ornate personal jewelry including bracelets worn both on the forearm and upper arm, brooches, pendants, hair pins, earrings intricate fibulae and belt buckles, and of course, rings. This is an exceptional piece of Roman jewelry, a very handsome artifact, and eminently wearable. Aside from being significant to the history of ancient jewelry, it is also an evocative relic of one of the world’s greatest civilizations and than ancient world’s most significant military machine; the glory and light which was known as the “Roman Empire”.
HISTORY OF BRONZE:
Bronze is the name given to a wide range of alloys of copper, typically mixed in ancient times with zinc, tin, lead, or arsenic. The discovery of bronze enabled people to create metal objects which were better than previously possible. Tools, weapons, armor, and building materials made of bronze were harder and more durable than their stone and copper predecessors from the “Chalcolithic” (the “Copper Age”), i.e., about 7000-3500 B.C., and the Neolithic (“New Stone Age”), i.e. about 12000 to 7000 B.C.). Of particular significance were bronze agricultural implements, tools for cutting stone, and weapons. Culturally significant was bronze statuary, particularly that of the Romans and Greeks. The ancient Greeks and Romans had a long history of making statuary in bronze. Literally thousands of images of gods and heroes, victorious athletes, statesmen, and philosophers filled temples and sanctuaries, and stood in the public areas of major cities. In fact, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes are two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Initially bronze was made out of copper and arsenic. It was only later that tin was used, becoming (except in ancient Egypt) the sole type of bronze in the late 3rd millennium B.C. Tin-alloyed bronze was superior to arsenic-alloyed bronze in that the alloying process itself could more easily be controlled, the alloy was stronger and easier to cast, and unlike arsenic, tin is not toxic. Toxicity was a major factor in the production of arsenic bronze. Repeated exposure to arsenic fumes ultimately led to nerve damage in the limbs. Evidence of the long agony of Bronze Age metalsmiths came down to the ancient Greeks and Romans in the form of legend, as the Greek and Roman gods of metalsmiths, Greek Hephaestus and Roman Vulcan, were both lame. In practice historical bronze alloys are highly variable in composition, as most metalworkers probably used whatever scrap was to hand. In one instance of ancient bronze from Britain, analysis showed the bronze to contain a mixture of copper, zinc, tin, lead, nickel, iron, antimony, arsenic, and silver.
Other advantages of bronze over iron include that bronze better resists corrosion, particularly seawater corrosion; bronze resists metal fatigue better than iron; and bronze is a better heat conductor (and thus is better suited for cooking vessels). However ancient bronze, unless conserved properly, is susceptible to “bronze disease”, wherein hydrochloric or hydrosulfuric acid is formed due to impurities (cuprous chloride or sulfur) found within the ancient bronze. Traditionally archaeology has maintained that the earliest bronze was produced by the Maikop, a proto-Indo-European, proto-Celtic culture of Caucasus prehistory around 3500 B.C. Recent evidence however suggests that the smelting of bronze might be as much as several thousand years older (bronze artifacts dating from about 4500 B.C. have been unearthed in Thailand).
Shortly after the emergence of bronze technology in the Caucasus region, bronze technology emerged in ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer), Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization of Northern India, the Aegean, the Caspian Steppes (Ukraine), the Southern Russia/Central Mongolia Region (the Altai Mountains), the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), Anatolia (Turkey) and the Iranian Plateau. By the late third millennium B.C. many Western European Bronze Age Cultures had emerged. Some of the more notable were the Celtic cultures of Middle Europe stretching from Hungary to Poland and Germany, including the Urnfield, Lusatian, and (Iron Age Transitional) Hallstatt Cultures.
The Shang in ancient China also developed a significant Bronze Age culture, noted for large bronze burial urns. The ancient Chinese were the first to cast bronze (using the “lost wax” technique) about 2200 B.C. Prior to that time all bronze items were forged. Though weapons and utilitarian items were produced in great numbers, the production of bronze in ancient China was especially noteworthy for ornamented ritualistic/religious vessels (urns, wine vessels, water pots, food containers, and musical instruments), many of immense size.
Britain’s Bronze Age cultures included the Beaker, Wessex, Deverl, and Rimbury. Copper and tin ores are rarely found together, so the production of bronze has always involved trade. Cornwall was one of the most significant sources of tin not only for Britain, but exported throughout the Mediterranean. Other significant suppliers of tine were the Taurus Mountains of Anatolia (Turkey), as well as Spain. Enormous amounts of copper was produced from the Great Orme mine in North Wales, the island of Cyprus, the European Alps, and from the Sinai Peninsula and other nearby sites in the Levant. Though much of the raw minerals may have come from Britain, Spain, Anatolia, and the Sinai, it was the Aegean world which controlled the trade in bronze. The great seafaring Minoan Empire (about 2700 to 1450 B.C.) appears to have controlled, coordinated, and defended the trade.
Tin and charcoal were imported into Cyprus, where locally mined copper was mined and alloyed with the tin from Britain. Indicative of the seafaring trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, a shipwreck from about 1300 B.C. off the Turkish coast revealed a ship carrying a ton of copper ingots, several dozen small tin ingots, new bronze tools, scrap metal, and a blacksmith's forge and tools (along with luxury trade goods from Africa). It appears that the Bronze Age collapsed with the fall of Minoan Empire, to be replaced by a Dark Age and the eventual rise of the Iron Age Myceneans (on mainland Greece). Evidence suggests that the precipitating event might have been the eruption of Thera (Santorini) and the ensuing tsunami, which was only about 40 miles north of Crete, the capital of the Minoan empire.
Some archaeologists argue that it was Santorini itself which was the capitol city of the Minoan World. However where Crete or Santorini, it is known that the bread-basket of the Minoan trading empire, the area north of the Black Sea lost population, and thereafter many Minoan colony/client-states lost large populations to extreme famines or pestilence. Inasmuch as the Minoans were the principals of the tin/copper shipping network throughout the Mediterranean, the Bronze Age trade network is believed to have failed. The end of the Bronze Age and the rise of the Iron Age is normally associated with the disturbances created by large population disruptions in the 12th century B.C. The end of the Bronze Age saw the emergence of new technologies and civilizations which included the large-scale production of iron (and limited scale production of steel).
Although iron was in many respects much inferior to bronze (and steel was inefficiently produced in very limited quantities), iron had the advantage that it could be produced using local resources during the dark ages that followed the Minoan collapse, and was very inexpensive when compared to the cost of producing bronze. Bronze was still a superior metal, resisting both corrosion and metal fatigue better than iron. And bronze was still used during the Iron Age, but for many purposes the weaker iron was sufficiently strong to serve in its place. As an example, Roman officers were equipped with bronze swords while foot soldiers had to make do with iron blades.
Pliny the Elder, the famous first century Roman historian and naturalist, wrote about the reuse of scrap bronze and copper in Roman foundries, noting that the metals were recast as armor, weapons or articles for personal use, such as bronze mirrors. The melting and recasting foundries were located at the Italian port city of Brindisi. Located on the Adriatic coast, Brindisi was the terminus of the great Appian Way, the Roman road constructed to facilitate trade and military access throughout the Italian part of the Roman Empire. The city was the gateway for Roman
penetration into the eastern parts of her empire (Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea Region, the Danubian Provinces, and eventually Mesopotamia).
HISTORY OF ROME:
One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. In exchange for a very modest amount of contemporary currency, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,000 year old piece of jewelry. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.). In the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans and Celts. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled the Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt in the 1st Century (B.C.).
The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. For a brief time, the era of “Pax Romana”, a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine temporarily arrested the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. Valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably these ancient citizens would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, two thousand years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. Roman Soldiers oftentimes came to possess large quantities of “booty” from their plunderous conquests, and routinely buried their treasure for safekeeping before they went into battle. If they met their end in battle, most often the whereabouts of their treasure was likewise, unknown.
Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day two thousand years or more after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, new markets have opened eager to share in these treasures of the Roman Empire.
HISTORY OF AGATE: Agate is named after its ancient source, the Achates River in Sicily, now known as the Drillo River, which remains a major source of this gemstone. The gemstone was so named by the 4th century B.C. ancient Greek Philosopher/Naturalist Theophrastus, who “discovered” the stone along the shore line of the river (there’s a dissenting opinion that the word agate is derived from the Greek word "agate??" – meaning happy). The Greeks used agate for making jewelry and beads. Ancient Greek mariners wore amulets of agate to protect against the perils of the sea. The Ancient Greeks also used agate to relieve stomach pains and diarrhea. However agate had already been used for by man for decorative and amuletic purposes for thousands of years prior to the ancient Greeks, first by Stone Age man in France around 25,000 B.C. Archaeological discoveries demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians used agate well prior to 3,000 B.C. for talismans, amulets, seals, rings and vessels. In the Ptolemaic Period (fourth century B.C. to first century A.D.) the ancient Egyptians carved agate carved into scarabs. The ancient Egyptians believed that gray agate when worn around the neck would protect against and heal stiffness of the neck.
Agate was also extremely popular for use in jewelry in ancient Sumer, and agate was amongst the archaeological artifacts excavated at the Knossos site on Crete evidencing its use by the Bronze Age Minoan culture (about 1,800 B.C.). Persian magicians were believed to possess the power to divert storms through the use of agate talismans. Ancient Persians also believed that agate would confer eloquence upon the wearer. The ancient Persians (as well as other ancient Near Eastern cultures) also used agate as an antidote to fevers by placing the agate in the mouth. It was said to relieve thirst and reduce body temperature. The ancient Babylonians used red agate to treat insect bites and stings, green agate to treat eye infections, and black agate (onyx) to protect women from disease. Agate talismans were worn in the Ancient Middle East to keep the blood healthy. In ancient Asia, agates were used by seers and magicians to see into the future.
Agate was highly valued as a talisman or amulet in many other ancient cultures. It was said to quench thirst and protect from fevers. Another widespread belief in the ancient world was that wearing agate as a talisman would render the wearer invisible, thereby protecting the wearer from danger. Athletes throughout the ancient world wore agate amulets with the belief that agate would give them extra energy during competition and help them recover their strength afterwards. Agate was also worn by various ancient cultures as protection against drowning, falling, mischievous fairies and poison, and was also believed an effective talisman to protect young children from harm. Farmers in many ancient civilizations (including the Romans) wore agate talismans to ensure a good harvest.
The Romans, as well as the ancient Greeks, made extensive use of agate in their production of cameos and intaglio seals (as in signet rings). Moss agate, according to the Romans, had a divine power and an agate stone was used to grind ingredients for lotions and other ointments on, believing it would improve one's eyesight and/or disposition. A famous collection of four thousand agate bowls that was accumulated by Mithradates, king of Pontus (Hellenic Turkey)Hellenic Turkey) is illustrative of the high value the ancient world had for agate. Agate bowls were also popular in the Byzantine Empire. Collecting agate bowls became common among European royalty during the Renaissance and many museums in Europe, including the Louvre, have spectacular examples.
Early Celts in Britain used the gem to prevent skin disease, and in Celtic mythology orange agate was believed to be a powerful protection against Dragons. The Vikings and Saxons used agate to find lost items by ax and stone, a method of divination known as “axinomancy”. A double-headed ax would be made red-hot and then the shaft pushed into a hole. A round agate pebble would then be placed on the upright ax head. If the pebble stayed on top of the ax, the questioner had to look elsewhere for the lost item. If the pebble fell to the ground, the questioner had to follow the direction of the rolling stone to find the missing item.
During the Roman wars with the Gauls (in the first century B.C.), agate deposits were discovered along the Nahe river (a tributary to the Rhine) in Germany. The gem-cutting facilities set up there by the Romans survived until present day and, although the deposits are now depleted, the city of Idar-Oberstein on the Nahe river is still the major lapidary center of Europe. Particularly from the 16th century onwards, huge quantities of cameos were cut from agate where layers of different colors occurred within the stone. The background material was cut away, leaving the cameo design in relief.
In the Middle Ages and through to the Renaissance agate was worn as a talisman in the belief it could prevent harm from thunder and lightening, sorcery, poison, drunkenness and demonic possession. Medieval shamans and sorcerers believed that agate allow them to divine the truth. Agate was also believed to remove curses and spells, and to help eliminate bad luck. In Renaissance Europe, agate was believed to have a calming effect during times of stress and to give the wearer strength and courage. Renaissance-era artists and writers wore agate in the belief it would enhance creativity. Wearing agate was also believed to improve vitality and physical strength, relieve headache pain, ensure marital and romantic fidelity, stimulate the intellect, and suppress anger. Agate was prized in Czarist Russia as a stone of long life, good health and prosperity.
Agate is a variety of chalcedony quartz composed of colorful microscopic crystals of quartz occurring in bands of varying color and transparency. Most agates start as gas bubble cavities in eruptive rocks or ancient lava. Silica laden water seeps into the bubbles and coagulates to a silica gel, eventually crystallizing as quartz. Agate is found in a wide variety of patterns and beautiful colors, and can be transparent to opaque. Many fossils (such as petrified wood, petrified coral, and even dinosaur bones) are agatized material where the original organic substance has been replaced by agate while retaining the original structure. The primary sources of agate today are Brazil, Uruguay, China, India, Madagascar, Mexico, the Ural Mountains of Russia, and the USA.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world it was believed that wearing agate made a person agreeable, happy, and cautious yet brave. Ancient cultures used it as a talisman as it was believed to bestow on the wearer protection against all dangers. White agate was used as a cure for insomnia and guaranteed pleasant dreams. Agate was also believed to improve memory and concentration, increase stamina and encourage honesty, as well as aiding wearers to remain calm and focused.
Contemporary practitioners attribute agate with fostering the ability to discover one's natural talents, enhancing analytical ability, and improving perceptiveness. It is believed to create a healthy balance between the physical, emotional and spiritual state of the wearer. Agate is reported to be an aid in overcoming fears and loneliness. It helps one view themselves with more clarity and view the world with a broader perspective. It is claimed to eliminate and cleanse “negative energies” from the body, and is thought to stimulate fertility and to be effective in treating bone marrow ailments and allergies. Due to the association with precision, agates are touted as useful talismans for accountants and bankers. And as in the distant past, agate is still considered an effective talisman which will increase wealth, good luck, long life, courage and strength; and to help protect and heal the wearer.
SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.
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