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A LATE ROMAN GOLD AND SAPPHIRE FINGER RING WITH A PORTRAIT BUST OF AN IMPERIAL WOMAN
A LATE ROMAN GOLD AND SAPPHIRE FINGER RING WITH A PORTRAIT BUST OF AN IMPERIAL WOMAN
A LATE ROMAN GOLD AND SAPPHIRE FINGER RING WITH A PORTRAIT BUST OF AN IMPERIAL WOMAN
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A LATE ROMAN GOLD AND SAPPHIRE FINGER RING WITH A PORTRAIT BUST OF AN IMPERIAL WOMAN

CIRCA EARLY 4TH CENTURY A.D.

Details
A LATE ROMAN GOLD AND SAPPHIRE FINGER RING WITH A PORTRAIT BUST OF AN IMPERIAL WOMAN
CIRCA EARLY 4TH CENTURY A.D.
Gem: ½ in. (1.2 cm.) long; Hoop: 1 ¼ in. (3.1 cm.) wide
Provenance
Giorgio Sangiorgi (1886-1965), Rome, acquired and brought to Switzerland, late 1930s; thence by continuous descent to the current owners.
Literature
J. Boardman and C. Wagner, Masterpieces in Miniature: Engraved Gems from Prehistory to the Present, London, 2018, p. 158, no. 144.

Lot Essay

This substantial gold setting is flat on the interior, with the exterior bisected by a carinated ridge, the shoulders angled. The flat top has a raised bezel conforming to the natural shape of the sapphire. Engraved on its convex surface is a draped portrait bust of a woman. Her hair is arranged in the so-called Helmfrisur with a small bun at the back. The underside of the stone seems to have three letters, perhaps SND.

The shape and color of this sapphire, almost certainly from Sri Lanka, is rare in the West before the Early Byzantine period. Most sapphires that reached the Mediterranean were drilled at the source for use as a bead, although that is not the case with the present example. Therefore, a Constantinian date for this ring seems most likely. A possible candidate for the identification of the portrait is Empress Fausta (Flavia Maxima Fausta, 289–326 A.D.), the daughter of the Roman Emperor Maximian and the wife of Constantine I. The marriage was arranged in order to seal the alliance between the two men for control of the Tetrarchy. The marriage took place in 307 A.D., after Constantine set aside his first wife Minervina. The style of the facial features and the treatment of the hair is comparable to that found on coins bearing her portrait, such as the example show here from the collection of the American Numismatic Society.

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