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Full text of "Antique gems: their origin, uses, and value as interpreters of ancient history; and as illustrative of ancient art: with hints to gem collectors"


Park Street, Bristol 





Bv HKV. ('. W. K I XG. M. A. 


Gemmte supeisant et ia arctum coacta rerum naturse majestas miiliis 
nulla sui partfl mirabilior." Plis. Nat Hist, xxxvii. i. 



ON N M I i;i:.\ V. A i.iii:m a ulk sti: i:i:t 


The right of TtatislcUion if reserinl. 


A^ave; Catneo. Plasma 

P K E F A C E. 

Probably at no period in England has art in its various rela- 
tions been so intelligently illustrated and so fully investi- 
gated as during the last ten years. The numerous exhibitions 
of works of art, both in this country and on the Continent, 
have doubtless partly contributed to this result ; and with 
increased development of taste there has sprimg up at the 
same time an earnest desire to investigate the principles of 
ancient art in its various productions, and to trace the dif- 
ferent phases through which it has passed before it attained 
its highest degree of excellence. Every department of art, 
both ancient and mediaeval, lias found its expositor or histo- 
rian ; and the amateur or student who desires to make him- 
self acquainted with the painting, sculpture, or pottery of 
ancient or media)val times, can at once be referred to able 
treatises which will furnish him with the fullest information 
on those and kindred subjects. But there is one department 
of art in which the ancients peculiarly excelled, and of which 



they have bequeathed us the most exquisite specimens of 
their genius and skill, which has been comparatively neg- 
lected in this country, or at least has not received the atten- 
tion due to its importance : I mean their Engraved Gems. 
It may with truth be asserted that there are few remains of 
ancient art so replete with grace and beauty as the engraved 
gems of antiquity ; and when we take into consideration the 
important uses they have subserved to the historian, archae- 
ologist, and artist, it seems unaccountable that this valuable 
brancli of art should have been so long neglected; yet 
it is a fact that there does not exist in our language any 
scientific treatise or popular manual to which the student can 
be referred who is desirous of entering upon the study of this 
most instructive subject. Of this I can speak from experi- 
ence, for on myself commencing the study of antique gems 
several years ago, during a long residence at Eome and 
Florence, though with ample opportunities of gaining prac- 
tical information as far as regards the gems themselves, I 
felt greatly the want of some manual to guide me, not 
merely in the first principles and the history of the glyptic 
art (which has been attempted, though very sketchily, by 
Millin), but of one that should, to some extent at least, 
serve to guard me against the usual errors into which be- 
ginners fall, and one which should supply, as far as possible, 
that experience to obtain which practically, we must, as 
Goethe says, pay many a heavy apprentice-fee. Hitherto, as 
far as my reading has gone, nothing of the kind has been 
attempted in our language, except in the excellent series of 
essays, entitled ' Old Eings,' which appeared in ' Eraser's 
Magazine ' during the year 1856 ; and the standard work has 
remained the ' Pierres Gravees ' of Mariette, published more 
than a century before. The books named in the list of 
authors given at the end of this volume furnish indeed 


many valuable hints, but tlioso arc dispersed through volu- 
minous treatises, and are only to be selected, with profit to 
himself, by a reader already to some degree conversant with 
the practical details of the science. I have therefore here 
put together my own observations, the accumulated memo- 
randa of many years, and the results of the careful examina- 
tion of many thousands of gems of all ages and of every style. 
These I have illustrated by passages from ancient authors, 
and by copious extracts from other sources, tending to eluci- 
date the matters herein discussed. This book had in fact its 
first origin in a series of notes jotted down in my pocketbook 
whenever a gem of particular interest came under my inspec- 
tion, or whenever any passage of the author I chanced to be 
reading contributed at all to the explanation of the difficulties 
that beset my entrance upon this study ; so that it may be 
described as a series of solutions of the numerous problems 
which the incipient gem-collector has hitherto been obliged 
to work out for himself, at a vast expenditure of time, temper, 
and money. Most of these translated passages will be found 
given at length (though occasionally but in part bearing upon 
or illustrating the point under consideration) whenever it ap- 
peared to me that they would lose their interest by curtailment. 
IMany repetitions will be found in the course of these pages, 
and these I have allowed to remain in revising the sheets, in 
order to make each article, as it were, complete in itself, this 
treatise being chiefly designed for a book of reference, to be 
consulted by means of the copious index annexed. Thus by 
the aid of these repetitions the reader will to some degree be 
spared the trouble of referring from one article to another, 
since many of them may be considered as independent essays, 
in each of which the particular subject discussed, together 
with everything bearing upon it, has been worked out to the 
best of my ability, and according to the extent of the materials 

b 2 


at my disposal. The various disquisitions upon coins and coin- 
dies may at first sight appear foreign to the professed design 
of these pages ; but as they were indisputably the productions 
of the same class of artists as the engravers of the gems, and 
are, besides this, almost the sole means we have of deter- 
mining the date of the gems with which they coincide in the 
identity of workmanship and of treatment, it seemed unad- 
visable to pass them over without some slight consideration. 
The long series of extracts relative to the mediaeval supersti- 
tions as to the powers of gems and of their " sigils," absurd 
as they may seem to the ordinary reader, are yet of great inte- 
rest to the student of the history of the Middle Ages ; for in 
the writers of that period allusions to such ideas are of fre- 
quent occurrence, and are hardly to be understood without 
some previous acquaintance with this belief, at that time an 
established article of faith. The ' Lapidarium ' of Marbodus, 
besides its interest as the earliest didactic poem since the classic 
times, was for five centuries the received text-book on mine- 
ralogy for all the students of Mediaeval Europe ; and, together 
with the extracts from Orpheus and Pliny, completes the 
chain of the ancient writers on stones from Theophrastus the 
founder of the science. 

The very extensive and interesting class of Gnostic gems 
has never hitherto been treated of in any English work that 
has come in my way, except in the brief sketch by Dr. Walsh, 
itself little more than an abridgment of the ' Apistopistus ' of 
Macarius. I have therefore bestowed a considerable amount 
of care upon this portion of the treatise, and have described 
in detail all the most interesting types that have passed under 
my examination. In the course of my researches for intagli 
belonging to the latest period of the art, I have been for- 
tunate enough to meet with authentic notices of many of 
great interest, and executed some centuries after the date 


usually assigned to the complete extinction of gem-engraving 
in Europe. Of these, full descriptions will be given in the 
appropriate sections. 

The treasures of ancient art in Great Britain, as seen in its 
great national museum and in the residences of private indi- 
viduals, will probably bear comparison with those of any other 
country in Europe in magnitude and interest, and perhaps in 
no class of antiquities is it richer than in antique gems. The 
collection in the British Museum, though scarcely on a par, 
numerically speaking, with its other monuments of ancient 
art its statues, vases, bronzes, and coins is nevertheless of 
great value and importance, containing as it does specimens 
of the finest and rarest types of gem-sculptures, as I shall 
presently take occasion to show in a chapter specially devoted 
to this collection ; but by far the greatest number of these 
miniature monuments of art are to be found in the cabinets of 
our noble and wealthy amateurs. Besides the large and valu- 
able collections of the Dukes of Marlborough and Devonshire, 
Lord Londesborough, Messrs. Pulsky, Khodes, Uzielli, &c., 
there exist numerous smaller collections, varying in number 
from one hundred to two hundred gems, scattered over the 
length and breadth of the land, in Avhich are to be found, 
buried as it were from the world of connoisseurs, many of the 
choicest relics of the glyptic art. Indeed there are few Eng- 
lishmen of refined and cultivated taste, versed at the same 
time in the literature of Greece and Kome, who have resided 
or travelled in classic lands, who have not brought home 
with them some of these miniature memorials of the genius 
and skill of the ancient artists of those countries. Nor can 
we be surprised when we consider that not only is a. refined 
and cultivated taste required for a just appreciation of these 
interesting relics, but a familiar acquaintance M'itli the myths 
and legends, historic events, manners and customs of Greece 


and Rome ; and when these qualifications are combined in 
any one, then will he be able fully to admire the wonderful 
force and beauty with which the ancient gem-engraver has 
contrived to represent, upon the most limited area, those 
scenes and actions with which he is so familiar, and which he 
is able to recognise at a glance. Such a one, too, is prepared 
to survey with admiration and interest the portraits of those 
distinguished men whose words and deeds history has handed 
down to us, and whose features have been reproduced and 
perpetuated on the imperishable gem. Various other reasons 
may be assigned for the great number of fine antique gems 
which have found their way into the collections of this 
country. The frequent revolutions and political commotions 
which have disturbed the continent of Europe have rendered 
England the asylum of many deposed princes, and of innu- 
merable political refugees. Some of these have brought with 
them cabinets of gems, and others a few rings, which from 
their portability would naturally be laid hold of at the mo- 
ment of their flight in preference to more cumbersome valu- 
ables ; and these, in their hour of necessity, the o\vners being 
compelled to part with, have been readily secured by the 
amateurs of this country. Hence it has been remarked by 
foreigners that there is no capital in Europe in which a collec- 
tion of gems can be formed in so short a time as in London. 

It is not my design in this work to describe or even to 
briefly notice the gems to be found in the principal collections 
of Europe, as such an undertaking could not be brought 
within the compass of a single volume. I have restricted 
myself, as I may here explain, in the selection of the various 
types and characteristics of gem-sculpture, principally, though 
by no means exclusively, to the Herz and the Mertens- 
Schaafhausen Collections the former as being the best 
known in this cuuntrv, and the latter as the one to which I 


have had constant access through the kindness of the present 
possessor, and which, from its vast extent of nearly two thou- 
sand stones, comprises examples of every period of style and 
art. I have nevertheless deemed it advisable to insert a brief 
sketch of the more remarkable gems in our great national 
collection, both because there is no published account of them, 
and that they are probably less known to the public than 
any other class of its ancient treasures. I shall also devote 
a few pages to the consideration of the finest works of the 
Devonshire Collection, as there exists no catalogue raisonne 
of this celebrated cabinet. The Marlborough Collection has 
been more fortunate in this respect, the choicest of its con- 
tents having been described and figured in two of the most 
magnificent volumes ever published, the pencil of Cipriani 
and the graver of Bartolozzi having been engaged for its 
production. Mr. Pulsky's fine collection may now also be 
claimed as one of our English treasures in this department, 
as he has for so many years resided and collected amongst us. 
It has afforded me several fine examples of important classes 
of both camei and intagli. The very extensive and valuable 
cabinet of gems belonging to Mr. Uzielli has been formed 
chiefly by the selection of the choicest stones from the Herz 
Collection, and further augmented by the addition of many 
precious camei, lately acquired in Italy. 

These descriptions, observations, and extracts will be found 
arranged according to a long-considered system of my own, 
under certain general heads, thus divided : 

Section I. Materials : gems themselves. 

II. Art : the different styles. 

III. Subjects. 

IV. IMystic properties of gems and ot their sigils. 

I'lato, contempoi-aiy portrait, bard 



All persons who have had any practical acquaintance with 
the subject of Antique Gems are agreed as to the important 
assistance which this class of relics of ancient art affords to 
tlie artist, the antiquary, and the historian, in their respective 
departments. In the first point of view, these small yet 
indestructible monuments preserve to us exact representations 
of tlie most celebrated works of the ancient sculptor, long 
since either destroyed, or else lost to the world. There is no 
doubt that every ancient statue, either of especial sanctity, 
or of great celebrity on account of its artistic merit, was 
faithfully reproduced in the miniature work of the gem- 
engraver, with that honesty of treatment so justly pointed 
out by Goethe in tlie passage hereafter to be quoted. Thus, 
in the poetical description, by Christodorus, of the seventy- 
two antique masterpieces in bronze that adorned the Gym- 
nasium of Zeuxippus in the Gth century, the choicest selections 
from the plunder of tlie Hellenic world, we recognise at the 
first glance the originals of many of the representations only 
preserved to our times by the means of their copies on gems 
of a slightly later period than that of their own production. 
The Apoxyomenos of Callicrates, which was pronounced the 
" Canon" or model of statuary in bronze, but which, together 


with almost all the other works in that metal, has perished in 
the times of barbarism, is allowed by all archaeologists to 
have been the original of the famous intaglio in the Marl- 
borougli cabinet, an athlete using the strigil, itself also 
classed amongst the finest engravings known. Tlie Apollo 
Delphicus too, supporting his lyre upon the head of a Muse 
by his side, a subject often reproduced without any variation, 
and usually in Mork of the greatest excellence, is incontest- 
ably the copy of some very famous and highly revered statue 
of this deity, then in existence. Again, amongst the Mertens- 
Schaafhausen gems my attention was attracted by a singular 
design, the same god armed \\ith his bow and arrows in his 
one hand, and with the other holding the fore-feet of a stag 
standing erect : the wliole composition betokening an archaic 
epoch. There can be small doubt but that this little Sard 
has handed down to us a faithful idea of the bronze group by 
the early statuary Canachus, which from its singularity was 
accounted the chief ornament of the Didymeon at Athens : 
an AjJoUo thus holding a stag, the hind feet of which were 
so ingeniously contrived by means of springs and hinges in 
tlie toes, that a thread could be passed between them and 
the base on which they rested, a mechanical tour de force 
thought worthy by I'liny of particular mention. 

.Aijo]1o of Cnnaclius : Roma 

In the same manner we obtain representations of note- 
worthy edifices long since reduced ])y time into heaps of 


undistiiiguishable ruins. Again, if we consider the merits of 

the engravings as works of art, we have in them perfectly 

preserved examples of the taste and skill of those ages when 

the love of the beautiful flourished in its fullest extent, 

unfettered by prejudice, tradition, or conventional rules ; 

whilst, from the unlimited demand during those ages for 

engraved gems, both for the use of signets and for personal 

decorations, artists of the highest ability did not disdain to 

exert their skill upon the narrow field of the precious stone. 

The unparalleled perfection and vigour of many of these 

performances are a sufficient proof that they proceeded 

directly from the master-hand, and were not mere slavish 

copies by a mechanic after the design supplied to him by the 

genius of another. Besides this moral proof, we have the 

direct testimony of Pliny (xxxv. 45) that such a distinguished 

modeller and statuary as Pasiteles also employed himself iu 

the chasing of metals and in engraving upon gems. This 

artist, one of the latest lights of the Hellenic art, was a 

native of Magna Grajcia and a contemporary of Varro, who 

highly praises his skill. On the revival of learning, antique 

gems were amongst the first relics of better times to claim 

the attention of men of taste to their intrinsic beauty, and to 

the perfection of the work displayed upon them, and no 

longer as objects merely to be prized, as in the preceding 

centuries, for their fancied magical or medicinal virtues. 

Hence, amongst the other measures taken by Lorenzo dei 

Medici towards fostering the dawning arts of design, we are 

informed by Vasari that he established a school in his gardens 

exclusively appropriated for the instruction of students in 

gem engraving, and for the execution of similar works in 

emulation of those ancient treasures which he so zealously 

accumuhited. The large number of magnificent Camei 

marked with his name, lavh. mep., still preserved in the 


Florentine Cabinet, notwithstanding the yet larger propor- 
tion scattered over the other collections of Euroj^e in con- 
sequence of the subsequent revolutions of that commonwealth, 
attest to our times the eagerness with which he sought after 
these relics of ancient skill, and the high importance which 
lie attached to their acquisition. They were in truth, at that 
period, before many antique statues or bas-reliefs had been 
brought to light, the sole means of obtaining perfect and 
satisfactory examples of the artistic excellence of the Greek 
and Koman ages. And in no other department was this 
prince more successful in raising up a school of skilful artists 
than in this particular one, for the early Italian Camei 
approach so closely to the Roman, both in spirit and in 
treatment, that to distinguish between them often baffles 
the most extensive experience and leaves the real date of the 
work a matter of dispute and of uncertainty. But fifteen 
centuries before the days of Lorenzo, his illustrious proto- 
type MsBcenas had regarded this same branch of art with 
especial favour, and has left striking evidences of his pre- 
dilection for its productions in the scanty fragments of his 
writings ; and, as a general observation, it will be found that, 
the more extensive the knowledge of the man of taste in the 
other lines of creative art, the more readily will he appreciate 
the distinctive excellences of this one in particular ; as is 
clearly shown by the remarks of Goethe when this to him 
entirely new field first opened on his view. For none but 
smatterers in art ever estimate the value of a work by the 
rule of its dimensions ; the man of true taste only looks at 
the mind displayed in the production, not at the extent of 
surface over which its result may be diffused. The feeling 
which induces the pretender to taste to slight the genius 
embodied within the small compass of the gem, merely on 
account of its minuteness, is the same in its nature as that 


which has prompted all races, as well at the dawn as at the 
decline of the fine arts, to erect monuments which aim at 
producing effect by their magnitude alone. Pausanias ob- 
serves satirically that, "only Komans and Ehodians pride 
themselves upon the possession of colossi," whilst the master- 
pieces of G-reek skill rarely exceeded the size of life. And 
thus, Cellini, piqued by a remark of M. Angelo (made on 
seeing a small medallion of Atlas, chased by the former) 
" that an artist might very well be able to excel in such 
small designs and yet be incompetent to produce any work 
of merit on a grander scale," in order to demonstrate the 
falsity of this unjust assertion, immediately set about the 
model of his famous Perseus, which most judges will pro- 
bably agree in considering as superior to any statue left us 
by his overweening critic. 

It has been very justly observed by the author of ' Thoughts 
on Antique Cameos and Intaglios ' that, although the work 
on gems, whether in relief or sunk, be confined to a very 
narrow space, and though, by reason of its necessary minute- 
ness, it make not the direct, immediate, and powerful im- 
pression upon the imagination and affections which is felt 
when we behold figures of life or above life-size, in high or 
low relief, or when given to the eye on pedestals as statues, 
still it remains an unquestionable fact, that in all that relates 
to anatomical truth, expressiveness of attitude and aspect, 
gracefulness of drapery, and every other detail and accom- 
paniment of fine workmansliip, the Greek, Sicilian, and 
Roman artists were eminently distinguished, and especially 
in that simplicity of contour and composition and masterly 
ordonnance that have ever made the study of antique gems 
so serviceable for the settlement of the principles and the 
improvement of the practice of painting and sculpture. 
Hence the lovers of the fine ails, and especially artists 


themselves, may discover the importance of the study of the 
antique in this particular branch of workmanship. For 
herein, says Mariette, knowledge is brought under the 
dominion of a noble and lovely simplicity, which suffers 
nothing to be brought before the eye but what is required 
for the elevation of our ideas. And to the same effect is 
the remark of Gori : " What is there more pleasant than 
the contemplation of the works of the artists of antiquity, and 
to behold, slmt up as it were within the narrow compass of a 
small, it may be of a very small gem, all the majesty of a 
vast design, and a most elaborate performance ? The art of 
engraving figures upon these minute stones was as much 
admired by the ancients as that other sort of laborious skill 
which produced full-sized statues out of bronze or marble. It 
may even be said that gems in their eyes were of greater 
value by reason of the extreme smallness of the stones, and 
a hardness that defied the steel tool, and submitted to nothing 
but the power of the diamond." 

In short, it may be safely affirmed that the gem engravers 
of the Alexandrian and Augustan ages were, in all that 
concerns excellence of design and composition (that is, in all 
those parts and principles of their art that admit of com- 
parison), rivals of the most famous workers in marble and in 
bronze, however large the dimensions of their works, or 
perfect the finish of their workmanship. These wonderful 
artists contrived to enclose within the narrowness of a little 
agate-stone all the complicated details of an event in history, 
or of a fable in mythology, and to make them stand fortli in 
beautiful relief as a Cameo, or to sink down as beautifully 
into depth as an Intaglio, with all that truth of design and 
power of expression which characterise the excellence of the 
largest works of the most consummate masters. Great indeed 
must have been his taste and talent, his power and patience. 


who could make a small-sized Onyx or Carnelian bear on its 
surface or within its substance all those realities of place, 
person, or thing, which belong to historical events or fabulous 
traditions. It is Seneca's observation (suggested probably by 
the sight of some production of the gem-engraver's skill), that 
to enclose a whole within a small space is the work of a great 
artist. The remark of Sir Joshua Keynolds may also be cited 
on this point, as to the importance of making this whole con- 
gruous and consistent. " Excellence," says he, " in every part 
and in every province of our art, from the highest style of his- 
tory down to the resemblances of still-life, will depend upon 
this power of extending the attention at once to the whole, 
without which the greatest diligence is vain." The gem-artists 
of antiquity, besides their other claims to our admiration, had 
regard to uniformity of design, to congruity and consistency 
throughout the entire work ; they took care that all its parts 
wore well fitted, and compactly distributed and disposed, and 
that also in all their fulness and effect. 

To the archoBologist, or the inquirer into the usages of 
domestic life amongst the ancients, engraved gems are in- 
valuable authorities, supplying as they do the most authentic 
details of the forms and construction of innumerable articles 
connected with the uses of war, of navigation, of religious rites, 
of the games of the circus and the arena, and of the festivals 
and representations of the stage, with the costume, masks, and 
all the other accessaries of the scenic performance. Let any 
one, though totally unversed in this department of antique 
knowledge, cast his eye over a good collection of impressions 
from gems, and he will be both surprised and delighted, if a 
classical scholar, to perceive how much light is thrown upon 
ancient customs by the pictures which will there faithfully 
offer themselves to his view. There he will see the various 
pieces of the armour of the ancient Greek or Etruscan war- 


rior, carefully made out in their minutest details ; the obscure 
subject of the construction of the ancient trireme has been 
principally elucidated by the representations thus handed 
down to our times, whilst the various exercises, scenes, and 
games of the palaestra, the theatre, and the circus, will be 
found abundantly illustrated by the most instructive examples. 
To take but a single instance out of the innumerable list 
that might be quoted, the hydraulis and the mode of per- 
forming upon it, of which no accurate notion can be extracted 
from the long and obscure description of its construction 
given by Yitruvius, are both plainly shown upon a plasma of 
Roman date, lately in the Herz Collection, but since fortu- 
natelv secured for the Britisli Museum. 

Vizored Helmet : Etruscan. Sard. Macedonian Helmet. Agate. 

Again, if we consider these gem-pictures in their relation 
to classic mythology and fable, we shall discover many ob- 
scure accounts left us by ancient writers on these heads, to be 
eked out and rendered intelligible by the means of these 
authentic remains of the creeds and ideas to which they 
refer ; instances of which will be met with plentifully diffused 
throughout the course of these pages. Thus, the new re- 
ligions of mixed origin that flourished under the Roman 
Empire, the Mithraic, the later Egyptian, and the various 
forms of Gnosticism, cannot be properly studied without a 
constant reference to these genuine illustrations of their 
doctrines ; since the only written documents concerning them 
have been transmitted to us by either ignoraiit or prejudiced 


adversaries, whose sole object was, to heap as many foul 
charges as they could collect or devise upon the members of 
rival sects. This is sufficiently apparent if we compare the 
strange discrepancy of the notices of the Gnostic belief gene- 
rally, as given by the Catholic Fathers from whom I have 
quoted in the section upon its monuments, and the illustration 
of the actual doctrines so plainly set forth in the talismanic 
intagli engraved at the time for the use of these religionists. 
As for the mysterious Mithraic worship, scarcely any other 
source exists from which trustworthy information as to its true 
nature can be gathered, except from the gems, cylinders, and 
bas-reliefs still existing in such abundance, in spite of the 
careful destruction by its opponents of all the larger objects 
of the adoration of its votaries. 

The disputed chronology of tlie annals of Egyptian history has 
been already to some extent, and Avill doubtless, at some future 
period, be yet more fully elucidated by the aid of the numerous 
searabei and tablets bearing the names and titles of the kings, 
whenever a more satisfactory mode of interpreting their hiero- 
glyphical legends, than the present conjectural method, shall 
have been discovered and applied to their investigation. 
These memorials will then do for the dynasties of Egypt 
that service already done by the light of tlieir medals for the 
liistories of the Greek, Koman, and Sassanian monarchs. As 
it is, the present almost universal mode of reading every 
]ii(^roglyphic legend as though relating to Thothmes III, re- 
minds one of the conamon mistake of persons not conversant 
with ancient cohis, who attribute every Roman medal to 
Augustus because they see the letters AYG impressed 
u]><>n it. 

Again, when we arrive at the period of the full develop- 
ment of tlic glyptic art, we find a series of tlie most interesting 
representations opening upon us; and one which includes, 



besides gods, heroes, and emperors, other world-famed i)er 
sonages, poets, philosophers, and warriors ; portraits of whom, 
as not occurring necessarily upon medals, we should otherwise 
be entirely deprived of, or else have the want but inade- 
quately supplied by a defaced or dubious bust or statue. 
And the intaglio possesses a most important advantage over 
the medal in the perfect indestructibility of its impress, which 
no time, no wear can efface, and nothing destroy, except the 
utter comminution of the stone itself. Medals, on the contrary, 
from the high relief of their surface, and the unavoidable 
friction of commerce, as well as from the action of the earth 
upon them, frequently disappoint our expectation as to the 
effectiveness of the portrait they bear impressed ; and besides 
this, they were seldom executed with the same degree of care 
as the costly intaglio cut on the valuable gem for the signet of 
the sovereign himself, or of that person of undying name whose 
" counterfeit presentment " it has preserved to remotest ages. 

But all the pleasures and advantages to be reaped from 
this study have been admirably set forth by the "many-sided" 
Goethe, in his observations on the collection of Hemsterhuis, 
of which I subjoin a translation, as a most complete sum- 
mary of all that can be said on the subject, and a most 
suitable conclusion to these prefatory remarks. 

Before this, however, a few words may be permitted upon 
the causes of the decline of the taste for antique gems in our 
own age ; for it is a singular fact, considering how completely 
this taste had become extinct in Englan,d during the last forty 
years, that at no previous period had it prevailed to such an 
extent, both here and in the other parts of Europe, as during 
the last half of the preceding century and the commence- 
ment of the present. Never before had camei of impor- 
tance fetched such extraordinary prices (witness the fragment 
ascribed to Apollonides, and purchased by the Duke of 


Marlborougli from Stosch for 1000 guineas) ; and the principal 
gems of the cabinets formed during the same years are known 
to have been acquired at sums falling not far short of the 
above in magnitude. I have lately seen a cameo of Roman 
work, and that by no means of the highest order, a Roma 
crowned by Victory, for which the Empress Josephine, herself 
a collector, paid 10,000 francs ; and at her command Denoii, 
then Director of the Musee Imperiale, selected from the gems 
there preserved a sufficient number to form a complete parure 
for the wear of this unfortunate lady, the very impersonation 
of refined and elegant extravagance. These gems, although 
mounted in a suite of ornaments intended, from their origin, 
to form a part of the crown jewels of France, never reverted 
to the Paris Cabinet of Antiques after the fall of the Empress, 
but were subsequently to her decease dispersed amongst the 
various collections of European amateurs. It is to be hoped 
tliat Denon had reconciled his duty with his loyalty by 
selecting those camei which were more recommendable by 
the beauty of the material than by the perfection of the 
work. At this same date also the art itself had reached the 
highest point to which it has ever attained since its revival ; 
for it is within this same space of some fifty years that we 
meet with the names of Costanzi, Rega, Pikler, and Marchant; 
and never before was skill in this profession so profusely 
rewarded, instances of which will be found adduced in the 
notices hereafter given of these engravers. 

Many causes, however, may be assigned for the sudden 
decline of the passion for collecting gems among the wealthy 
classes of this country : one of considerable influence was, 
without dispute, the uncertainty introduced into the study by 
the unlimited fabrication of professed antique works, and by 
the forging of the artists' names, a species of fraud now firet 
introduced, or at least extensively pi-actised, and of which the 

c 2 


Poniatowsky collection may be cited as the most glaring 
example. And this was a deception extremely difficult of 
detection ; and one by means of which amateurs of little 
experience were frequently defrauded out of immense sums. 
After Payne Knight, the acknowledged chief of English 
archaeologists, had been so notoriously taken in by the famous 
" Flora " of Pistrucci, all the others began to lose confidence 
in their own judgment, and refused to expend thousands in 
the purchase of " antique " works, the living authors of which 
might possibly come forward, as Pistrucci did, to assert their 
own claims to the honour of having produced them. And 
no other branch of archaeology demands the union of so many 
qualifications in the collector to enable him to advance on 
tolerably safe ground in making his acquisitions, seeing that 
a knowledge of mineralogy, of the mechanical processes of 
engraving used at different periods, as well as an accurate 
discrimination of the respective styles of art, and, above all, 
the constant examination of large numbers of all descriptions 
of engraved stones, are absolutely indispensable before pro- 
ceeding to the commencement of a collection which is in- 
tended to possess any real value. All these causes, together 
with the other drawbacks to the pleasure of this pursuit, 
enumerated in Duke Ernst's letter to Goethe, respecting the 
proposed purchase of the cabinet of Hemsterhuis, powerfully 
operated towards the discouragement of this study, both on 
the Continent, and, more especially, in this country. 

Last, but most powerful of all, came the revival of the 
taste for mediaeval art ; beginning with the study of its archi- 
tecture, and thence naturally diverging into an exclusive 
admiration of the smaller productions of the same school in 
metal-work, and wood and ivory carvings; objects of a 
character so much more adapted by their quaint grotesque- 
ness and barbarous vigour to captivate the unrefined taste of 



the amateurs of northern climes; and where a sufficient 
amount of knowledge to avoid any very damaging mistakes 
may be obtained with but little trouble, or natural sagacity, 
or acquired experience. It is satisfactory to observe how 
much more at present the attention of collectors is again 
being directed towards these little monuments of perfect 
taste, treasures only to be truly appreciated by the educated 
and practised eye ; and how rapidly the mania is ebbing for 
the acquisition of the Gothic monstrosities so much sought 
after a few years ago. No2V, when collections are brought to 
the hammer, the most ardent competition is displayed for the 
possession of the elegant art of the Renaissance as manifested 
in its majolica and bronzes ; and thus the public taste is 
insensibly led back to the fountain-head of that very school 
the study of the actual productions of classic times. This 
is shown by the great rise in the value of antique statuettes 
whenever they are offered for sale objects in which is often 
displayed the utmost perfection of antique skill ; and from the 
love of these a fresh appreciation of the importance of 
antique gems is rapidly springing up, as the vigorous com- 
petition amongst amateurs for the best gems of the cabinets 
lately disposed of abundantly testifies. 

i'romeiiious m^iking Man : Cameo. .tuyx. 

Amymoae; Early Greeli. Sard 


"This estimable man (Hemsterlmis) had been led to 
strive indefatigably after both the Moral as regards the soul, 
and the Tasteful as regards the senses ; and this with a 
sagacious aeuteness peculiar to himself. If a person is to be 
thoroughly imbued with the former, then ought he always to 
be surrounded by the latter ; hence for a private person who 
cannot go to the expense of large collections, but who yet is 
unable to dispense with liis accustomed enjoyment of art, even 
when on a journey, for such a person a cabinet of engraved 
gems is in the highest degree desirable ; he is everywhere 
accompanied by the most delightful of all things, one that 
is precious and instructive without being burdensome, whilst 
he enjoys without interruption the most noble of all his pos- 

" But to attain this end it is not enough merely to will it ; 
for the carrying it out, besides the money, opportunity above 
all things is required. Tliis last was not wanting to our 
friend : living as he did upon the passage between England 
and Holland, by keeping watch upon the perpetual com- 


mercial intercourse between the two countries, and upon tlie 
treasures of art constantly passing to and fro in that com- 
merce, he gradually, by means of purchase and of exchange, 
had succeeded in forming a fine collection of about seventy 
gems, in doing which he had derived the most trustworthy 
assistance from the advice and interposition of that excellent 
gem-engraver Natter. 

" Of this collection the Princess Galitzin had in great 
measure watched the formation, and thus gained knowledge, 
taste, and a liking for the pursuit ; and at that time she was 
its possessor, as the bequest of a departed friend, who always 
appeared to her as present in these treasures. 

' The philosophy of Hemsterhuis I could only make my 
own, together with its grounds and its ideas, by translating 
them into my own language. The Beautiful and the pleasure 
derived from it consists, as lie expresses himself, when we 
behold and conceive comfortably the greatest possible number 
of images in one and the same moment. I, on the contrary, 
must assert that the Beautiful consists when we contemplate 
tlie normally Living in its greatest activity and perfection, by 
which we feel ourselves excited in a lively manner to the 
reproduction of tlie same, and also placed simultaneously in a 
state of the highest activity. 

" Accurately considered, all that has been said is one and 
the same thing, only expressed by different persons ; and 1 
refrain from saying more, for the Beautiful is not so much a 
giv(!r as a promiser. On the other hand. Ugliness, which has 
its origin in the sto^jpiiig short of its end, of itself causes 
us to stop still, and to hope for. iiim at, and expect nothing 
at all. 

" Accordingly, I fancied that I could interpret his * Letter 
on Sculpture' according to the above rule, consistently with 
mv own scntinunls ; ami Inrthcr, his little work 'On Desire" 


appeared to me in this way intelligible ; for when the eagerly- 
longed-for Beautiful comes into our possession, it does not 
always make good in particulars what it promised in the 
whole; and thus is it plain that the same thing which 
excited our desire as a whole will sometimes not thoroughly 
satisfy us in particulars. 

" These considerations were so much the more important 
as the Princess had observed her friend to long eagerly for 
works of art, but to grow cold and weary in their possession ; 
a fact which he has himself expressed so charmingly and so 
cleverly in the above-mentioned little treatise. In such cases 
a person has really to consider the difference as to whether 
the subject is worthy of the enthusiasm felt for it ; if it be, 
then must pleasure and admiration always grow upon it, and 
perpetually renevr themselves ; if it be not entirely so, then 
the thermometer sinks some degrees, and one gains in know- 
ledge what one loses in prejudice. Hence is it certainly 
quite true that a person must huy works of art in order to 
understand them, so that the desire may be removed and the 
true value of the object established. Meanwhile, desire and 
its satisfaction must here also alternate with one another in a 
thrilling life ; they must mutually attack and release each 
other, in order that the man once deceived may not cease to 

" However, it was often extremely agreeable to our party 
to return again after these aesthetic disquisitions to the con- 
sideration of the gems, and we were in truth forced to re- 
gard this as a most singular incident that precisely the very 
flowers of Heathenism should thus be treasured up and so 
highly valued in a Christian family.^ I lost no time in 

' The Princess is depicted by Goethe as the very pattern of the perfect 
Christian lady. 


discovering the most charming subjects of the compositions 
which sprung to meet the eye from out of these precious 
miniature representations. Here also no one could deny that 
copies of great, important, antique works, for ever lost to 
us, have been preserved like jewels in these narrow limits. 
Hardly any branch of art wanted a representative among 
them ; in scarcely any class of subjects was a deficiency to 
be observed. The vigorous, ivy-crowned Hercules could not 
belie his colossal origin ; the stern Medusa's head, the Bacchus 
formerly preserved in the Medicean cabinet, the graceful 
sacrifices, the Bacchic festivals, and besides all these the most 
valuable portraits of known and unknown persons, all ob- 
tained our admiration during oft-repeated examinations. 

" From out of such conversations, which, in spite of their 
height and depth, ran no danger of losing themselves in the 
abstruse, a point of connection appeared to manifest itself 
between art and religion, inasmuch as all veneration for a 
worthy object is always attended by a devotional feeling. 
No one however could conceal from himself that the purest 
Christian religion must ever find itself at variance with the 
true creative art, inasmuch as the former ever strives to 
extricate itself from the objects of sense, whilst the latter 
recognises the sensuous element as its proper sphere of 
action, and is obliged to abide within its limits. 

" Notwithstanding this, the subject of engraved gems could 
always be introduced as an excellent intermediary whenever 
the conversation threatened to flag. I for my part could 
indeed only appreciate the poetical part of the engraving, 
the subject itself, the composition, the execution, and pass 
judgment upon and praise these points alone ; my friends, 
on the other hand, were accustomed to bring forward quite 
different considerations upon the same topic. For, in fact, 
the amateur who, liaving procured such treasures, shall 


desire to raise his acquisitions to the rank of a respectable 
cabinet, must for his own security in his enterprise, not re- 
main satisfied with the mere ability to understand the spirit 
and the sense of these precious works of art, and to delight 
himself therewith, but he must also call external proofs to 
his assistance ; a thing wliich must be excessively difficult for 
one who is not himself a practical artist in the same depart- 
ment. Hemsterhuis had corresponded for several years with 
his friend Natter on this point, letters about which of great 
value were still preserved. In these, the first thing that 
came under consideration was the species of gem on which 
the work was executed, inasmuch as some stones were 
employed only in ancient, others again only in modern 
times; thus, too, a superior degree of finish was above all 
things to be kept in view, as a reason whence one might refer 
the work to a good period of art ; whilst, on the other hand, 
carelessness of execution being sometimes ascribed to the 
taste of the period, as arising partly from incapacity, partly 
from negligence, furnished the means of ascertaining the 
earlier or later date of the work. Especial stress was laid 
upon the polish of the sunken parts, and the connoisseurs 
believed that they saw in this an irrefragable proof of work 
of the best period. But as to whether an engraved gem was 
decidedly antique or not, on tliis point no one ventured to 
lay down any fixed rules of judgment ; even our friend 
Hemsterhuis having only been able to satisfy himself on 
this particular difficulty by the decision of that unrivalled 
artist Natter. 

" I could not conceal from myself that I was here entering 
upon quite a new field of observation, to which I felt myself 
very strongly attracted, and could but lament the shortness 
of the time of my stay, by which I saw myself cut off from 
the opportunity of directing my eyes as well as mind mt)re 


steadily upon the above-mentioned particulars. On one such 
occasion the Princess expressed herself with the utmost 
amiability and frankness, that she felt disposed to intrust 
me with the collection in order that I might study it at 
home in the company of my frieuds and of connoisseurs, and 
so be able to educate and ground myself in this important 
branch of art, by taking sulphur casts and glass pastes from 
the intagli." 

This liberal offer Goethe at first declined, not wisliing to 
take upon himself the responsibility of the charge in those 
times of trouble ; however, at last the Princess obliges him to 
accept her proposal, and he carries the collection home with 
him to Weimar, where he re-arranges the gems in two cases 
in regular order, accompanied with casts taken from them to 
assist in their examination. 

The following is the result of his long and careful study of 
this invaluable collection, which I give at length, without any 
fear of its being considered tedious, as it points out in a most 
clear and forcible manner the great artistic merit displayed 
in choice works of this description : 

" We found ourselves justified on internal grounds of art 
in pronouncing, if not all, yet by far the largest number of 
these intagli, to be genuine antique monuments of art, and 
indeed several were found among them which might be 
reckoned in the number of the most distinguished works of 
this kind. Some were conspicuous from the circumstance of 
their being absolutely identical with older casts of celebrated 
gems. Several others we remarked whose design corre- 
sponded with that of other antique intagli, but which for this 
very reason might still be accounted genuine. In very 
extensive collections repetitions of the same subject often 
occur, and wo should be very much mistaken in pronouncing 
one of them to be the original, the others but modern copies. 


In such a case we ought always to keep in mind the noble 
artistic honesty of the ancients, which thought that it could 
never repeat too often the treatment of a subject once suc- 
cessfully carried out. The artists of those times considered 
themselves as original enough when they felt sufficient 
capability and dexterity to grasp an original thought, and to 
reproduce it again after their own fashion. 

"Several of these gems presented themselves with the 
artist's name engraved upon them ; a circumstance upon 
which great value has been set for many years past. Such 
an addition is in truth remarkable enough, nevertheless the 
inscription generally remains a subject of dispute, for it is 
very possible that the stone may be antique, and the name 
engraved in modern times, in order to add new value even to 
the perfect." 

This collection was afterwards purchased by the King of 
Holland. Duke Ernst of Gotha had been strongly tempted to 
make the acquisition, but had been deterred by the foUoAviug 
reasons, which are well worth transcribing, as vividly pointing 
out all the drawbacks to the pleasure of this pursuit. 

Iriton: KomuL;. Ked Jasper 

Duke Ernst writes thus to Goethe : " Much as he desired 
the possession of the collection now before him, and well 
aware as he was of its great value, yet was he held back not 
so much by inward doubts as (and in a much greater degree) 
by an external circumstance. He had no pleasui'C in pos- 
sessing anything for himself alone, but gladly shared the 


possession of it with others ; a pleasure too which was often 
greatly embittered. There are people who endeavour to 
display their penetrating sagacity by appearing to doubt the 
genuineness of every work of art laid before them, and by 
casting suspicion upon the same. In order not to expose 
himself repeatedly to such mortifications, he preferred fore- 
going the eagerly-desired acquisition of the cabinet." 

On this letter Goethe makes the following truly appro- 
priate observations : 

"It is highly vexatious to see a thing, though the most 
perfect, received with doubt ; for the doubter sets himself up 
above the trouble of proof, although he demands it from the 
assertor of the authenticity of the work. But in such cases 
on what does the proof rest, except upon a certain inward 
feeling, supported by a practised eye, which may be able to 
detect particular signs, as well as upon the proved probability 
of certain historical requisitions, and in fact upon many other 
circumstances which we, taking collectively, by ihdr means 
convince only ourselves at the last, but do not bring con- 
viction into the mind of another ? But as things are, the love 
of doubting finds nowhere a more ample field to display 
itself in than precisely in the case of engraved gems ; now, 
one is termed an ancient, now a modern copy, a repetition, an 
imitation ; sometimes the stone itself excites suspicion, some- 
times the inscription, which ought to have been of especial 
value ; and hence it is more dangerous to indulge in collect- 
ing gems than ancient coins, though even in the latter great 
cii'cumspection will be required, when, for instance, the point 
is to distinguish certain Paduan imitations from the genuine 
originals. The keepers of the French Cabinet of IMedals 
have long ago observed that private collections brought up 
to Paris from the provinces contain a large proportion of 
forgeries, because the owner, in his confined sphere of 


observation, has not been enabled to practise his eye suffi- 
ciently, and has proceeded in his operations chiefly according 
to his inclinations and his prejudices. In fine, on considering 
the matter with exactness, this holds good of all kinds of 
collections, and every possessor of one will be ready to own 
that he has paid many a heavy apprentice fee for experience 
before his eyes have been opened." 

Alexander. Reverse, Venus and AooUo. Lapis-lazuli, 

Priest adoring the Winged Bull: Early /issyriau, Lirtiusujue 



It is a curious fact that whilst the ancient mythologists have 
ascribed to some particular divinity or hero the invention 
of every useful or ornamental art, and of the instruments em- 
ployed therein (as the loom to Minerva, the saw and auger to 
1 )8Bdalus, the working in metal with the hammer and the anvil 
to Cinyras the Cyprian, the lathe to Theodorus of Samos), 
they should have left unrecorded the inventor of the various 
processes of gem-engraving, a thing too so supremely im- 
portant in their estimation, from its subservience to the uses 
of public and private life, as much as to those of taste and 
ornament. This silence on the part of the Greek mytho- 
graphers, always ready as they were to claim for their own 
countrymen the credit of every discovery or invention in 
science or manufactures, even when evidently due to foreigners 


and merely naturalized and perfected on the Hellenic soil, 
sufficiently proves both the Oriental origin of this art and its 
comparatively recent introduction into Greece and Italy. 
The negative testimony also of Homer upon this point is 
justly adduced by Pliny (xxxiii. 4), who observes that no 
mention whatever of signet-rings occurs in his minute de- 
scriptions of works in the precious metals and of jewellery, 
though he particularly specifies necklaces, earrings, and head- 
ornaments ; and as a still more convincing proof that they 
were not known in his age, whenever he speaks of the securing 
. of treasures it is always as being effected by means of an 
artfully tied knot only understood by the fastener, not by the 
impression of a seal, the usual Greek and Roman substitute for 
a lock. Again, when he speaks of the letter carried by Belle- 
rophon he makes no mention of a seal upon it, simply calling 
it a "folded tablet ; " and when the warriors cast lots, it is done 
with marked sticks and not with their signet-rings, the univer- 
sal method after the latter had come into general use. But 
on the other side, as far back as historical records go, signets 
appear as holding a most important place among the Egyp- 
tians and Assyrians : the signet of Pharaoh, given to Joseph 
as the mark of investiture with ministerial office ; the trea- 
sure-cell of Ehampsinitus secured by his seal (Herod, ii. 121) ; 
the signet of Judah given as a pledge ; the temple of Belus 
sealed with the royal signet, &c. &c. circumstances all 
showing that the use of these means of secm-ity had been 
known in the East from time immemorial, and to have been 
almost coeval with the institution of the rights of property. 
For in both these centres of primeval civilization it must be 
remembered that the soft clay of the two parent rivers, 4he 
Nile and the Tigris, supplied the first inhabitants with a 
material for almost every requirement, their houses, store 
vessels, coffins, &c. ; and it must have suggested itself to the 


first individual who deposited his property in a closed vessel 
that it might be secured against pilferers by a plaster of clay 
laid on the junction of the lid and rolled flat by a joint of a 
cane, and hence the first origin of the perforated cylinder. 
Something analogous meets us even so late as tlie days of 
Aristophanes, when we find similar nature-seals (wormeaten 
bits of wood) recommended as signets proof against all forgery, 
to whicli the more elaborate productions of the engraver were 
then so liable. From the natural impressions on the cane- 
joint, or wood employed to stamp the clay, the transition was 
easy, to some definite design scratched around its circumfe- 
rence by the owner, and appropriated by himself as his pecu- 
liar device. Tliis instinct of possession, extending itself to 
the assertion of exclusive property in certain figures or com- 
binations of lines, is a natural impulse, and found to exist 
amongst all tribes, when first discovered, wherever tlie first 
traces of social life have begun to develop themselves. Thus 
the Red Indian has the mark of his nation, and that of the 
individual (his totem), to identify his property or his game ; 
the South Sea islander the tattooed pattern (amoco) that 
distinguishes his family impressed upon his skin. These 
simple signets preceded by a long space the invention of 
hieroglyphics or any arbitrary signs for denoting ideas, for 
the earliest Assyrian cylinders have nothing but rude figures 
cut upon tliem, and bear none of those cuneiform inscriptions 
so frequently added to the design upon those t)f later date. 
And this later date is yet prior by some centuries to the first 
appearance of anything like an engraved stone amongst the 
first-oivilized nations of Europe. Again, if we look to Egypt, 
tlie incredible numbers of scarabs in clay and soft stone (of 
the same date as these cylinders) still remaining, manifest 
sutfieiently the long-established use and the groat importance 
(f the puri)oses for which they were employed amongst all 



classes of the inhabitants of that land, the fountain-head of 
European civilization. 

Egyptian Scarabs in Steascbiut, 

1. Lt'gend, uncertj 

4. Title of 'riiothmeB 111. "Tlie 

Suu-placer of Creation, tlie 

type of Amon.*' 

Hitherto, however, we have come upon no traces, in 
these earliest signets, of the true process of gem-engraving, 
for all the designs they bear have been carved by means 
of some cutting instrument upon a comparatively soft 
material the earliest Assyrian cylinders being of Serpentine, 
the Egyptian scarabs of clay or Steaschist. The invention 
of this most beautiful art is undoubtedly due to the seal- 
engravers of Nineveh, shortly before the reign of Sargon, 
the date at which cylinders first appear made out of 
the "Hard Stones" Crystal, Onyx, Agate, charged with 
engravings executed precisely in the style of the archaic 
Greek intagli, and marked by the same minuteness of detail 
and elaborateness of finish. Amongst these, the signet of 
Sennacherib may be quoted as an example most fully illus- 
trative of this assertion ; for it is made of one of the hardest 
substances known to the lapidary, the Amazon-stone, and 
bears an intaglio which by its extreme minuteness and the 
precision of the drawing displays the excellence to which the 
art had already attained, indicative of the long practice of 
the artist capable of such a work. Cylinders of nearly equal 
merit to this, and a large number of fair execution, done in 
the same style and by the same perfected process, continued 


to be produced during the whole succeeding period, down to 
the very close of the Persian empire. The Egyptians, how- 
ever, did not generally adopt this new but more laborious 
process, but continued to carve or chisel their rude hiero- 
glyphics on soft materials until the age of the Ptolemies, the 
signets of the kings and nobles being engraved on gold, those 
of the lower classes on the softer substances, and by the 
means already mentioned. The circumstance that even in 
the age of Theophrastus the best stone for engraving gems 
with was still imported from Armenia, points of itself to that 
locality as the place where its use was first discovered and 
generally adopted by the workers in this line. Although 
neglected by the Egyptians, the new mode of engraving upon 
Hard Stones was speedily taken up by the Phenicians, the 
allies or tributaries of the Assyrian and Persian kings ; for 
many seals of a purely Phenician character, yet of the earliest 
date, are found, bearing also legends in Semitic letters (of 
which they were the first inventors), and even some cylinders 
are preserved clearly attributable to the same people. They 
diffused the knowledge of this, together with the other arts, 
among the Asiatic and Insular Greeks. Homer frequently men- 
tions the Tyrian merchant-sliips voyaging amongst the islands 
of the Egean, and trafficking in ornaments and jewellery with 
the inhabitants (Odys. xv. 4G0) ; and the first intagli produced 
amongst the cities of the sea-board still bear the impress of 
an Assyrian origin in the stiff drawing yet careful execution 
of the animals (bulls or lions for the most part), the favourite 
devices upon the signets of the newly-planted Ionian or 
iEolian colonist. And this was to be expected, for it wiU be 
observed that the designs upon the scarabs of the Phenicians 
themselves deviate but little from the strict rules of the 
Assyrian code of art for instance, in the numerous gems 
irom their cemeteries at Tharros. Thence to Greece Proper 



the transition was rapid, and the signet, now for the first time 
universally worn in a finger-ring, came into general favour 
throughout all the population ; a new manner this of securing 
the seal, for its oriental inventors had invariably worn their 
cylinder or stamp as the ornament of a bracelet or necklace. 
That the invention of the finger-ring is ascribed to Pro- 
metheus, a Greek hero, and its name, IxktvXiov (a word of 
native origin unlike tliose of other personal ornaments evi- 
dently of foreign root, as /xaviaxajs and vJ/sXXtov), prove this 
to have been a purely Grecian fashion. In addition to this 
is the express statement of Pliny that the use of finger-rings 
was introduced among the Romans from Greece, and though 
gems of the most archaic style come to light on the mainland, 
yet scarabs are only disinterred in the cemeteries of the 
islands, and thus may have belonged to Phenician or 
Etruscan visitors. Be tliis as it may, signet-rings must have 
attained universal popularity in Greece before 600 B.C., soon 
after which date Solon, amongst his other laws, passed one 
prohibiting the gem-en gi-avers (already constituting a distinct 
trade) from keeping by them the impression of any signet 
once sold, in order to prevent the forgery of a counterpart or 
replica of the first for fraudulent purposes. And about this 
time also Herodotus mentions the famous emerald of Poly- 
crates and the reputation of its engraver, the jeweller and 
metal-worker Theodoras of Samos. 

Proceeding now to consider the contemporary class of 
Etruscan scarabs, we discover in them also the most evident 
traces of an Asiatic origin. Like the Phenician, they retain 
to the last the form of the beetle. The subjects cut upon the 
earliest sort are exclusively animals, domestic and wild ; it 
was only after their intercourse with the Greeks had been 
long established that they represent the figures and scenes 
derived from the mythology of that people. This may be 


explained on tlie ancient theory, that the ruling Etruscan 
caste were a civilizing band of colonists from Asia, who intro- 
duced among the Celtic (Pelasgian) aborigines of Central 
Italy an art already flourishing in their native country. At 
a later period the Hellenic settlers in Magna Gra3cia seem, 
from their constant intercourse with the Etruscans, to have 
borrowed from them the form of the scarab (doubtless still 
venerated as a religious symbol),^ but to have imparted to the 
intagli engraved upon its base that elegance and finish due to 
their own natural taste and advancement in modelling, paint- 
ing, and statuary. Hence arises the circumstance, at first sight 
so difficult of explanation, of the co-existence of two contem- 
porary classes of scarabs, one extremely rude, the other highly 
finished as regards the intagli. 

In Sicily and Magna Grcia gem-engraving, like the 
cognate art of die-sinking, attained to its highest perfection 
first. Greece itself was ever a poor country, and distracted 
by perpetual wars, whilst the colonies sent out from it were 
advancing, through commerce and agriculture, to an incre- 
dible degree of prosperity. In one Dorian colony, Cyrene, 
-iElian expressly notices the wonderful skill (or numbers) of 
the gem-engravers ; and Ismenias is reported to have sent 
from Athens to Cyprus to purchase an cnuu-ald engraved 
with Amymone, the description of which had taken his fancv. 
Most of the finest gems in our collections show, by the identity 
of their style, that they proceed from the same hands that 
cut the coin-dies for the mintage of these same cities. After 
this, the establishment of the Macedonian dynasty in Asia, 
and the command of unbounded wealth, conduced greatly to 
the encouragement of this art, pre-eminently the handmaid 

' Woisliipix'd by the Egyptians eggs, typifying the creation of the 
as the symbol of the Sun, by its glolni. (I'lin. xxx. 30.) 
forming the balls, deiHjsitories of its 



to elegant luxury. This age gives us for the first time the 
portraits of princes, whose likenesses now occupy the gem in 
the place of that of the national deity; and from many 
allusions of ancient authors (hereafter to be noticed), it would 
appear that the usual signet of any personage of importance 
was the likeness of himself. The example of this substitution 
was probably set by Alexander, and connected with his own 
assumption of divinity, which will also explain his restriction of 
the privilege of engraving his sacred portrait to Pyrgoteles, the 
first artist of the day in that branch ; for the numerous heads 
of this hero now extant are almost invariably of much later 
date, and belonging to the times of the Eoman empire, when 
they used to be worn as amulets. With his age also begins 
the series of camei, the earliest known being the grand 
Odescalchi Sardonyx of Ptolemy and Berenice, evidently a 
contemporary work. Before this time, to judge from the 
confused expressions of Theophrastus, the Sardonyx had been 
almost unknown to the Greeks, and apparently supposed to 
be an artificial composition of the Indian jeweller. 

Deraetrius rioter. Ward. 

Thus the art went on in its rapid progress to its culminat- 
ing point, its professors ranking high amongst the artists of 
the day, and their works deemed worthy of commemoration by 
the court-poets, as the Galene of Tryphon sung by Addaeus. 
They were patronised by the greatest princes ; Mithridates 


is recorded as the founder of the first royal cabinet of gems ; 
we find also a work upon this study dedicated to him by 
the Babylonian Zachalias. Unfortunately, the engravers 
never ventured to place their names upon their works much 
before the times of Augustus, so that Cronius and Apollonides, 
mentioned by Pliny as (after Pyrgoteles) eminent in this 
branch, are the only artists of this age of perfection of whom 
there exists any historical record. 

The Komaus, following their original teachers the Etruscans, 
adopted from them at first the scarab-signet, and retained 
this form until late in the republican period, as the modern- 
ized treatment of many of the intagli upon such gems plainly 
shows. It is impossible to fix the date when they began to 
substitute signet-rings for this primitive ornament. Pliny 
mentions that amongst the statues of the kings only two, 
Numa and Servius TuUius, were represented as wearing rings. 
These early signets, also, according to Ateius Capito, were 
not set with engraved stones, but had the seal cut upon the 
metal of the ring itself. When the use of gold rings was 
introduced amongst them by the Greeks (those of Sicily, no 
doubt), then engraved gems also began to be admired and 
employed for signets. This change of fashion, which took 
place in the later days of the republic, produced the nume- 
rous intagli that are turned up in the vicinity of Kome, dis- 
tinguished from those of Greek and of Imperial workmanship 
by the deeply-cut intagli upon them, retaining much of the 
Etruscan style, and giving nearly the same subjects as the 
original scarabs, but with a better defined outline and more 
correct drawing. Many of these bear traces of having been 
originally set in iron rings, and thus indicate the period of 
the first introduction of engraved stones into that city. 

But under Augustus gem-engraving in all its branches 
reached its very highest point, and more especially in the 


department of portraits. Under the patronage of Maecenas 
flourished Dioscorides, Solon, Aulus, Gnaeus ; all the talent 
of Greece ; either attracted to the metropolis of the world as 
offering the most promising field for their genius, or else 
originally brought there as the freedmen of those nobles whose 
family names they assumed on manumission. Now became 
universal the practice of the engraver placing his signature upon 
his best works, a convincing testimony to the high estimation 
in vvhich that class was held, in this permission to commemo- 
rate themselves upon the ornaments of the highest personages. 

Nereid and Hippocampi. Catneo. 

This also is the age, par-eminence, of camei, wliether portraits 
or groups, or single figures ; for those that can with certainty 
be assigned to the pure Grecian period are of extreme rarity. 
The regular intercourse now established with the interior of 
Asia supplied the Sardonyx, and that in pieces of a size and 
beauty not attainable in modern times. To Severus inclusive 
it may be said that the best works of the Eoman school are 
cameo portraits of the emperors and their relations. 

During these two centuries the trade of making Pastes was 
also carried on to an enormous extent to meet the require- 
ments of the poorer classes, who could neither dispense with 
so necessary an ornament, nor yet afford the cost of an 
engraved gem of any merit, and thus were enabled to gratify 
taste or vanity at a very trifling outlay. This business throve 
amazingly, and has left us innumerable relics of the extra- 


ordinary skiE of the workmen in glass until it ceases quite 
suddenly in the third century, together with the productions 
of the gem-engraver himself Camei were often reproduced 
in Pastes with wonderful fidelity and an admirable imitation 
of the material, especially where the cast has been re-worked 
and polished after the fashion of a gem. But Camei in Sar- 
donyx were also produced in large quantities, many of them 
extraordinary for art and material, some bearing the engra- 
ver's name, but the greater portion unsigned, until the reign 
of Severus. In fact, some of the finest extant belong to 
the times of Hadrian, the most flourishing period of Roman 
art in all its extent ; but from the date just mentioned gem- 
engraving declined and became extinct with extraordinary and 
unaccountable rapidity. Gold medallions and coins had super- 
seded the intaglio and cameo imperial portrait as personal 
ornaments ; the spread of Christianity acted more and more 
tis a check upon the reproduction of other representations of 
the elegant Western mythology ; and those permitted by the 
change in religious sentiments were only the tasteless and 
barbarous symbolical figures of the new Egyptian and Oriental 
creeds. At length, in the 5th century, Eoman gem-engrav- 
ing entirely vanishes, its last traces fading away in the 
swarms of ill-cut and worse drawn Abraxas Jaspers and Ma- 
nichean amulets. Of the Byzantine nobles the signets were 
of metal, charged with the letters of the cognomen quaintly 
arranged in the form of a cross ; and the few men of taste yet 
surviving treasured up the gems, the works of previous cen- 
turies, as precious articles of vertu, not to be profaned by 
common use. 

In the mean time the art had taken refuge under the pro- 
tection of the young and vigorous monarchy of Persia, 
when, together with the resurrection of the Achemenian 
dynasty and religion in the 8rd century, its productions had 


come again into as general request as during the ages pre- 
ceding the Macedonian Conquest, which have left us such 
stores of cylinders and Assyrian seals. During the long rule 
of the Parthians (a truly Turkish race), that region had 
indeed been singularly barren in engraved stones ; it may be 
said entirely so ; so dubious are any intagli that can be re- 
ferred to the Arsacidse. But on the contrary, the four cen- 
turies of the revived Persian empire have left to us abundant 
memorials of their sovereigns and their religion, in works 
somewhat rude it must be confessed, but still far less so than 
the contemporary monuments of effete Western civilization, 
and extremely valuable historically from the legends that 
surround the regal portrait, expressing his name and high- 
sounding titles. Barbarous as the style of most of these 
intagli is, and coarsely as the lines are sunk into the 
stone, there is a force and individuality of expression about 
many of them which display the engraver's appreciation of 
the true principles of his art. This class is continued down 
quite to the Mohammedan Conquest in the 7th century, and 
then suddenly comes to an end simultaneously with the 
dynasty whose features it had so long perpetuated. 

Lace Sassanian Portrait; peihaps Ubusmcs II. Caloedony. 

Their place is taken by the only forms permitted by the 
religion of the conquerors, elegant Cuphic inscriptions ar- 
ranged in cyphers wrought in a neat and precise manner 
upon the choicest stones. The demand for these signets 


throughout the East, and the taste required for the graceful 
combination of the flowing curves distinguisliing Arabic 
calligraphy, kept ahve all the mechanical processes of the 
art until the time of its revival in Italy. 

The Byzantine school of the same interval merely deserves 
a passing notice, the sole evidence of its existence remaining 
to us being a few camei of religious subjects, in which the 
miserable execution is on a par with the tastelessness of the 
design. Throughout the West for the same ten centuries 
(from the fall of Kome to the Italian Renaissance) gem- 
engraving was, with a few doubtful exceptions, entirely un- 
known. The signets (still as much required, and for purposes 
of the same importance as in the times of antiquity) were 
seals of metal, or else antique iutagh set in rings, having 
tlieir subjects interpreted in a scriptural sense, and legends 
added around the bizzel to set forth this novel interpretation. 
Official seals in the Middle Ages were large and elaborate 
designs cut upon a metal matrix ; but the demand for antique 
intagli to be set in personal signets was enormous ; not re- 
gulated however in any degi-ee by their beauty, but solely by 
the nature of the subjects upon them, according to the pre- 
vailing belief in the talismanic virtue of certain sigils, deter- 
mined by the rules of the various Lapidaria then so much 

Thus the art slumbered on, seemingly destined never to be 
revived ; totally extinct in the West, confined in the East to 
the production of the intricate convolutions of cyphers and 
monograms, when with the first dawn of the Revival in Italy 
it not only woke up, but within the space of a single lifetime 
attained to its second maturity, rivalling its ancient parent in 
beauty and skill, and in one class, the camei, far surjiassing 
her in numbers, and perhaps in excellence. Tovvards the 
middle of the 15th century Italian taste had grown rapidly 


more classical, and had gradually freed itself from the infec- 
tion of Golhicism (la maniera Tedesca) as the several re- 
publics shook off their German tyrants a transition that 
manifested itself in all the works of the Quattro-Cento, in 
monuments, furniture, pottery, and jewels. The new passion 
for antique works was necessarily compelled from the first to 
look for its gratification to the gems so long treasured up by 
their medioBval predecessors on account of either their intrinsic 
value or mystic virtues, but at length admired by the newly- 
opened eyes of a more cultivated generation for their true 
merits. To imitate them was the next step, and that not a 
difficult one ; the mechanical methods, themselves of the 
simplest nature, were already known to the Florentines 
through their constant intercourse with the Levant ; and the 
goldsmith who had worked from his youth on the Nielli of 
the same century was, as far as drawing went, quite on a 
level with the ancient Dioscorides or Aulus. This is the 
reason why the art reached its second full development in so 
short a time, and almost without passing through any stage 
of infancy, for the few gems that betray any influence of 
mediaeval taste are extremely rare. By the end of the same 
century we find Camillo Leonardo praising Anichini, Gio. 
Maria da Mantova, and Tagliacarne, as equal to any of the 
ancients, and stating that their works were diffused over all 
Italy, which implies that their labours had already extended 
over several previous years. 

The next century, the Cinque-Cento, furnishes the celebrated 
names of II Vicentino, Alessandro Cesati, Maria da Pescia, 
and a hundred others of nearly equal merit, whose works, 
especially in cameo, constitute at present (passing for an- 
tiques) the choicest portion of many a celebrated collection. 
The wheel and the magnifying-glass had now enabled the 
artist to pour forth a swarm of oamei with a facility unknown 


to the ancient engraver ; whilst the demand for them as 
ornaments (quite the converse of that prevailing in classic 
times) had far exceeded that for intagli, and thus stimulated 
the production of the former to an incredible degree. Large 
intagli, however, in Kock Crystal, were especial favourites in 
this century, and constitute the most noted works of II Vi- 
centiuo ; these, together with the contemporary camei, adorned 
both the ecclesiastical and domestic plate, the dresses and the 
arms of the nobles and the wealthy merchants. 

The next century, an age of civil wars throughout Europe, 
which arrested and even threw back the civilization hitherto 
advancing with such rapid steps, witnessed also a great decline 
in this art, both in the quantity and still more in the excellence 
of its productions, which arc usually intagli of large dimen- 
sions, coarsely and deeply cut, for the most part heads of 
Roman deities and repetitions of the works of a better period. 

The 18th century, however, brought with it a great and 
unexpected improvement in both the branches of gem- 
engraving, and more particularly in the works in intaglio. 
The great point of difference to be remarked between the 
style of the artists of this time and that of the best works of 
the Cinque- Cento is this : the latter did not servilely copy the 
antique, but borrowed its subjects and treated them in its 
own peculiar manner, and that with a spirit and liveliness 
that brought forth really original works bearing the stamp of 
their era upon themselves, and hence valuable historically as 
monuments of a particular period of art. But the engravers 
of the century totally disclaimed all originality, content- 
ing themselves for the most part with making repeated copies 
of certain famous gems, and placing their highest ambition 
in the ability to pass off their own work upon unsuspicious 
amateurs as some recent discovery of undoubted antiquitv. 
Alm(jst the only one to be exempted from this charge is the 


chief of the list, John Pichler, to whom may be added, in 
some instances. Natter and Rega ; though the two latter did 
engrave and pass off many gems as antique, and which still 
rank as such in many a noble cabinet. This may truly be 
styled the age of forgeries of all kinds and degrees; the 
adding false names to genuine antiques, the re-touching the 
ruder gems of ancient engravers, the making pastes to such 
perfection, that when prepared as doublets they often deceive 
the most experienced eye. It is this period that has thrown 
so much uncertainty into this study, and has rendered the 
coming to a decision as to the genuineness of a fine intaglio, 
if judged of by the work alone, irrespective of mineralogical 
considerations, one of the most difficult tasks for the archaeo- 
logist, however much attention he may have given to this 
particular subject. Sirletti, Costanzi, Ant. Pichler, and a 
host of others little inferior to them as copyists of the antique 
manner, all pursued this then most lucrative trade, and have 
left behind them an infinite number of such fabrications to 
perplex all future connoisseurs. It may be asserted with 
truth that, for every gem of any note full a dozen copies are 
in circulation ; and often so close is the imitation, as to cast 
a doubt upon the certainty of the original itself The larger 
intagli, especially the imperial portraits, have been the most 
exposed to these fraudulent reproductions. This abundance 
of counterfeits, and the discredit brought upon the critical 
knowledge of collectors by their admission into some of the 
choicest cabinets formed during this period, may be assigned 
as one of the chief causes of the sudden decline of the taste 
for gems since the commencement of the present century. 

The few English gem-engravers who have ever attained to 
any celebrity all flourished during the latter half of the 18th 
century : it will suffice to name Brown, Wray, Marchant, 
and Burcli. Their works, all in intaglio, though fine and 


correctly drawn, are nevertheless much inferior to those of 
the contemporary Italian school, the last of whom, Pistrucci, 
sm-vived till within a few years. With him and Girometti at 
Rome the art may be said to have expired, as far as regards the 
execution of works displaying equal genius and commanding 
similar prices with the chefs-d'oeuvre of painting and sculp- 
ture. Even at Eome all that survives of this once so nume- 
rous profession are a few mechanics rather than artists, who 
manufacture the cameo Onyx studs so largely purchased by 
the visitors, mere trade articles, finished off by the dozen at 
the lowest possible expenditure of time and labour; some 
wiio still forge to order the mediocre antique intagli ; and, the 
only class making any pretension to taste and skill, the cutters 
of camei in shell. Thus the art of engraving designs upon hard 
and precious materials may be said now to have closed its 
career of thirty centuries in the same phase in which it started 
at the first dawn of civilization, when the Egyptian first 
fashioned liis scarab out of the soft steaschist, his first essay 
being a work in relief, intended for stringing on the necklace 
or bracelet ; so in our times the Roman shell-camei, of au 
equally valueless substance, and designed for similar orna- 
ments, alone preserve a faint shadow of the departed glories 
of the glyptic art.^ 

Helmut of Kuig o^amslas i'auiat..wi>ky 

' Tlic difTeirut subjects toucliod will be fouiul given at length under 
upon in this sketch, with the au- their rcsi)ectivc heads in the foUow- 
tliorities for the various statcnieuts, ing chapters. 

,V*cenas; inraglio bj- Solon 

Mercury: Greek work. Cameo Onyx. 



Preface iii 

Introduction xi 


Sketch of the history of the art of gem-engraving xxxiii 

Description of the copperplates liii 

Description of THE Woodcuts Iviii 

Sectiox I. materials. 

Ancient sources of gems . . 1 

Gems used by the Greeks .. 3 

Sards 5 

Calcedony 7 

Onyx, Sardonyx, Nicole, Agate 8 

Plasma 14 

JasjKjrs 16 

Garnets 20 

Jacinth 22 

Emeralds 27 

Beryl 38 

Amethyst 41 

Sa])])hirns Hyacinthus .. .. 44 

Ilyacinthus, Sapphire .. .. 46 

Ruhy 52 

Topaz, Chrysolite, Chrysopraso 56 

Turquois 59 


Magnet Loadstone 60 

Tourmaline 62 

Aventurine 63 

Obsidian 63 

Porphyry Basalt 64 

Opal 65 

Diamond 67 

Pastes 72 

Terra-cotta seals 81 

Murrhina 83 

Alabaster 88 

Rock-crystal 90 

Jade 97 

Jet 98 

The forms ol" antique gems ,. 99 

Chemical comiK)sition of gems 100 

Sectiojj IL art. 

Tests of antiquity instruments 

used by the ancient engravers 101 
Hgyptian intagli 113 

Greek, Etruscan, and Sardinian 


Assyrian and Persian cylinders 





SECTroN II. cmitinned. 


High-priest's breast-plate . . . . 134 

Persian and Sassanian seals .. 137 

Early Persian gems 145 

Indian engraved gems .. .. 149 

Modem oriental intagli . . . . 153 

Greek and Roman glyptic art .. 156 

Stone-rings 176 

Flexible glass 179 

Cameo-engravings 181 

Names of artists inscribed on 

gems 200 

Coin-dies 206 

Names of ancient gem-engravers 211 

Catalogue of ditto 230 

Antique gems of the British 

Museum 238 

The Devonshire gems . . . . 246 

French collection 

Berlin collection 

Florentine collection 
Other Italian collections . . 
Modern gem-engi'avers 
English gem-engravers . . 

Rings and settings 

Figure rings 

PajDal and Episcopal rings 
Mediajval use of antique gems 
Cross of King Lotharius . . 
Jewellery of the Roman ladies 
Crowns of the Gothic kings of 


Ring of the Great Mogul . . 
Statues adorned with jewels . . 




Remarkable signets of antiquity 316 

Chimerae 327 

Astrological intagli 331 

Mithraic intagli 338 

Serapis 340 

Gnostic gems 342 

Christian intagli 352 

lao, Abraxas 354 

Isiac symbols 366 

Medical stamps 371 

Bronze stamps 375 

Subjects of intagU 376 

Casts in plaster and wax . . . . 384 


Lapidarium of Marbodus . . . . 389 

Medical virtues of gems .. .. 418 

Magical sigilla 433 

Signs of the zodiac 437 

Figures of the planets . . . . 439 

Sigils of Ragiel 442 

Sigils of Chael 444 

The worm Samir 448 

Observations upon these sigils 449 

Ovum Anguinum 454 

Magic rings 457 

I'rophylactic rings 459 

Planetary rings 459 

Gimmels 460 

Dactjdiomancy 461 

Toad-stone 463 

Treatises 0)1 gems 466 

Appendix 471 

Index 489 

Cupid on a hippocampus: Roman Cameo. Onyx. 

Flate I 












E.SaLin.hi .1-1 ft 



1. Female in a long robe liftin<j from the ground a child with deformed legs: 

probably I'allas and Ericthonius. Etruscan. Sard. 

2. Seated Sphinx, above is the royal vulture, in front a palm-tree. Phenician, 


3. Warrior on horseback carrying a trophy. Etruscan. Sard, 

4. Gryphon devouring a stag. Greco-Italian. Sard. 

5. Crouching Sphinx, in front two hawks, in the field various letters. Late 

Egyptian. Topaz. 
(!. Naked man touching his ancle: perhaps an Apoxyoraenos. Greco-Italian of the 
best period. Amethyst. 

7. Warrior plunging a sword into a human head which he carries in his left hand: 

perhaps Tydeus with the head of Melanippus. Etrusam. Sard. 

8. SiLENUS reclining, in his hand the cantharus ; a large crater in the field. A 

magnificent old (ireek work. Calcedony. 

9. Faun reclining on a raft formed of six amphorae fastened together, and holding 

up a wine-skin for a sail. Etruscan. Sard. 

10. Warrior extracting an arrow from his leg: probably Diomede wounded by 

Paris. Greco-Italian. Sard. 

11. Bacchus in a long robe, in one hand a rhyton, in the other a myrtle-branch. 

Etruscan. Sard. 

12. A WINGED monster, resembling the winged boar on the coins of Clazomenae. 


13. Seated Sphinx, bold and spirited style, perhaps assignable to Chios. Agate. 

14. Warrior in full armour kneeling (Tydeus in ambush), of the best Greco-Italian 

style. Sard. 

15. Seated figure adoring an Egyptian king, advancing towards him. Fine Greco- 

Egyptian work. Obsidian, 

16. Cupbearer; in one har.d the wine-strainer, in the other the ladle by which the 

wine wiis taken out of the crater. Late Etruscan. Obsidian. 

17. Naked warrior with huge hemispherical shield and large sword. Etruscan. 


18. Naked youth, in his hand a large broadsword, weeping over a sepulchral 

column (Castor at the tomb of Aphareus), on which is hung a discus and a 
strigil. Greco-Italian. Onyx. 

19. Warrior bending a bow, behind a shield; perhaps Pandarus. Greco-Italian. 


20. An aged man supporting a fainting youth, a female grasps his arm. This group 

is explained by Steinbiichel as Da-dalus introducing Theseus to Ariadne. 
(ireco-Itiilian work of the most perfect execution. Sai'd. (Perhaps Electra 
and the Chorus tending the mad Orestes.) 

' This coUpcli()n is one of tlii^ most im- Cento works, and continued until her deatli to 

portiiiit ever formed by a privatf person. enrich llie series witli fresh ucquisilioiis made 

Madame MertensSiluiafliausen of Bonn was in (ierniany, France, and Italy. At present it 

already in possession of nlHiut 10(1 antique consists of 1876, comprising fragnients and an- 

gems when, in IMIiii, she purcliased the entire tlquo i)aste(ilic latter comi>aratively few), or 

I'ranu Collfction. I'hls consisted of above I U26 slones and 250 pastes. 
1(100 engraved stones, and liad been formed In lH5!t this Cabinet was piinhasrd by the 

during tlie second half of the 16tli century by present owner, and was added to his already 

I'a\ilus von I'raun, a i)atrician of Nurembnrgh, important series, amongst whidi are nuni- 

wlio died at Bologna in 1616, after liaving liered some of the finest intagli of the Herz 

passed the greater part of his life in Italy. Collection, tlie Mwrenas. the Disoobnius, &c. ; 

His ciibiiiet of gems, left as an heir-looui to and (from another source) the Triumph of 

his family, had always lieen preserved intact Silenus, perhaps the most perfect antique 

until the time of its acquisition by Madame composition known ; all figured in these 

Mertens. She .soparateil from it the ('iiuiiir- plates. 

e 2 


Greek Intagli from the Mertens-Schaafhausen Coixectiok. 

1. Hercules slaying the Hydra. Exactly identical with a type of the coins of 

Fliaestus, in Crete. Sard. 

2. Head of Penelope, or more probably of Creusa. See Christodorus ' Statues 

in the Gymnasium of Zeuxippus' {Anthol. i. p. 32) : 

" jEneas' consort next, in mournful guise 
The veiled Creusa met my wondering eyes ; 
Hound lx)th her cheeks her veil full closely drawn, 
Down to her feet descends tlie flowing lawn 
As one lamenting stands tlie woeful dame. 
And tears of bronze her nurse's fall proclaim ; 
How conquered Ilium on that fatal day 
Lost and betrayed had sunk, the Argives' prey." 

Deeply cut on a very fine Sard. 

3. Atreus armed with the Harpe of Perseus (the founder of Mycenae), 

about to cut up the child of his brother Thyestes. Bold Greco-Italian work. 

4. Head of Apollo. Fine work of the early school. Nicole. 

5. Head of a poet (perhaps Tei-jiander, wrongly called of Ulysses). Calcedony. 
G. Wounded warrior defending himself with an axe. Antique paste. 

7. Neptune. Delicate work in low relief. Yellow Sard. 

8. SiLENUS holding a crater to his panther. Late work, probably Roman. Sard. 


9. Hero and Leander. Fine work. Pale Sard. 

10. Orpheus seated on a rock, supporting his lyre on the trunk of a tree. Sard. 

11. Ceres, or a priestess with sceptre and fillet, her hair gathered into a long tress. 

Minutely finished. Sard. 

12. Actor in the Comcedia Togata, holding the pedum, and wearing a comic 

mask. Sard. 

13. Venus regarding herself in a convex mirror. Agate. 

14. Indian Bacchus. Archaic style. Sard. 

15. Erectheus about to sacrifice his daughter Chthonia beneath the sacred 

olive-tree ; a female seen emerging from the ground typifies the following 
suicide of all her sisters. Agate. 

16. Youthful Faun carrying a kid. An admirable work. Yellow Sard. 

17. Luna visiting Endymion sleeping upon Jlount Latmos : Cupids bearing attri- 

butes of the chase An admirable group, and engi'aved on a Sard of extra- 
ordinary beauty. 

18. Argus with adze cutting out the stem of his ship fi-om the vocal oak of Dodona 

supplied by Pallas. Greco-Italian work. Sard. 


.. //.. - /^r;^r- 




fc ^ 

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4^ I 





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'NIX v. . I' UN MI'H.K.W . \:.HI-.\1\HLK -JTKF.F.T, IMi-.i 

fiau- in 


-VU.^X ,U!ir\ -Mt'HR.W. so, M-BEM-VRl.E ST B EF.T , \8 6 O . 



1. A SEATED YOUTH holdiug ii serpent over an altar : behind him is a butterfly on 

a branch: symbolizing a sacrifice to Esculapi us. Sard. 

2. Aged Faun seated, stirring the contents of a large vase: in front, Cupid with 

a flambeau. Deeply cut on a splendid Jacinth. 

3. Juno Capitolina ; before her the sacral goose. Sard. 

4. Cupid on Dolphin, playing the double flute. Onyx. 

5. Dog's head AND SACUIFICIAL KNIFE: attributes of Hecate. Red Jasper. 

t3. Busts of Gallienus and Salonina crowned with wheatears; between them 
an altar on which stands an eagle. (Compare the noted aureus of Gallienus 
thus crowned : Hev., VBKiVE PAX.) Sard. 

7. Jupiter seated within the Zodiac : upon the gem of Jupiter, Lapis-hizuli. 

Astrological intaglio, the horoscope of the owner : 

" Nunquain erit pauper ci\jus nativitatls dominus est Jupiter." Almansor, XII. 

8. Ceres (])erhaps Agrifipiua Junior) in a tkiumphal car drawn by two ele- 

phants. Fine work. Yellow Sard. 

9. Cupid armed with the trident, mounted on Capricorn : beneath are the 

globe and two stars. Astrological gem. Sard. Sec p. 332. 

10. Cupid guiding with the trident two horses issuing out of a large shell. 

A most elegant intaglio. Sard. 

11. Jupiter enthroned, the eagle at his feet: in the field. Cancer. Astrological 

gem. Calcedony. 

" If Jupiter be found in Cancer (;is Horoscope) the native will be the friend 
and faithful confidant of the secrets of the gi-eat and powerful." (Firmicus, 
Decreta Signorum.) 

12. Cupid mounted on a whale; above him four stars ; below, a swordfisb and 

a dolphin. Agate suirounded by an imitation of an Etniscan border. Con- 
stellation of the Fish. 

13. Gall with flowing hair and naked to the waist, crouching down, his 

shield slung at his back ; in his hand is the huge and piintless iron broadsword 
describe<l by Folybius(il. 33). Early Komaii, referring to some Gallic victory, 
perlia])S of Marius. Thisma. 

14. Hehmes PsvciiOTOMPi's raising the soul out of Hades: in the field C.A.I)., 

initials of the owner. A work of the Early Empire. Onyx. 

1,"). Lyre formed of two dolphins and a mask: upon the bridge sits an owl. 

It). Hkrmes leaning A(iAiNsr A COLUMN, holds forth a seijwnt ; at his feet two 
more rear themselves towards him. Calcedony. 

17. Gorgon's Head. \ work of amazing vigour. Purple Ruby (or Alman- 


18. Roman soldier adorixc; Mai;s, who hnids in one lian<i a trophy, in the other 

a legionary standard. Early work much in the Etruscan manner. Sard. 


Greek and Roman Gems from the Mertens-Schaafhausen 

1. Youth seated and making a gesture of refusal with liis hand; before him 

stands a woman a})parently urging some request. (Hippolytus and Phwdra's 
nurse ?) lioman Plasma. 

2. Portrait of Messalixa : behind the head are the letters TON remaining of the 

owner's name, the tield of the gem having been broken away. Very fine work 
of tile period. Jacinth. 

3. Roma seated on armour, holding a Victory : in front the pctasus of Mei-- 

cury placed upon two shields ; behind are the sceptre of Jove and the staff' and 
serpent of Esculapius. Sard. 

4. Warrior regarding a bird placed upon a sepulchral column round which 

twines a serpent; at its base lies a ram. Panofka explains this ;is the oracle 
of Picas consulted by a warrior. Sard. 

5. Artist seated on the ground engaged in chasing a huge Coiinthian crater. 


6. Bust of Serapis supported on a globe and column placed over an alfcir : in the 

field a trifid emblem between the letters T and 2. Hed Jasper. 

7. Bust of a Bacchante looking upwards. Worked in a very bold manner. 


8. Three Grecian warriors at the foot of a sepulchral column, one of them 

stooping down puts his hand into a tall ]>itcher. The Argonauts purifying 
themselves after the accidenfad slaughter of Cyzicus ; or, more probably, accord- 
ing to Uilichs, the Heraclidae drawing lots for the partition of tlie Peloponnesus : 
their respective pebbles having been cast into a vase of water, Cresphontes by 
substituting a ball of clay, which dissolves, obtains the last choice, Messene. 
(ApoUodorus, ii. 8.) Greco-Italian work. Sard. 

9. Foot of Hermes crushing a butterfly: the symbol of death. A most 

exquisitely finished engraving on a splendid Jacinth. 

10. Head of Augustus within an olive-garland. Minute work. Sard. 

11. Eagle with spread wings; on his breast the head of Ganymede. Sard. 

12. Ulysses presenting the bowl of wine to Polyphemus; behind him 

stands one of his companions with a wine-skin on his shoulder. Carbuncle of 
extraordinary size and beauty. 

13. Mounted Hunter with two hounds chasing a lion. Sard, convex on each side, 

and perforated in the centre. 

14. Three Sirens walking. Amethyst. 

15. The child Opheltes encircled by a monstrous serpent. Red Jasper. 

16. Bust of Father Nilus with the cornucopia ; in front, the papyrus. Pale 

Sard. Very fine work. 

17. The City of Antioch seated on rocks; below is the river-god Orontes ; in 

the tield the initials A. I. M. A., for " Antioch the Sacred, the Metropolis of 
Asia." Plasma. 

18. The same City, but seen in front: on one side stands Fortune, on the other the 

tutelary genius of Antioch placing a wreath on her head. Calcedony. 

ri.m- n 




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iN M. RaAV ,"-'.', -M.I'EMAR I.F, ;-rl-:i: 


Intagli, from the Rhodes Coi-lkction, Ghkek and Roman. 

1. Sagittarius, Fine Roman work. Sard. 

2. Procession of Silenl'S, supjxirted by a Faun. One of the tinest Greek geni.s 

known, both for excellence of grouping and prt'ect finish of the figures. Sard. 

3. Mkssalixa. Contemporary portrait. Yellow Sard. 

4. Venus instructing Cupid in Archery. Homan. Sard. 

5. Apollo Delphicus. Greek of the best period. .lacinth. 
G. Venus ROBiN(i herself. Roman. Sard. 

7. Faun I'OURing an amphora into a ckater. Greek. .Nird. 

8. Bacchic Festival. Homan. Sard. 

9. Bacchus WITH his Panther. Greek. .Sard. 

Ui. Venus guiding her Shell. Modern Italian. Calcedony. 

11. Pria.m before Achilles, Briseis raising him from the ground. Finest Greek 

style. Sai-d. (P. lo7.) 

12. Meucury and Scorpio. .Astrological Homan. Plasma. 

13. Pallas. Finest Greek work. Sard. 

14. CuPiD racing. Excellent Roman work. 

15. A Discobolus. A gem to be reckoned amongst the very finest Greek intagli 

extant. Sard. 

Ui. Agripi'INA Junior. Contemporary portrait. Plasma. 

17. Pan and Olympi"S before a fountain on the margin of which crawls a snail. 

(The emblem of voluptuousness.) A most minutelv-tinislied Roman intaglio. 

18. Fausiina .Maieu. Contemjwrary portrait. Sard. Formerly in Horace W'al- 

])le"s Collection. 

Silenue, riard. 

Socrates. Onyx 

yist antr g^smptbit oi Wioo'titni^^ 

As most of the gems here given have been selected from the Mertons-Schaafhansen Cabinet, 
it has only been considered necessary to di>signate those introduced from other sources. 


Lion's head, signet of Theodorus :* Archaic Greek. Sard (I\hodes). (p. 168.) Title 
Agave : Cameo. Plasma. A splendid example of the Roman style in flat relief iii 

Plato: contemporary woi'k. Sard (Rhodes). This rare portrait has a marked 
individuality of expression, which, in addition to the Psyche-wings attached 
beiiind the ear, suHiciently distinguish it from the heads of the Indian Bac- 
chus (see next No.). It is worked out very carefully in a flat style upon 
a pale Sard, and belongs to a much earlier period than tiie signet of Saufeius, 
the portrait upon which it identifies in a most striking manner. To this 
most interesting intaglio we can apply in their fullest extent the words 
of Winckelmann (Pierres Gravees, p. 420) speaking of a similar, if not 
the same, gem " La gravure de cette pierre est fort antique, et elle est 
exe'cute'e avec grande finesse ; elle parait si antique qu'on la croirait faite du 

temsde Platon meme" (See Mon. Ined. iii. pi. 1C9) xi 

Apollo of Canachus : Roman. Sard. xii 

Vizored Helmet : Etruscan. Sard xviii 

Macedonian, or Syro-^Iacedonian, Helmet. Agate xviii 

Prometheus making Man : Cameo. Onyx (Rhodes). xxiii 

Amymone: PZarly Greek, Sard. The pitcher in her hand signifies the gift of 
the fountain of Lerna by Neptune, and which gushed fi-om the rock struck 
by the trident xxiv 

' Where no scale is attached the gems have 
been drawn to twice the diameter of the ori- 
ginals ; the only way to produce the same im- 
pression of magnitude upon the eye as the 
cast itself from the intaglio creates by its 
spherical projection. This is the reason why 
drawings of gems if made exactly to the scale of 
the originals always appear much diminished, 
for though the outline of the figures remains 

equal in both, no allowance has been made for 
this projection, amounting often to half a dia- 
meter, where the work is in high relief. 

2 Or perhaps Thcumenes. Combe gives 
(PI. 18, No. X), a drachma of Cnidus, with the 
type of a lion's head in a precisely similar 
style, and over It the magistrate's name 



Triton: Koraan. Ked Jasper (Uhodes) xsx 

Alexander. Reverse, Venus and Apollo. Lapis-lazuli. Pronounced by Stein- 

biichel a contemporary poitrait of this prince, but see p. 44, note xxxij 

Priest adoring the Winged Bull : Early Assyrian. Limestone (Layard) . . xxxiii 

Egyptian Scarabs in Steaschist (Layard) xxxvi 

Demetrius Soter. Sard (Rhodes.) (p. 159.) xl 

Nereid and Hippocampi : Cameo xlii 

Late Sassanian Portrait perhaps Chosroes IL Calcedony. Chosroes alone in 
the Sassanian series appears in front-face on his coinage (Author's Col- 
lection) xliv 

Helmet of King Stanislas Poniatowsky : Greek. Jasper-Prase (p. 203, note) 

(Eastwood) xlix 

Miccenas : Intaglio by Solon. Topaz (Florence) 1 

Mercury: Greek Cameo. Onyx. This is one of the finest works in relief of 
unquestionable antiquity that has ever come under my notice. The head 
is in the low flat relief that invariably marks the productions of an early 
Greek artist, and is also entirely cut out upon the black stratum by the 
diamond-point alone. It possesses the additional and historic interest of 
having once belonged to Caylus, who has figured it Recueil, vol. i. pi. lii., 
where he notes the fact that it is a fragment from a larger group cut down 

to the size of a riug-stone ( Rhodes) 11 

Cupid on a Hippocampus : Roman Cameo. Onyx lii 

Heads of Silenus (Sard) and of Socrates (Onyx), showing the actual distinction 

between these portraits, so freciuently confounded with one another .. .. Iviii 
Greco-Itiilian intaglio upon a scarab a Lion pulling down a Bull of some- 
what later work than the same subject given at p. 156. Sard of the 
most beautiful quality, resembling a Carbuncle. The beetle itself is skil- 
fully cut, though of small dimensions. Scarabs of this highly-finished 
class are usually much inferior in magnitude to the genuine Etruscan sort 

(Rhodes) Ixiv 

Livia. Red Jasper. A contemporary portrait (Rhodes) 1 

Male and Female Comic Masks : Roman. Sard. The inscription is as upon 

most of these caprices puqwsely obscure, and now imintelligible (Rhodes). 5 
Diomede and Ulysses carrying off the Palladium : Greco-Itiiliiiu work. Agate. 16 
Metlusa: Greek. Black Jasper. This was regarded by Madame Mertens as 

superior to any Medusa known even to the Blacas ; perhaps with justice . . 20 

Sappho: Archaic Greek. Jacinth (p. 169) 27 

Augur taking the Auspices : Etruscan. Jacinth. He is dividing the sky into 

tcmpld with his lituiis. An unique representation (Rhodes) 27 

Olympic Victor : Etruscan scarab, Ememld 37 

Taras or Pahemon : Greco-Italian. Beryl. Winckelman (Pierres Grave'es do 
Stosch, p. 353) aiUs the antique jiaste of this gem a precious monument of 

Etruscan art, and wiual to the Tydeus of the Berlin Cabinet) 38 

Apollo: Greek work. Amethyst. Engraved in a very shallow and early manner 41 

Hercules: Roman work. Obsidian (Rhodes) 63 

Seals of Sennacherib and Siibaco II. (Layard) 81 

Hercules Mad : Etruscan scarab. Cry still 96 

Horses of Achilles mourning over the slain Patroclus^ (p. 157): Greek. Yellow 

Sard (Rhotles) 101 

^ Wiiukeliiuu) (Mon. Imd.) calls this Diu- I gem the attendant flgiu-e is dourly a female, 
niidps llio riiraciiin exposing Abilonis lo be not IMomedetf. 
devoured by his savage horses ; hut on the I 



Sacred Hawk : Greco-Egyptian work. Garnet 113 

Sacred Animals. Green Jasper. This group consists of the cynocephalus, his 
tail formed into the asp, supporting on his paw the ibis ; over his head is 
the beetle ; behind him the hawk ; and looking up to him the jackal. This 

gem is of the Roman period, rude, and deeply cut 113 

Portrait of a Ptolemy : Greco-Egyptian. Dark Sard (formerly Herz's) 115 

Signet of Sabaco II. (Layard) 118 

Di-drachm of Sybaris 119 

Scarab with Mask. Agate. Winckelmann (Mon. Ined. i. pi. 13) figures an 
antique paste of Stosch's, a fly-shaped mask, exactly agreeing with that 
cut upon the back of this scarab. He plausibly enough explains it as refer- 
ring to Jupiter Apomyios, or " the Chaser away of flies," to whom Hercules 
instituted sacrifices at Ells in gratitude for the ser\'ice he once rendered to 
him in that capacity. Baal-zebub, the Tynan god, " the Lord of flies," was 
so named from the same prerogative. Hence, taking into account the Phe- 
nician style marking the intaglio itself, as well as its subject a Thundering 
Jupiter we may regard this insect-formed visage as designed for the type 
of that redoubtable divinity. The turretted head also, introduced as a dis- 
tinctive symbol into the field -a frequent obvei-se on the coinage of Pheni- 
cian cities (Aradus, Berytus, Orthosia, Sidon, &c.) strongly confirms this 

attribution 124 

Assyrian Cylinders First Period (all from Layard) 126 

Pure Babylonian Second Period (Layard) 128 

Persian Third Period (Layard) 131 

Signet of Sennacherib. Amazon-stone (Layard) 137 

Assyrian Seal Sacrifice to the ]\Ioon. Agate (Layai-d) 137 

Assyrian Seal the Babylonian Dagon. Agate (Layard) 137 

Persian Seal with Phenician legend. Calcedony. The inscription is indubitably 
of equal antiquity with the intaglio itself, the strokes forming the cliaracters 
being manifestly cut by the same tool as the figures, and both equally worn 

by use 140 

Narses. Garnet. This inscription is imperfect, the gem having been broken 
and cut round. The true reading, therefore, may be " Nowazi Shah," and 
refer to Sapor I. Certainly the extreme beauty of the work would seem 

to indicate the earliest times of tlie Sassanian sovereignty (Pulsky) 142 

Pirouzi Shapouhri (Sapor II.). Sardonyx (p. 144) 142 

Varanes (Bahram). Nicolo, perforated. The legend reads, vrhanpi 142 

Assyrian and Persian Seals in Agate and Calcedony (Layard) 145 

Satrap of Salamis. Sard (p. 146) (Author's Collection/ 149 

Persian : Serpentine. The King contending with two Andro-Sphinxes : Ormuzd 

hovering above the Tree of Life (Layard) 153 

Hebrew Jacinth of the Sassanian period (Eastwood) 155 

Proteus : Etruscan. Sard. The subject as uncommon as is the extraordinary 

perfection of the engraving itself 156 

Archaic Greek. Calcedony. Lion pulling down a Bull ; the type of the coins 
of Acanthus. The work of this intaglio shows much of the Assyrian 

manner, and is probably Asiatic Greek (Author's Collection) 156 

Youthful Hercules : Greek. Sard. He wears the hide of the Cithaironian lion, 
which he slew at the age of nineteen. This he afterwards discarded for " 
the invulnerable skin of the lion of Nemea. Such youthful heads are 
usually, but wiongly, described as of lole or Deianira, but the short curly 
locks stamp them of Hercules (Rhodes) 159 

* The character beneath the chin of the ; unique gold piece of Menclaus king of'Cj'prus, 

portrait is tlie Persian S.and is seen thus singly ; minted at Salamis. See the Num. Cypriote of 

beneath the Ram's head on the coinage of this the l)uc de Luynes. 
city, also behind the heart of Venus on the 



Caligula and his Sisters, Julia, Drusilla, Agrippina. Sard. This is one of the most 

singular historic intagli in existence, and its genuineness beyond suspicion.. 164 
Antoninus Pius: Cameo. Emerald. The stone is a true Emerald, though of 

bad quality ; doubtless from the Egyptian mine 104 

Piiilosopher medittiting upon the Immortality of the Soul : Greek. Agate of 
three bands. The severed head upon the ground typifies Death, as the 

escaping butterfly the Soul set free (Rhodes) 165 

Sailor of Ulysses opening the Bag of Winds given to him by jEoIus to ensure a 

calm voyage: Etruscin scarab. Sard 105 

Caligula as Mercury. Sard (p. 171) (Rhodes) 176 

Apotheosis of Augustus, who is borne up to heaven by Mithras. The " Cameo 

of the Sainte Chapelle," Paris 181 

Greek Cameo found in Cabnl. Saixlonyx (p 199) (Rhodes) 185 

Ceres, with name of artist, Aulus. Sard (Rhodes) 200 

Cicero ; contemporary portrait. Antique paste 200 

Signet of Rufina. Red Jasper. A monster with heads of a boar and a bull 

conjoined (p. 484) 201 

Gryllus, signet of Titinius. Obsidian. The "motive" of this composition 
(not clearly given by the cut) is two doves pecking at the ear of a huge 
mask, one from above, the other from below. The figure is completed by a 
wolf's head. Tliis was a favourite caprice. One exactly similar, but 

better finished, is now in the collection of 0. Morgan, Esq., M.P 201 

Neptune :* Poniatowsky gem. Ametliyst (Rhodes) 202 

Inscribed Etruscan gem. The name is that of the hero, but written in the cus- 
tomary barbarous manner (Foreign Collection) (p. 168) 202 

Hercules strangling AntiEus ; Earth, the giant's mother, reclining below : 

Cinque-Cento. Siird (Rhodes) 206 

l)i-(lraciim of Caulonia, showing the guilloche Etruscan border 210 

Maccnas, by Apollonius. Jacinth. This portrait is perhaps superior even to 

the Julius of Dioscorides, being in a more elegant and softer style (Rhodes). 211 
Satyr surprising a sleeping Nymph (Amymone); signet of Aspasius: Roman 
work. Agate. Extremely minute, half the diameter of the cut, yet most 
elaborately finished (Rhodes) 228 

Faun with Uin: finest Greek style. Sard (Rhodes). 230 

The Julius of Dioscorides. Sard (Britisli Jluseum) 238 

Hydraulis: Plasma (p. xvii.) (British Sluseum). The two men at the sides are 
working the pumps that force the water into the huge bronze reservoir, 
sliai)e(l like an altar, which supports the pipes and the jierformer. The 
air compressed in its upper part served the purpose of the wind-chest in 
tiie modern organ. Tlie letters are blundered, but probably stad for 
VIVAS ; addressed to the musician to whom the gem was doubtless pre- 

seuted by an admirer.' 242 

Cupid iiescuing Psyche ; by Pamphilus. Sard (British Museum) 245 

Hermes making Lyres (Foreign Collection) 246 

Roma holding forth a torques, the usual rewaitl of military valour: a \'ictory 
presents an olive-brancli ; at her side is a singular vizored helmet on a 

stand. Spottwl Sard 255 

Hercules and the Stymphalian Birds (Foreign Collection) 260 

^ The ilcscrii)tion of ihc hydraulis, invented nif ans of wiiU-r ; for the pi|)C8 are Ih'iiI down 

hy Ctfslliius of -Vlexiindria, as given by Aihe- Into water, uiid tlie water being 'pounded ' by 

uiTus (Iv. 75), exactly applies to tliis intiiglio. an attendant, whilst IuIk's pass through the 

Tlip hyilraiilic organ seems to l)e somewhat bixly of the organ itself, the pipes are filled 

alter tlie nature of a wiiter-clock. Perhaps it with wind and give forth an agreeable sound. 

ought to be termed a wind-instrument, inas- I'he organ resembles in form a round altar." 


.h as the organ is tilled with breath by 



Juao; by John Pichler. Sard (Uhodes) 269 

Ship under sail emblem of mortal life (Foreign Collection) 276 

Cupid chained by Psyche to a column. Girasol. The signet of M. Mausius 

Priscus 284 

Narcissus and Echo : Roman. Prase. Cupid, emerging from the fountain, is 
aiming his shaft at Narcissus ; Echo, reduced to a shadow, hovers before 

him ( Rhodes) 284 

Mask hollowed out behind to contain poison. Onyx (p. 278). The subject 
apparently chosen by the wearer from the same motive that caused masks 
to be adopted as the usual decorations of monuments, or else to mark his 

opinion, " Life is a jest and all things show it." 289 

Signet and Monogram of Paulus. Sard 294 

Serapis: Roman work: Cameo. This Onyx has ninning through its white 
layer in which the bust is cut the large perforation of the original 

Indian bead 301 

Triple Mask: Roman. Jacinth (now in Lord Braybrooke's Collection) 301 

Jupiter Olympius: Roman work of the best times. Sard (Rhodes) 302 

Attributes of Ganymede : Roman : Cameo. Onyx 311 

Diocletian and ]\Iaximian as Janus. Green Jasper 315 

Antique gem with forged name of artist (Mycon), an addition of the last century: 

Greek work, on a very line ruby-coloured Sard (Rhodes) 316 

Signet of Msecenas : Etruscan scarab. Calcedony 319 

Mithridates ; a contemporary portrait. Yellow Sard of a very singular quality, 

nearly opaque (Author's Collection) 322 

Stymphalian Bird: Roman. Burnt Sard (Author's Collection) 327 

Bunch of Grapes : Roman. Red Jasper (Author's Collection) 328 

Gryllus, a fantastic Horse : Roman. Sard 329 

Sol within the Zodiac (Foreign Collection) 331 

Augustus with his Horoscope Capricorn (Foreign Collection). .." 332 

Hipparchus the Astronomer: Roman. Lapis-lazuli. The gold spots of the 

stone have been taken advantage of to fonn the sun and stars 337 

Alexandrian Emerald : of Roman date, and the identical gem figui-ed by Caylus 
(Vol. L pi. Ixvi.), who calls it " une trfes belle prisme d'e'meraude; but it 

is a true Emerald of the Mount Zahara mine 337 

Mithraic Bull symbol of the Earth. Green Jasper (Author's Collection). .. 338 
Mithraic Talisman of Nicandra. Green Jasper. A gryphon supporting a wheel 
a common attribute of Sol stands upon a column, to which a figure is 
fastened with hands bound behind the back. The legend on the reveree 
invokes liis protection for Nicandra and Caleandra ; apparently Alexandrian 
ladies, judging from the orthography of the name Neicandra, instead of 

Nicandra 340 

Anubis, surrounded by the seven vowels (p. 345), standing on a sei-pent. Green 
Jasper. The stone is broken at each extremity, but the head is evidently 
that of a jackal, not a hawk's as it appears in the cut. The work of the 
intaglio is extraordinarily tine, rendering this gem quite unique in its class. 342 
Abraxas, Green Jasper. Also of unusually good and finished work, and 
belonging to the very dawn of Gnosticism ; certainly not later than ~ 

Hadrian's reign 342 

Chneph : AlexAndrian. Sard. The legend, if written in the usual letter, is 
Xvov^is Avox 2e/ttS EiAa/i, followed by the trifid emblem so common in 

these foiTTiulae 344 

Martyrdom of a female Saint. Red Jasper. This was probably executed about 
the time of Diocletian, its style bearing a close affinity to the neat work 

characterizing his restoration of the coinage (Litchfield) 352 

Tiiuue deity,, with Coptic legend. Green Jasper. This figure has the heads of 



the ibis, jadcal, and hawif, attributes of Isis, Annbis, and Phre or Sol, 
whose trii)lt; godhead he symlx)lizfs. The legend on the reverse ends with 
the word Sovjuapra, a title constantly occurring in these invocations, but 
as yet unexplained 358 

Mithraic SjTiibol. The two Principles, altar with the sacred wafers, lustral 
water, raven, &c. ; above are seen the busts of Sol and Luna. Plasma. 
The work of the rudest description 359 

Heraies Heptachrysos : Roman. Sard 363 

Isiac Vase. Red Jasper. This is an extremely elegant composition. Asps 
form the handles, under which are Satyric masks. The (afterwards) 

Christian symbols ujwn its surface are worthy of attention 366 

Oculist's Stamp. Sard (British Museum) 374 

Jupiter, Sol, Luna. Opal (p. 66) 376 

Cassandra mourning the doom of Troy. Sard. Gerhard, however, explains this 
as Aglauros meditating suicide. The subject is, in fact, extremely obscure. 
It may mean Roma lamenting some great calamity before the Palladium ,. 378 

Minerva supporting the bust of Domitian. Sard. The head has, in the gem, a 
proper radiated crown, which is blundered in the cut. The work of this 
gem is particularly neat 378 

Hercules trimming with his sword an uprooted tree for his club: Etruscan 
scarab. Sard. Mercury furnished Hercules with a sword on his first start- 
ing upon his adventures, but he exchanged it for a club on having to deal 
with the impenetrable hide of the Nemean lion, which he was obliged to 
flay off with the beast's own tilons (Apollodorus, ii. 4) 380 

Type of the Satyric Drama. Red Jasper. This symbolical group comprises the 

satyr, the mask, and the goat, the original prize of the eai-ly comedians. . . 380 

Gorgon : Greco-Italian Cameo. Sard. An unique example of so early a period, 
woiked in the same manner as the scarabs. This identical Gorgon's head 
is seen on the coins of Posidonia, and may be safely assigned to the same date. 383 

Pompey, with his titles. Nicolo. The legend is formed of the contractions for 
" Cna;us Pomjieius Impcrator Iterum Pra-fectus Classis et Ora; Maritima;," 
his style upon his denarii ; where it will be remarked that the engraver 
like the Arrius immortalizcil by Catullus has thought proper to spell Ora; 
with an H 384 

Death of Eschylus. An eagle drops a tortoise upon liis bald pate, mistaking it 

for a stone. He holds a bowl to signify his love of wine (Stosch) 388 

Polyphemus; Sard. A fragment of a magnificent Greco-Italian scarab. The 
giant seated upon an invertal amphora, has l)een beguiling his hopeless love 
for Galatea upon a rustic lyre, which appears dropping from his hand : in 
the field is the plectrum, the exact foi-m of which instrument is here very 
carefully definetl, and gives additional value to this remarkable intaglio. . . 389 

Plato ; signet of Saufeius. Sard. An early Roman work, dating from the 
Republic. Heads of Plato can only be distinguisheti from those of the 
Indi:m Bacchus whom he resembled as much as his master did Silenus 
when the butterfly-wings, in allusion to his doctrine of the soul's immor- 
tiility, are introduced, as here, u])on the shoulder, or, as sometimes, behind 
the ear. I believe, however, that I have discovered another distinction 
the extremely elevatetl eyebrows, arched into a complete semicircle, in such 
portraits ; a personal peculiarity of the sage that did not escape the witti- 
cisms of the comic writere of his own times. Thus Amphis, in the Dexi- 
demides (I)iog. Laert. iii. 1)- .. ^ j.,^^,^^ p,^^^_ 

How all thy wisdom lios in l(M)l{ing grave ; 

M!\]osticiilly lifting high thy brows . 

Like as the snail [protrudes his eye-tipped horns]." 418 

Psyche mourning the flight of Cupid (Foreign Collection). 433 



Phenician Sphinx. Spotted Onyx. The object in the background is probably a 

mummy-formed divinity (Rhodes)." 438 

Silenus placing a crater on its stand ayyodrjKi}, or incitega) : Roman. Sard 

(Author's Collection) 442 

Parthian King between two crowned Asps. Sard. On the reverse of this most 
puzzling gem are cut a serpent, some Greek letters, and certain unknown 
characters. It is probably due to some early Persian Manichean, or 
Gnostic, which would explain the introduction of the asps, the Egyptian 
symbol of royalty 448 

Indian Sacred Bull, with Pehlevi legend. A calcedony, hemispherical, stamp. 
This Brahminee bull figures even on the early Assyrian monuments. Here 
the legend commences with the usual ap, or title of the king, but the other 
letters are so rudely cut as to be undecipherable ; perhaps the three last 
stand for Bagi, " the Divine." 4.54 

Favourite Racehorse, Syodus (Speedaway). Jacinth. Greek work of uncommon 
spirit, commemorating, there can be little doubt, some victor in the 
Stadium (Rhodes) 466 

Somnus, on his rounds, holding a wreathed horn in each hand, and from one 
pouring out his balm upon the earth. The god here is depicted with but- 
terfly-wings like Psyche, of which 1 have seen no other example, since his 
figure upon monuments can only be distinguished from Cupid's by the 
diversity of their attributes. Lessing has admirably treated this subject in 
his dissertation, " Wie die Alten den Tod gebildet." The work of this 
intaglio belongs to the best period of Roman art, and is cut on a Sard of 
the finest quality 470 

Death, within an opened monuinent ; beneath is the pig, the funeral sacrifice : 
Cameo. Onyx. The ancients represented Death and Sleep as twin- 
brothers, but black and white in colour, caiTied in the arms of their mother 
Night (Pausan. Eliac. xviii.). In addition to the difference of colour Death 
is distinguished by his inverted torch, Sleep by the horn whence he pours 
out his dew}' blessings. 

"Et Nox, et cornu fugiebat Somnus inani." Theb. vi. 27. 

" Night fled, and with her Sleep with emptied horn." 471 

Dagon : Phenician scarab. Green Jasper ; or perhaps a green teiTa-cotta. . . 476 

Babylonian Cylinder. Loadstone. Remarkable for the neatness of the cutting 

of the cuneiform inscription filling one half its surface 488 

Fauns playing: Nicolo. Described byCaylus(II. pi. Ixxxiii) as having been re- 
cently discovered at Xaintes, set in a massy gold ring weighing 1^ oz. The 
antique setting has disappeared, by reason doubtless of its large intrinsic 
value, but the correspondence of the scale and material prove the identity of 
the gem itself. 489 

Canopic Vase : Greco-Egyptian date. Almandine ; retaining its antique iron- 
ring (p. 285). On the belly of the vase is the sun's disk, and below, the 
royal vulture with spread wings. The iron ring itself is elegantly formed. 
(Author's Collection) 498 

s Described by Raspe as " a Persian Sphinx, 1 the bas-reliefs of Chelminar ; with a figure be- 
or Mithras, tiic image of the Sun, as seen upon hind, like Horus, swathed." 

Combat between Lion and Bull ; Etruscan. Sard. 


Section I. MATERIALS. 


Before we enter upon the consideration of the intagli and 
camei themselves, and of the various styles of art which they 
present, it will be more appropriate to give a brief descrip- 
tion of the different sorts of gems upon which they usually 
arc found, to point out their respective characters, and at the 
same time to identify, as far as can be done, the species of 
stones principally employed by the ancients for these works ; 
and to distinguish them from those only known to modern 
engravers, or at least more generally used by tlie latter than 
by the artists of antiquity. The sources whence they were 
obtained will bo separately noticed under each head, but a 
most suitable introduction to this section will be the elegant 
description given by Dionysius Periegetes of the trade in 
precious stones carried on by the Orientals early in our era ; 
for, although the date of his poem is disputed, yet his allu- 

2 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

sions to Persian wars seem to point to the age of Augustus, 
or at the latest of Trajan : 

" And Babylon's vast plain, where miles aronnd 
The lofty palm-trees overarch the ground ; 
Where, far more precious than the mines of gold. 
Serpentine rocks the beryl green enfold. 
Apart his Indian waves Choaspes leads. 
And in a separate course bounds Susa's meads : 
Upon his banks the beauteous agates gleam 
Eolled like to pebbles by the rushing stream, 
Torn from their native rock by wintry rains 
And hurried by the torrent to the plains. 
Those who Parpanisus' deep valleys claim 
Conjointly bear the Arianian name : 
No lovely land the wretched natives own, 
But sandy wastes with thickets rough o'ergrown : 
Yet other sources do their lives maintain, 
And endless wealth springs from the barren plain ; 
On every side the ruddy coral shines. 
On every side they view the teeming mines 
Whence th' azure slabs of sapphire brought to light, 
With guerdon rich laborious hands requite. 
Towards the east spreads India's lovely land 
Farthest of all along the ocean's strand : 
The first illumined by his earliest rays 
When rising Phoebus heaven and earth surveys : 
Hence the sleek natives dark as night appear, 
Adorned with flowing hyacinthine hair ; 
Of whom, some, skilled the golden ore to seek. 
The sandy plain with crooked mattocks break ; 
Others the airy webs of muslin weave, 
W' hilst others to the ivory polish give ; 
Some seek amidst the pebbles of the stream 
The verdant beryl, or the diamond's gleam. 
Or where the bright green jasper meets their view, 
Or the clear topaz shows its lighter hue. 


Or the swoot amethyst, which, serenely bright, 
Diflfuses far and wide its tranquil light. 
The land thus blessed with rivers never dry 
To all her sons doth constant wealth supply." 

These gems, together with other Indian productions, were 
brought for transmission into Europe to the great annual 
fairs held in Syria, one of which is thus described by Ammi- 
anus (xiv. 3) : " Batne, a municipality in Anthemusia, 
founded by the ancient Macedonians, situated at a short 
distance from the Euphrates, and crowded at that time witli 
wealthy traders, where on the annual festival, held at the 
beginning of September, a vast multitude of people of all con- 
ditions assemble at the fair to purchase the goods sent by the 
Indians and Chinese, and the numerous other productions 
accustomed to be conveyed thither both by sea and land." 


Theoplu-astus (c. 30) thus specifies the kinds of gems most 
used in his own time, the 4tli century before our era : " But 
of gems out of which signets are made there arc several 
others, such as the glass-like sort (Beryl), which possesses 
the property of reflection and transparency, and the Car- 
buncle and- the Ompliax (perhaps the Chrysoprase), and 
besides these the Crystal and the Amethyst, both of them 
transparent. Both these and the Sard are found on 
breaking open certain rocks, as well as others, as we have 
before stated, presenting certain differences, but agreeing in 
name with each other. For of the Sard the transparent and 
blood-red sort is called the female, while the less transparent 
and darker kind is termed the male. And the different 
kinds of Lyncurium are distinguished in the same way, of 
which the female is the more transparent and of a deeper 

B 2 

4 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

yellow ; and the Cyanus also is named, one sort the male 
and the other the female, but the male is the deeper in 
colour of the two. The Onyx is made up of white and 
brownish red in parallel layers. The Amethyst is of the 
colour of wine. A handsome stone too is the Agate, brought 
from the river Achates in Sicily, and is sold at a high price. 
At Lampsacus there was once discovered in the gold-mines 
an extraordinary kind of stone, out of whicli, when taken to 
Tyre, a signet gem was engraved, and sent as a present to 
the king (Alexander) on account of its singularity. These 
gems, in addition to their beauty, possess the recommenda- 
tion of rarity ; but those coming out of Greece itself are 
much less valuable, such as the Anthracium (Carbuncle) from 
Orchomenos in Arcadia. This is darker than the Chian sort, 
and mirrors are made out of it.^ And also the Troezenian ; 
this last is variegated partly with red, partly with white 
patches. The Corinthian also is variegated with the same 
colours, excepting that the stone itself is somewhat greener. 
And, generally, stones of this kind are common enough ; but 
the first-class gems are rare, and come from but few places, 
such as Carthage, and the neighbourhood of Marseilles, and 
from Egypt near the Cataracts, from Syene close to the town 
of Elephantina, and from the district called Psepho ; and 
from Cyprus the Emerald and Jasper. But those that are 
used for setting in ornamental metal-work come from Bactria, 
close to the desert. They are collected by horsemen, who go 
out there at the time when the Etesian winds prevail ; for 
then they come to sight, the sand being removed by the 
violence of the winds. They are however small, and never 
of large size." This last gem is probably the Turquois, so 
much used by the Persians of all ages for setting in their 

^ The flat surface of a dark garnet will reflect objects with tolerable 

.Sect. I. SARDS. 

arms and ornaments. The locality named by Tlieoplirastus, 
and the small size of the stone, particularised by him, arc 
also arguments in favour of the correctness of this sup- 

id Femalo Comic ilasks : Komau. aard. 

S A K D S. 

The Carnelian, and its superior variety the Sard, may 
justly claim the first place in this list of stones employed by 
the ancient engravers, as they alone present us with as mq,ny 
intagli cut upon them as all the other species of gems put 
together. The Carnelian is a semi-transparent quartz of a 
dull red colour, arranged often in different shades, and is 
found in great abundance in many parts of Europe ; for 
instance, on every coast where the beach is composed of 
rolled flint shingle, as on the Chessil Bank, Weymouth, the 
coast of Devonshire, &c. The most ancient intagli, such as 
the Etruscan and the Egyptian, are usually cut upon this 
variety. But when the trade with the East was established, 
after the conquest of Asia by Alexander, a much finer de- 
scription of this stone, the Sard, came into general use ; and 
on this all the finest works of the most celebrated artists are 
to be found. And this not without good cause, such is its 
toughness, facility of working, beauty of colour, and the high 
polish of which it is susceptible, and which Pliny states that 
it retains longer than any other gem. The truth of his 
assertion has been confirmed by the testimony of the seven- 
teen centuries that have elapsed since he wrote, for antique 

6 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Sards are found always retaining their original polish, unless 
where they have been very roughly used ; whilst harder gems, 
as Garnets, Jacinths, and Nicoli, have their surfaces greatly 
scratched and roughened by wear. So true is this, that the 
existence of a perfect polish in any of the latter class of 
stones affords in itself a tolerably sure proof that the gem is 
either modern, or has been retouched in modem times. 

When Pliny wrote, the bright red variety was the most 
esteemed, the honey-coloured were of less value, but the 
lowest place of all was assigned to those of the colour of a 
burnt brick, that is, to the kind we now call Carnelians. The 
bright red are certainly very fine in hue ; they often equal 
the Carbuncle, and come near to the Ruby in tint and lustre ; 
but they are always to be distinguished from these gems by 
a shade of yellow mixed with the red. This colour in some 
Sards deepens into that of the Morella cherry ; these were 
considered the males of the species, for the Romans, following 
the Greek mineralogists, divided gems into males and females, 
according to the depth or the lightness of their colour. Upon 
this bright red variety the best Roman intagli usually occur. 
The light yellow sort resembling amber was much in use at 
an earlier period; on this are frequently found the finest 
works of the Greek artists, and also those stiffly drawn yet 
highly finished figures of the most minute execution, sur- 
rounded with granulated borders, which were formerly termed 
Etruscan, but now with more reason assigned to the Archaic 
Greek school. Very meritorious Roman engravings present 
themselves upon this kind also, but they usually belong to the 
times of the Early Empire, the latest I have seen being a 
very well cut head of Severus. 

On the common red Carnelian we often have very good 
intagli of the Republican age; and most of the Etruscan 
scarabei are cut out of this material, of which they got a 

Sect. I. CALCEDONY. 7 

plentiful supply from the beds of the Tuscan rivei-s ; even 
now the shingle of the brook Mugnone, near Florence, fur- 
nishes this stone in great abundance. The name Sardius is 
derived from the fact of the gem being first imported into 
Greece from 8ardis, probably brought thither from the inte- 
rior of Asia ; for we are informed by Pliny that the best 
came originally from Babylon. This Babylonian mine had 
at that time failed ; but the Romans obtained them also from 
many other countries, especially from Pares and Assos. 
Those from India were transparent, from Arabia somewhat 
opaque. One of the three Indian varieties used to be backed 
with silver foil when set. A gold foil was employed for those 
found in Epirus and Egypt. Sards retained then- polish 
longer than any other gem, but suffered most from contact 
witli oil. 


This is a semi-transparent white quartz, slightly tinted with 
yellow or blue ; the latter kind is sometimes called the 
Sapphirine, being erroneously considered a pale variety of 
tlie Sapphire. This stone was much used at every period 
of antiquity ; the earliest Babylonian cylinders being formed 
of it as well as the latest Sassanian stamjjs. Scarabei of 
Etruscan work, as well as good Greek and Roman intagli 
of all ages, occur in this material ; but engraved upon the 
Sappherine in preference to the other sort ; and justly so, as 
it is an extremely [)retty stone, often approximating to a pale 
Sapphire in colour, although entirely destitute of brilliancy. 
The finest Persian cylinder known (engraved with the usual 
typo of the king fighting with the lion) was formed out of 
this variety ; the signet doubtless that once graced the ivrist 
of some Darius or Artaxerxes of the later days of the Persian 

8 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Busts and heads, in full relief and of considerable volume, 
are frequent in Calcedony. When the stone has a bright 
tinge of yellow, it is named the Opaline, and these heads 
and busts are therefore sometimes described as made out of 
Opal ; a material in which it is almost needless to say that 
none ever existed. 

The most noble work in relief executed on a gem that I 
myseK have ever seen was a three-quarter head of Augustus 
in a white opaque Calcedony greatly resembling ivory ; it 
was about three inches in height, and the work the very per- 
fection of sculpture.^ It subsequently passed into the Fould 
Collection. In what way this stone got its present name is a 
very puzzling question, for the ancient Chalcedonius, so 
called from the locality where it was obtained in the copper- 
mines, was a kind of inferior Emerald, " the green in it being 
mixed with blue, like the feathers of a peacock's tail, or of a 
pigeon's neck," but of which the supply had failed before the 
age of Pliny. The modern Calcedony, or White Carnelian, 
as our lapidaries call it, was probably the Leucachates and 
the Cerachates, the White and Wax Agate of the ancient 


Next in point of frequency to the Sards come these stones, 
all being varieties of the same material, but distinguished by 
the different colours and arrangement of the layers of which 
they are composed. The Sardonyx is defined by Pliny as 
" candor in sarda," that is to say, a white opaque layer super- 

^ The " Chernites " is described of camei, will be found in Calcedony 

as a stone only differing from ivory tlian in any other stone ; whilst, 

in its superior hardness and density: on the other hand, genuine antique 

the sarcophagus of Darius the Great works in this material are much 

was made of it. more unfrequent than on any of the 

^ More modern forgeries, especially other varieties of the quartz family. 


imposed upon a red transparent stratum of the true red Sard ; 
and no better description can be given of a perfect gem of this 
species. Such were the Indian Sardonyx stones of his times, 
whilst the Arabian species retained no vestige of the Sard, 
but were formed of black or blue strata, covered by one of 
opaque white, over which again was a third of a vermilion 
colour. These stones were found in the beds of torrents in 
India, and were but little valued by the natives ; they were of 
sufficient size to be worked up into sword-hilts. The Indians 
also bored holes through them, and wore them as "necklaces ; 
and this perforation was considered by the Romans as 
the test of their Indian origin.* In certain specimens of 
this Indian variety the base was of the colour of wax or of 
horn, then came a white layer sometimes slightly iridescent, 
and tlie surface was " redder than the shell of a lobster." 

This stone (and, literally, Pliny's definition of it, " candor 
in Sarda ") was imitated by the ancient as well as by modern 
lapidaries, by placing a Sard upon a red-hot iron ; this process 
converted the red surface of the stone into an opaque white 
layer of the depth required, which forms a good relief to the 
intagli cut through it into the transparent ground beneath. 
No doubt this effect of fire upon the Sard was first discovered 
by accident, and that too at a late period of the Empire, as 
I have never seen any fine engravings upon such a material, 
though Gnostic subjects are common enough in it. As might 

* This fact explains the reason of many collectors have been puzzled 

tlie fine hole we so frei]uently notice to account for the purpose served by 

passing through the axis of Sardo- these minute perforations, as well 

nyx camei ; the stones, having been as the method by which tliey liad 

imported into Europe in the form been drilled tlirough the width of 

of oval beads, were subsequently cut these thin slabs without the risk of 

diiwu into Ihittened disks to aiVord fracture. Amongst the I'ulsky camei 

the proper disposition of tlieir strata is a perforated Onyx still retaining 

for the working out of the design in within the hole the rusted wire on 

relief. From ignorance of this ori- which it was anciently strung, 
giual destination of the material, 

10 MATERIALS. ect. I. 

be expected, it was a favourite substance with the Italian and 
French artists since the Revival, to whom it was recom- 
mended by the lively contrast of colours afforded by it when 
engraved upon. 

Under this head some notice may be taken of the famous 
signet of Polycrates ; the pretended stone of which, a Sard- 
onyx, and not engraved {intacta illihata), was shown in 
Pliny's time set in a golden cornucopia in the Temple of 
Concord, and there occupying but the last place amongst a 
multitude of other gems, all deemed of superior value. How 
came this legend to be affixed to this particular Sardonyx ? 
For Herodotus expressly calls the signet of Polycrates " an 
Emerald, the work of Theodorus of Samos :" Clemens Alex- 
andrinus adds that the device engraved upon it was a lyre. 
Lessing, in order to support Pliny's tale, endeavours, with 
the usual " liberklugheit " of a German critic, to prove that 
a(^p'nyis does not necessarily signify an engraved gem, and 
that the expression " the work of Theodorus of Samos " 
merely refers to the setting of the stone, because this same 
artist is celebrated for having executed certain works in 
metal for King Alyattes. But Herodotus says nothing about 
the gold ring itself: the Emerald signet, valuable both on 
account of the precious stone and of the intaglio by so famous 
an artist, was the priceless object the sacrifice of which was 
supposed to be of suflicient importance to avert the wrath of 
the offended Nemesis. A few years back an Emerald Avas 
shown in Eome (said to have been just discovered in the 
earth of a vineyard at Aricia), which enthusiastic antiquaries 
looked upon as this far-famed gem. The stone was of large 
size and fine quality ; the intaglio a lyre, above which 
hovered three bees, or, more probably, "cicada?," an insect 
noted by the poets for its musical powers, and which, though 
of much greater bulk, somewhat resembles in shape a large 


drone. This type of the lyre and cicadae often occurs on an- 
tique gems ; I have no doubt that it was borrowed from the 
traditionary description of the signet of Polycrates, and was 
a favourite device with literary men.* 

The common Onyx has two opaque layers, of diiferent 
colours, usually in strong contrast to each other, as black and 
white, dark red and white, green and white, and many other 
varieties. In the Oriental Onyx, still a very valuable gem 
(one the size of a crown-piece selling for 30?. at the present 
day), three layers occur the top one red, blue, or brown ; 
the middle white, sometimes of a pearly hue ; and the base 
a jet black or a deep brown. The stone is considered more 
perfect if the top and the bottom layer be of the same colour. 
The Onyx of Theophrastus was composed of white and 
brownish-red in parallel layers ; but, according to Ph'ny, this 
variety was distinguished by spots of various colours surrounded 
by white veins, like so many eyes an exact description of cer- 
tain Agates.^ By cutting out a blue spot with a black zone 
encircling it, the so-called Nicolo is obtained ; a stone named 
by the Eomans ^gyptilla, " Vulgus in nigra radice cairuleam 
facit," blue upon a black ground. The name Nicolo is an 
abbreviation of the Italian " Onicolo," a little Onyx ; and 
not derived, as is often absurdly stated, from Nicolo, an 
artist's name. The upper layer of a first-class stone of this 
kind is of a rich turquois blue, and the base a jet black. 
On this gem fine Ivoman intagli occur more frequently than 
upon any other after the Sard. On the other varieties of the 

* There are several pretty c\n- concentric, wliilst in tlie latter they 

^rums iu the tireek Anthology are parallel. Hence in descriptions 

(esiiecially one by Meleager) ad- of camel the terms are often used in- 

drossed to the rtTTiy^, cicaila ; or discriminately ; the ancients, liow- 

cii^ala of the modern Italians. ever, seem at lirst to have restricted 

" In fact, the Agate and Onyx are the (h'signation of Agate to the stone 

tlie same substance, hut the layers of black and white strata, 
in the former are wavy and olten 

12 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Onyx they are not uncommon ; and a good engraving on a 
fine Oriental Onyx will command a higher price than upon 
any other gem. And there is good reason for this preference, 
since the design penetrating through the surface into the 
next layer is brought out in full relief by the contrast of 
colour, and thus is conspicuous at a distance, which is not the 
case with a transparent stone, for it must be held up to the 
light to show the engraving. 

The use of the Sardonyx was first made fashionable in 
Kome by Scipio Africanus the elder : the favourite gems of 
the Emperor Claudius were the Sardonyx and the Emerald. 

We may return to the subject of the precious Onyx to 
observe that, although the true Oriental kind still retains its 
value, pieces of large dimensions bringing the high price 
above mentioned, yet the great majority of the stones so 
called at present by jewellers are almost worthless. These 
generally present strong contrasts of red and white, or black 
and white layers. These colours are produced artificially by 
boiling the stone, a kind of flint, for several days in honey 
and water, and then soaking it in sulphuric acid to bring out 
tlie black and white, and in nitric to give the red and white 
layers. They all come from Germany, where the secret was 
either discovered a few years ago, or, as some assert, intro- 
duced from Italy. Pliny says that all gems are brightened 
by boiling them in honey, especially in Corsican (noted for 
its acridity), although they are injured by all other acids. I 
have myself seen an antique Agate, which had been reduced 
by fire to nearly the appearance of clialk, restored to almost 
its original colour by being treated in this manner for three 
consecutive days and nights. The antique gems, indeed, par- 
ticularly the Sards and the several varieties of the Onyx, are 
incomparably superior to anything of the kind which we 
meet witli in Nature at the present day ; but it would be 


hazardous to ascribe this excellence to any artificial treatment 
of the stones by the old lapidaries, as it may have been the 
consequence of their better and more abundant supply of the 
material from sources now closed to us. This we know was 
the case with many antique marbles, such as the Eosso and 
Giallo Antico, the Verde and the CipoUino, all only known 
at present as existing in fragments of ancient architecture. 
Numidia is said to have furnished the Giallo; Laconia the 
Verde ; Carystus the CipoUino ; but the coast of the Ked Sea 
was the chief source both of the coloured marbles of anti- 
quity and also of many of their most valuable gems. 

The enonnous dimensions of the pieces of Sardonyx used 
by the ancient engravers for some of their more important 
works, as the Onyx of the Sainte-Chapelle, have induced 
many to believe that they were a production of art. Veltheim 
goes so far as to say that they were made by fusing obsidian 
and sulphur together ; but this experiment, when tried, gave 
nothing but a black porous glass. De Boot gives a ridiculous 
receipt for maldng the Sardonyx by steeping pounded shells 
in lemon-juice for several days, and with the white cement 
thus made forming the upper layer upon a Sard or Carnelian. 
It is curious, however, to notice that the same idea as to the 
artificial origin of the Sardonyx appears to have prevailed 
in the days of Theophrastus ; at least, this seems the most 
natural interpretation of his words (' On Stones,' chap. 61) : 
" Earthy minerals, tlicse assume all kinds of colours, by reason 
of the diversity of the subjects and of the influences acting upon 
them ; of which, some they soften (by fire), others they fuse 
and pound, and so put together those stones that are brought 
from Asia." Now we must remember that the JMurrhina, 
and the Gemma of which the huge draught-board (carried in 
Pompey's triumph) was made, were not known at Rome before 
tli(> conquest of Asia, long after tlie ago of Theophrastus. 

14 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 


This word, sometimes written Prasma, whence the Frencli 
name of the stone, Prisme d'Emeraude, is merely the Italian 
corruption of Prasina Gemma, according to their common 
vulgarism of interchanging E- with L, and vice versa. Thus 
the Tuscan peasant always says Leopordo for Leopoldo. This 
gem is merely Calcedony coloured green by some metallic 
oxide, probably copper or nickel, and is, in fact, a semi-trans- 
parent green Jasper ; and although it often approximates to 
the finest Emerald in colour, yet it is never pure, but always 
interspersed with black spots, or with patches of the dull 
yellow of the original species, blemishes aptly named by 
Pliny "sal et pterygmata," grains of salt and bees' wings. 
But of a pale-green variety pieces do occur quite free from 
flaws and spots; such, however, are probably rather to be 
considered as varieties of the Chryoprase. These last are the 
true Prases of the ancients, so called from their exact resem- 
blance to the colour of the leek, and some of the best stones 
of this variety will be found quite equal to the Emerald in 
tint, though devoid of its lustre. I have also met with the 
Grammatias of Pliny " the Prase with a white line running 
through it" employed as a Gnostic amulet; and also the 
kind "horrent with spots of blood;" specimens accurately 
determining the species of gem intended under his designation 
of Prase. The commonness of the stone when he wrote is 
clearly shown by his expression " Vilioris est turbee Prasius," 
the Prase belongs to the vulgar herd. 

The Plasma was a great favourite with the Romans of the 
Lower Empire, but not of an earlier date, to judge from the 
circumstance that, although intagli on it are more abundant 
than on any other stone except the Sard and Carnelian, yet 

Sect. 1. PLASMA. 15 

I have never met with any of fine work, and antique, in this 
material. The subjects also of the intagli occurring in it are 
usually those chiefly in vogue at a late epoch of Rome, such 
as the Eagle, Victory, Mercury, Venus, and the Graces. I 
should conclude from this that the stone was a late importa- 
tion into the Roman world, else it would certainly have been 
employed by good artists, both on account of its agreeable 
colour and of its resemblance to Calcedony in the facility of 
working, I have often met with camei in this stone, but all 
apparently of the Renaissance period. Its native country is 
now unknown, but large masses of it are occasionally dis- 
covered among the debris of ancient buildings in Rome. 
Several of the green gems distinguished by Pliny by the 
names of Tanos, Prasius, and Molochites, are now, to all 
appearance, included under the appellation of Plasma by 
collectors. Certainly the great variety of the tints and quali- 
ties of the stones now called Plasmas indiscriminately would 
have induced the ancients, whose mineralogical system was 
entirely based on external peculiarities, to class them under 
different species. The ]\Iolochites (now confounded with tlie 
Malacliite or carbonate of copper) was quite a different sub- 
stance, resembling the Emerald, although not transparent, 
good for making impressions on wax, and worn around chil- 
dren's necks as an amulet. It perhaps was the clear green 
Jade in which small figures for suspension are so often found. 
Prismatical beads''' of Plasma, as well as of Garnet, are often 
found in the earth about Rome. They all range nearly 
about the same size, so that collectors have but little diffi- 
culty in forming an even row out of many distinct purchases. 
Here it may be added that our IMalachite was the ChrysocoUa 

7 Tliis tends to prove that one Jasper beads, as we shall see in the 

sixicies anionrjst our Phismus was verses quoted from Nauniachiiis. 

the green Jasi>er of the ancients, Vide Sapx>hire. 
who often mention necklaces of 


of the Romans, a name also given to native verdigris, from 
its use as a solder for gold work. Nero, as patron of the 
Green Faction, in one of his fits of extravagance caused the 
Circus to be strewn with the powder of this valuable ore, 
instead of the ordinary sand. Antique camei in Malachite, 
though extremely rare compared with the frequency of 
modern works in this material, nevertheless do exist. 
Amongst the Pulsky gems is a most lovely bust of a Bac- 
chante, of the best period of Roman art, still retaining in 
portions the thin hard patina of brown oxide, with which its 
surface was entirely encrusted when it came into the hands of 
the present owner a convincing proof of the ages that must 
have elapsed since its concealment in the earth. 

r>ioTnede and Ulyt^6efi carrying ofT tiie Palladium ; Greco-Ttalian. Agate. 


Tas ^oOj Km Tov 'laantv I8a)v Trepl X^'P' 8oKr](reis 
ray fiev dva7rvei7v roi/Se ;\;Xof;KO/xeeii'. 

Anfhol. ix. 750. 

" You 'II deem tins jasper, deftly graved with cows, 
A grassy mead where breathing cattle browse." 

Of this stone the green semi-transparent kind was con- 
sidered tlie most valuable by the Romans, and to this sort 

** This was the " Jasper " properly lucet Jaspis," Pliny goes on to 
so called in the lapidary's language notice its former high estimation 
of the times : " Viret ct sa^pe trans- and subsequent neglect. 

Sect. ]. JASPERS. 17 

refers the pretty epigram of King Polemo (Anthol. ix. 746), 
' On a herd of cattle engraved on a green Jasper : ' 

" Seven oxen does this jasper signet bound, 
All seem alive within its narrow round ; 
Hence lest they roam beyond the verdant plains, 
A golden fold the little herd restrains." 

That spotted with red, now called the Bloodstone, anciently 
bore the name of Heliotrope, or " Sun-turner," from the 
notion that if immersed in water it reflected an image of the 
sun as red as blood, " sanguineo reperoussu ; " and because, 
also, " when in the air it might be used as a mirror to observe 
the eclipses of the same luminary, and the moon passing 
before and obscuring it." In this kind antique intagli are 
very rarely to be met with.^ On the other hand, they are 
very frequent in a hard green Jasper mottled with brown, 
a favourite stone with the Gnostics. A dull yellow variety 
was also much used by them for their talismans, and also by 
the engravers of the earlier Mithraic representations. The 
black, a very fine and hard material, presents us with many 
excellent intagli of every epoch of the art,"' as does also the 
dark-green variety above all for Egyptian work. The so- 
called red Jasper is a softer stone, and of a different species ; 
it is now often called ILematite, but the ancient Haematites 
bore no resemblance at all to this substance, for it could be 
dissolved in water, and was used in medicine, and was, there 
can be little doubt, nothing more than our Bole Armoniac. 

Of this red Jasper there are two sorts one of a vennilion 

' It was, liowevor, a rrrcat fa- niously availing tlu'inselves of the 

vourito witli the early Italian en- reil si)ots on its surface to imitate 

gravers, many of wliosc works on the issning blood. 
bliMKlstone have been sold as ])re- '" A fragment of one of the finest 

eious antitiues. They were fond of (Jreek intagli known, the Medusa's 

nsing it for rc[iresentations of tlie profile of the Mertens-Schaafhauson 

Flagellation, or Martyrdoms : inge- Collection, is on black JasjxT. 


18 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

colour, the other of a very rich crimson ; the latter is by far 
the rarest. This stone has always been a favourite with the 
Romans, from the middle period down to the end of the 
Empire. We often find in it Imperial portraits of admirable 
work ; while the rude intagli also, of latest date, appear on 
this material in an endless abundance. One of the finest 
intagli in existence, the head of Minerva, after Phidias, the, 
perhaps, chief treasure in that division of the Vienna Collec- 
tion, is engraved on red Jasper. It bears the signature of 
Aspasius, Avliose works, as Visconti observes, appear exclu- 
sively upon this stone a singular exception to the usual 
mediocrity of intagli in this material. Hence we may con- 
jecture that red Jasper, in the age of this artist, was still 
rare in Europe ; and that he was captivated by the beautiful 
opacity and rich colour of the substance, as well as by its 
close and easily-worked texture, which made it so favourite 
a ring-stone under the Lower Empire, when the importation 
of it had so largely increased. At the present day the source 
of this supply is unknown : the true antique Jasper, ver- 
milion coloured, is only to be met with in antique examples, 
and hence the modern engravings will be always discovered 
to be executed on a brownish-red variety. This peculiarity, 
at the first sight of the stone itself, caused me to doubt the 
authenticity of the Bearded Bacchus, by Aspasius, in the 
British Museum, the modern origin of which I have since 
ascertained to be established beyond all dispute. 

Pliny distinguishes several varieties of the Jasper, and says 
that the best sort had a tinge of purple, the second of rose- 
colour, and the third of the Emerald. A fourth sort, was 
called by the Greeks Borea, and resembled the sky of an 
autumnal morning hence must have been of a pale blue. 
One kind, like an Emerald, and surrounded by a white line 
passing through its middle, was called the Grammatias, and 

Sect. I. JASPERS. 19 

was used in the East as an amulet. I have seen a square 
gem, exactly answering to this description, engraved on both 
sides with Gnostic legends. According to Pliny, Jaspers were 
much imitated by means of pastes ; and a combination of 
several colours artificially cemented together with Venice 
turpentine produced a new variety called the Terebinthizusa. 
To baffle such a fraud the best stones were always set trans- 
parent, " the edges only of the gem being clasped by the 
gold." Jaspers Avere the stones called " Sphragides," seal- 
stones par eminence, at this period, and held precedence 
above all others for the purpose of signets, as they made the 
best impressions of all intagli upon the soft wax then in use. 
A pale-green variety, of a very fine grain, and quite opaque, 
sometimes occurs, and often witli good engravings upon it : 
this was the kind so much imitated by the ancient pastes. 
There is no doubt that many of the lighter-coloured Plasmas 
were reckoned among the green Jaspers of ancient times. 

The ancient " Agate " comprehended latterly as many 
varieties as are classed under that name and that of Jasj^er 
in the present day. The different kinds are prettily described 
by Orplieus (v. 605), who prescribes this stone as an antidote 
against the bites of serpents : 

" Drink too the changeful agate in thy wine ; 
Like different gems its vaiying colouis sliine ; 
Full oft it,s hue the jasper's gi-een displays, 
Tlie emerald's liglit. tlie blood-red sardian's l)la7.e ; 
Sometimes vermilion, oft 'tis overspread 
With tlie dull co})per, or tlie apple's red. 
lint best of all that sort -wliereon is spied 
The tawny colour of the lion's liide. 
'/'/lis gem by tlT ancient demigods was famed, 
And from its hue Leontoscrcs named. 
All covered o'er with thousand spots 'tis seen 
Some roi], some white, souie black, souio grassy green. 

r 2 

20 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

If any, groaning from the scorpion's dart, 
Should sue to thee to heal the venomed smart, 
Bind on the wound, or strew the powdered stone, 
The pain shall vanish and the influence own." 

Medusa : Greek. Black Jasper 

G A E N E T S. 

This gem has borrowed its name from the " Granatici," or 
red hyacinths of antiquity, so called from their resemblance 
to the scarlet blossom of the pomegranate. For stones of the 
same colour were promiscuously classed under the same title 
by the ignorance of the Middle Ages, whence has arisen the 
strange interchange of names between ancient and modern 
precious stones so often to be noticed in these pages. 

Garnets were largely employed by the Eomans and the 
Persians ; though they do not appear to have been much 
used for engraving upon before a late date, to judge from 
the fact that splendid stones often occur completely dis- 
figured by the wretched abortions of intagli cut upon them, 
evidently the productions of the very decrepitude of the art. 
I have, however, seen a few admirable works of antique skill 
upon this gem, but they are of excessive rarity, and, in most 
instances, belong to the Roman school.^ Portraits of the 
Sassanian monarchs frequently appear on this gem ; in fact, it 

^ The magniticent A talanta of the and of the finest Greek work, is an 
Berlhi gallery, on a large Carbuncle, exception to this remark. 

Sect. I. GARNETS. 21 

would seem to have been regarded by the later Persians as a 
royal stone, from the preference they have given it as the 
bearer of the sovereign's image and superscription. Pliny 
says that all the varieties of the garnet " Carbunculus " 
obstinately resist the engraver, and the wax adheres to them 
in sealing. This remark is quite correct as referriug to the 
soft sealing material used by the ancients, a composition 
similar to our modelling wax, Avhicli is made of beeswax, to 
which is added a few drops of turpentine, and a little vermilion 
to give a colour. They also used for sealing a fine pipe-clay 
called " creta," which still continues the Italian term for 
plastic clay.^ 

The common Garnet is of the colour of red wine more or 
less diluted. The Carbuncle, which is always cut en caboclion, 
i.e. in a form approaching to the hemispherical, is of a deeper 
and a richer colour. The Vermilion Garnet shows a con- 
siderable admixture of yellow, and often much resembles the 
dark Jacinth. The Almandine or Siriam Garnet, so called 
from the district in IV'gue whence it now comes, has a tinge 
of })urplo mixed with the red, and exactly corresponds with 
l*liny's description of the Carhimculi amethystizontes, which 
were considered the first of all the varieties of that gem ; and 
tliis rank it has retained iu modern times. It is in truth one 
of the most beautiful of all the coloured precious stones, and 
is found in crystals of considerable size. 

Garnets and Carbuncles are now supplied in large quantities 
from the mines of Zoblitz in Silesia ; yet even now a stone of 
a certain size, of good rich colour, and free from Haws, is of 
considerabh,' value, ranging from 8?. to \0l. But its estima- 
tion has greatly fallen since the times of IMary Queen of 

^ Civta is usually rt'inlcied Chalk, is prubably Marga, and derived from 
but this substance is unknown in the tJallic name at the time the 
Italy : the true Latin term for chalk l\omaus tirst saw it in Haul. 

22 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Scots ; the pendent Carbuncle to her necklace being valued 
at 600 crowns an enormous sum in those days. 

The Guarnaccino seems to be a mean between the Euby 
and this gem, since it unites the distinctive marks of both, 
combining the colour of wine with the rosy tint of the former. 
It is a very splendid stone ; fine Eoman intagli, and fre- 
quently imperial portraits, occur upon it. When of the first 
quality it can with difficulty be distinguished from the Spinel 
Euby. Modern engravers have seldom employed the Garnet 
except for works in relievo, and especially for small portrait 
cameos. The stone is extremely hard to work, and also very 
brittle difficulties which they cannot overcome ; a circum- 
stance that affords a much stronger testimony to the skill of 
the ancient artists, who have left us such highly-finished 
works in so refractory a material. 

A variety, though rare, is sometimes found of a beautiful 
rose colour, much resembling the Balais Euby ; on this kind 
I have also seen good intagli, especially one at Eome (in 
1848), Apollo seated and playing the lyre, of most admirable 
workmanship, but the gem accidentally broken in two, a 
misfortune to which all Garnets are peculiarly liable. 

A very similar stone in appearance to this Eose Garnet is 
produced by roasting the Brazilian Topaz for several hours 
under hot ashes in a furnace : it thus changes its golden 
colour into a bright pink, and at the same time acquires 
additional lustre. 

J A C I N T H. 

The modern Jacinth derives its name from the yellow 
variety of the ancient Hyacinth us, with wliich it was con- 
founded in the times of barbarism. The greater part, how- 
ever, of what are now termed Jacinths are only Cinnamon 
Stones or a reddish-brown kind of Garnet of little beauty or 

Sect. I. JACINTH. 23 

value. But the true Jacinth belongs to the Jargoon family, 
distinguished by having for its base the earth zircon, only 
found in this class of gems. There can be little doubt that 
our Jacinth was the ancient Lyncurium, a stone described by 
Theophrastus as resembling amber in levity, colour, power 
of refraction, and electrical properties. One kind is of a 
pale yellow, and extremely brilliant: there is also another 
of a rich orange brown, very agreeable to the eye. 

The Lyncurium is thus described by Theophrastus (c. 
28) : " This gem (the Emerald) is indeed extraordinary on 
account of its singular property of tinging water : and equally 
so is the Lyncurium ; for out of this also signet-stones arc^ 
engraved ; and it is very hard, exactly like a real stone ; for 
it attracts in the same manner as amber, some say not only 
straws and bits of wood, but even copper and iron, if they be 
in thin pieces, as Diodes also hath observed. It is highly 
transparent, and cold to the touch, and that produced by the 
male lynx is better than that of the female, and that of the 
wild lynx better than that of the tame, in consequence both 
of the difference of their food, and the former having plenty 
of exercise, and the latter none ; hence their secretions are 
tlie more limpid. Those experienced in the search find it by 
digging ; for the animal endeavours to conceal the deposit, 
and scra})es up earth over it after he has voided it. There is 
a peculiar and tedious method of working up this substance 
also, as well as the Smaragdus. " 

The ancients used both sorts very frequently, both for 
intagli and for camei ; but for the latter purpose they 
preferred the darker kind, which thus worked is very effective. 
This deep-coloured gem may liave been the ]\[orio, so named 
flora its mulberry colour, which Winy says was used for 
engravings in relief " ad ectypas seulpturas faciendas." The 
stvlc of all engravings on this gem is very peculiar, so as to be 

24 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

easily recognised even in the impression from such an intaglio. 
It is characterised by a kind of fluidity and roundness of all 
the lines, and a shallowness of engTaving, perhaps adopted in 
order to avoid all risk of fracture in working so porous a stone. 
This porousness is manifest even to the naked eye ; for a 
Jacinth held up against a strong light appears like a mass of 
petrified honey. The difficulty of engraving on the Lyncu- 
rium is alluded to by Theophrastus in the above passage ; 
for, after mentioning that signet-stones were engraved out of 
this substance, he adds, " the working in it is somewhat more 
tedious " than in other stones : such at least appears to be the 
meaning of his obscure expression, yivsrai Is axi xa.Tsqyasix ns 
ocuTov ttXsiojv. If this version is correct we have here a distinct 
allusion to the peculiar style of the engravings in this stone, 
worked out as they are in a manner composed of flowing 
and shallow hollows, totally different from that found in other 
gems belonging to the same period. From the porousness 
of the stone, intagli cut upon it, in spite of its great hardness, 
usually have a very worn and scratched surface, so that a 
Jacinth intaglio, exliibiting a high polish on the exterior, may 
justly be suspected of being a modem work. Even the 
interior of the design, unless where protected by the unusual 
deepness of the cutting, will be found to have suffered in a 
singular manner from the effects of friction and of time. The 
finest intaglio in Jacinth at present known is doubtless the 
full-face portrait called that of Pompey, but more probably that 
of Maecenas, formerly in the Herz Collection, which also derives 
additional value from the name of the artist AnoAAQNiOY 
engraved upon it. A fine Jacinth is a splendid ornamental 
ring-stone, and much superior to the best Topaz, as it has a 
peculiar golden lustre mixed with its rich orange ; however, it 
is at present completely out of fashion, and consequently of 
little value ; such is the unreasoning caprice of the mode. 

Sect. I. JACIN'l'H. 25 

Pliny indeed denies the existence of a gem Lyncurium,^ 
which word, he asserts, is only another name for amber ; but 
the descriptions he quotes of it from Theophrastus and Diodes, 
who write that it was used for signets, and was of the colour 
of fiery amber, are quite sufficient to identify it with our 
Jacinth, a favourite stone with the Greek artists of the age 
of these two authors. They also distinctly mention its strong 
attractive property when heated by friction. 

As an ornamental stone the Jacinth may be distinguished 
from the Cinnamon Stone both by its porous texture, and 
above all by its electricity, a quality only found in the Dia- 
mond, Sapphire, Tourmaline, and this class of gems. 

Most probably our Jacinth was also reckoned among the 
varieties of the Lychnis by Pliny, who makes this one of his 
classes of the genus Carbunculus. The Lychnis got its name 
from its supposed property of lighting lamps, " a lucernarum 
accensu." This wonderful power is mentioned by Orpheus, 
V. 270 

' ' Dear to the gods, thou canst the sacred blaze, 
Like to the crystal, on their altars raise." 

It was divided into two sorts, one with a purple, the other 
with a red tinge. It possessed the property of attracting 
light objects when rubbed or heated in the sun, and it was 
imported from India. These particulars would seem to 
identify this stone with the Eed Tourmaline or Rubellite, 
which is as electric as amber itself.* Loth Jacinths and 
Carbuncles were obtained by the ancients in masses of extra- 
ordinary bulk ; Callistratus states that the Indians hollowed 

* So called as being supposed to too soft a stone to answer the an- 

1)0 formed from the urine of tlie cient description of tiie Lychnis, 

Lynx converted into stone when which was extremely difficult to eu- 

liuried in the earth by that beast. grave. See Huhy. 

* Ivvec'pt that the Tourmaline is 

26 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Carbunculi into cups holding a sextarius, or nearly one pint. 
I have myself seen a small antique bowl of the size of a 
Chinese teacup formed out of a single Garnet, and bearing 
its owner's name, koapoy, engraved on the inside. 

The Lychnis is thus mentioned by Lucian, ' De Syria Dea :' 
" The goddess wears on her head a gem called Lychnis 
(lamp-stone), a name derived from its nature. From it a 
great and shining light is diffused in the night-time, so that 
the whole temple is thereby lighted up as though by many 
lamps burning. By day its lustre is more feeble, however it 
still presents a very fiery appearance." Alardus, a Dutch- 
man, writing in the year 1539, caps this story with the fol- 
lowing wonderful description of a similar gem : 

" Amongst other stones of the most precious quality, and 
therefore beyond all price, and not to be estimated by any 
equivalent of human riches, the gift of that most noble lady 
Heldegarde, formerly wife of Theodoric, Count of Holland, 
which she had caused to be set in a gold tablet of truly in- 
estimable value, and which she had dedicated to St. Adalbert, 
the patron of the town of Egmund ; among these gems I say 
was a Chrysolampis, commonly called an Osculan, which in 
the night-time so lighted up the entire chapel on all sides that 
it served instead of lamps for the reading of the Hours late at 
night, and would have served the same purpose to the pre- 
sent day had not the hope of gain caused it to be stolen by a 
runaway Benedictine monk, the most greedy creature that 
ever went on two legs. He threw it into the sea close by 
Egmund, for fear of being convicted of sacrilege by the pos- 
session of such a gem. Some traces of this stone still remain 
in the upper border of the before-mentioned tablet." 

To this circumstantial narrative we may safely apply the 

" The talc of the 'jewel' 's a damnable bounce ;" 

Sect. I. 



for the property of phosphorescence is possessed by no other 
gem except the Diamond, and tJds only retains it for a few 
minutes after having been exposed to a hot sun and then 
immediately carried into a dark room. This singular 
quality must often have attracted the notice of Orientals 
on entering their gloomy chambers after exposure to their 
blazing sun, and thus have afforded sufficient foundation 
to the wonderful tales built upon the simple fact by 
their luxuriant imaginations. 

upphi;; Arcliaic Greek. Jacinth. Augur talking ilie auspifen : Elruncau. Jacmth. 


It lias been frequently asserted by writers on gems that 
the ancients More not acquainted with the tnie Emerald, 
wliich they pretend was unknown in Europe before the dis- 
covery of Peru, from whence in the present day the market 
is exclusively supplied. In spite of the vast numbers of 
Emeralds occurring in Indian ornaments, both in their native 
form and rudely cut into pear-drops and " tables," no mines 
of tliis gem arc known to exist in India ; and Tavernier goes 
so far as to assert positively that all Emeralds used in that 
country must have been imported from I'em by the way of 
tlio Pliilip})ine Isles. But if we carefully consider facts, we 
shall be led to a very different conclusion, and shall find that 
the ancients were abundantly supplied not merely with the 

28 MATEKIALS. Sect. 1. 

true Emerald, but also with the Green Ruby, a much liarder 
and much rarer stone, the Smaragdus Scythicus of Pliny. 
We find numbers of these gems, often of great size, adorning 
antique pieces of jewellery made long before the discovery of 
America a fact in itself sufficient to prove the previous 
existence of the Emerald in Europe, from whatever other 
region it might have been procured. Large Emeralds, 
Rubies, and Sapphires, all uncut, adorn the Iron Crown of 
Lombardy, presented to the Cathedral of Monza by Queen 
Theodelinda at the end of the sixth century, and which has 
never been altered since that period. They also appeared 
in the crown of King Agilulph, also of the same date, al- 
though that was probably brought to its latest and more 
tasteful shape by a famous goldsmith, Anguillotto Braccio- 
forte, in the 14th century, yet still long before the discovery 
of Peru. They also appear in the cross of Lotharius, a work 
of the 9th century, and in the crown of Hungary of the 10th, 
both of which will be fully described in the course of this 
work. A good Emerald may also be seen in the tiara of 
Pope Julius II., who died 32 years before the conquest of 
Peru : this tiara is preserved among the jewels of the Louvre. 
Cellini also, speaking of the antique gems which he used to 
purchase of the country people during his residence at Rome 
(in which line he boasts of having carried on a very lucrative 
trade with the cardinals and other wealthy patrons of art of 
that day), mentions his having thus obtained an Emerald 
exquisitely engraved with a horse's head. This stone was of 
such fine quality that when recut " it was sold for many hun- 
dred crowns." It may here be observed that the horse's head, 
an attribute of Neptune, would be appropriately engraved 
upon the sea-coloured stone, and, above all, that the intaglio 
itself, if of the excellent work described by Cellini, must 
have been antique, for the art of gem engraving had only 

Sect. I. EMERALDS. ' 29 

been revived in Italy a few years before his own birth, 
A.D. 1500. 

According to Pliny, the Bactrian and Scythian Emeralds 
were considered the best of all, on account of their depth of 
colour and their freedom from flaw^s " nullis major austeritas 
aut minus vitii." Their extreme hardness prevented tlieir 
being engraved. All these characteristics united point out 
these gems as the Green Euby still to be met with, though 
always a rare variety, among the Kubies and Sapphires of 
Ceylon. In fact, the stone should rather be called a Green 
Sapphire than a Ruby. I have seen one of large size from 
the Hope Collection ; its colour was a very dark green, fully 
agreeing with the term "austeritas," and its freedom from 
flaws, as contrasted witli another true Emerald of the same 
bulk, was very striking. Hardly any other gem is so liable 
to defects as the latter stone ; even the smallest Peruvian 
Emerald when cut will show one or more flaws in its sub- 
stance ; indeed the absence of any is of itself sufficient to 
excite suspicion that the gem is merely a glass imitation, for 
no precious stone can be more exactly counterfeited by a 
paste. In consequence of this great liability to defects, no 
gem varies so much in value as the Emerald, selling at prices 
varying from lOs. to dl. per carat, according to its clearness 
and depth of colour. 

The Romans derived their principal supply of the true 
Emerald from Egypt, from the mines in the vicinity of 
Coptos. Extensive traces of these workings are still to be 
seen on IMount Zaliara, from which Sir (t. Wilkinson brought 
away several specimens of tlie gem in its quartz matrix, some 
of wliicli are cxhibitcMl in the ]\[ineralogical De[)ai*tmont of 
the Rritish IMuseum. These are indeed of a bad pale colour 
and full of flaws, yet incontestably true Emeralds ; however, 
it was not likely tliat a casual visitor could obtain anything 

30 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

but the refuse of the ancient miners, and a further working 
of the veins might produce stones of better quality, and equal 
to those Emeralds of Imperial times which we shall presently 
notice. Some were also obtained by the Romans from the 
copper-mines of Cyprus : these were the worst of all ; we 
need not however suppose, with some theoretical mineralo- 
gists, that they were only pieces of green malachite. Pliny 
gives a copious list of names for gems of a green colour and 
of various degrees of value, so we can well afford to confine 
his name of " Smaragdus " to the Green Ruby and the true 
Emerald.^ The notion that these Cyprian Emeralds were 
only malachite is entirely confuted by his description, " that 
they were of the colour of transparent sea-water," that is, of 
a light green without any depth of hue. It is said that the 
tomb of Hermias, a prince of that island, which stood on the 
coast near the tunny-fishery, was surmounted by a marble 
lion, the eyes of wdiicli were made of these Emeralds, and 
shot forth such lustre upon the sea as to scare away the fish ; 
nor could the cause be discovered for a long time, until the 
gems in the eyes were changed. Curiously enough, a marble 
lion was brought to England last year from Cos, the pupils of 
whose eyes were very deeply hollowed out, as if for the recep- 
tion of some gems of an appropriate colour. The Ethiopian 
Emeralds were found in a mine three days' journey distant 
from Coptos ; they were of a brilliant green, but rarely clear 
or of the same shade throughout, " acriter virides sed non 

* 'I'lio remark of Pliny that vered at the back : its green will 
" those Emeralds ^Yluch have a disappear when its plane is brought 
plane surface reflect objects like a to a iiarticular angle with -the ray 
mirror " is singularly correct, and of light, and it will seem precisely 
attests his accurate acquaintance like a fragment of a looking-glass 
with the peculiar properties of this in the same position. This sin- 
gem. For if a large Emerald be gular change is not observable in 
held so as to reflect the light, it will any other coloured stone, 
assume the appearance of being sil- 

Sect. I. EMERALDS. 31 

facile piiri aut concolores." Those brought from Media were 
improved in hue by maceration in wine and oil ; they ex- 
ceeded all others in size. 

I shall now proceed to describe some true Emeralds of un- 
doubted antiquity, wliich have at different times come under 
my own notice. A hollow gold ring, the make of which be- 
tokened an early date, and which had been found in the 
island of Milos, was set with an Emerald retaining its native 
form, a portion of a prism, and rudely polished. The stone 
was of a beautiful colour, a bluish green, exactly correspond- 
ing to Pliny's description of the Chalcedonian Emerald, 
" like the feathers of a peacock or the neck of a pigeon ;" 
but tlio stone was very tender and full of flaws. In a very 
choice cabinet of gems, which afterwards passed into the 
possession of L. Fould of Paris, were the following antique 
intagli on true Emeralds, some of considerable size and 
beauty of colour, and the work of which, as far as my own 
judgment goes, bears every mark of authenticity : A bull 
butting with his head, very spirited, the style of the engrav- 
ing of the Roman period. Busts of Hadrian and Sabina 
facing each other. "^ A lion's head, full face, crowned with 
the persea, evidently intended for the type of the Egyptian 
h'on-headed serpent, Clmopli, the emblem of the sun, after- 
wards so favourite a dcn'ice witli the Gnostics. 1'his last 

^ Also an excellent portrait of raid more fiishionaWo at IJoinc, ami 

ilailrian on a very fine Emerald, occasioned a more extended workini; 

1 have lately sien on this gem, and of the mines of Blount Zahara, tlic 

oni' of perfect eolonr, anotlier head, chief sonrce of tlie sn])|ily. An ex- 

aiipanntiy of Saliina. It is cnrious traordinary intaglio of Alexandrian 

so \av.:r a jirojiortion of the intagli work of this date, a head of .Tiipifer, 

upon so rare a material should he- surrounded hy various emhlcms, and 

long to the reign of this emperor: resting on a crocodile, from tlic Mer- 

perhaps his fondness for h^gyptian tens-Schaafhausen Collection, is 

anti(iuities and long sojourn in that cut upon a true but pale Emerald 

eonntrv mav have made the Eme- of eonsiderahle size. 

32 MATERIALS. Sect. 1. 

gem was a miracle of tke glyptic art ; the head in the im- 
pression from it stood out in full relief, with gaping jaws, 
expressive of the utmost spirit ; while the stone was of the 
finest colour, purity, and lustre, and in itself of considerable 
value as a first-rate Emerald. 

Among the Herz gems was a bust of Neptune, a full face, 
on a large pale Emerald with a bluisli tinge, with the artist's 
name, qaos, at the side. The execution of the engraving 
is very fine, and quite in the antique manner. It is cut upon 
the flat section of a large hemispherical stone, which, after a 
very careful examination, I have some doubt in pronouncing to 
be an Emerald, for when held up against the light it has a very 
blue tinge and a peculiar lustre, leading me to consider it as 
a very fine Aquamarine, a most appropriate stone to bear 
the impress of the head of Neptune. 

Amongst Hancock's rings, sold Feb. 1858, was a very 
spirited intaglio, Cupid riding on a dolphin through the 
waves, the work to all appearance antique, upon a very large 
pale Emerald, for such the stone was j^ronounced to be by a 
jeweller of great experience in the purchase of precious 
stones. When examined against the light it did not present 
the peculiar tinge of the Beryl, to which class I was at first 
disposed to refer it on account of its extraordinary size. It 
was absurdly described in the catalogue of the sale as a 

The huge Smaragdi mentioned by Theophrastus wlien he 
speaks of one sent by the King of Babylon to the King of 
Egypt 4 cubits long by 3 wide, and of an obelisk in the 
Temple of Jupiter 40 cubits high made out of only 4 
Emeralds, must have been either certain Green Jaspers, 
j\[alacliites, or more probably glass. In his own time there 
was a })illar made out of a single Smaragchis standing in the 
Temple of Hercules in Tyre. Apion, who lived a little 

Sect. I. EMERALDS. 33 

before the time of Pliny, l)a(l mentioned a colossus of 
Serapis then standing in the Labyrinth 9 cubits high, made 
out of Smaragdus. The Alexandrians were always famous 
for their manufacture of glass, so that these figures and 
obelisks, although their size is doubtless greatly exaggerated, 
may have actually existed in some vitreous composition, and 
been passed off upon the credulous visitor as real Emeralds. 
Such was the case with the famous Sacro Catino of the 
Cathedral of S. Giovanni at Genoa, which was said by 
tradition to have been used by Our Lord at the institution 
of the Last Supper. It was a large dish of a transparent 
rich green substance, and believed for many ages to be 
formed out of a single Emerald of inestimable value, but 
which the investigating spirit of the French, when masters of 
the city, speedily tested and proved to be merely glass.'' 
However, it may here be observed that the antique glass 
Emeralds possess a degree of lustre, colour, and hardness 
very superior to those of modern pastes. One I have seen at 
Kome that had been recut and set in a gold ring, that 
eclipsed in beauty almost every real stone of the kind. In 
fact, it is a usual practice there, on finding a fine paste 
Emerald, to have it recut and facetted for a ring-stone, and 
as such to obtain a high price for it from the unwary dilettante." 

^ Such was doul)tless the famous fine Emeralds, wliich thej' sell to 

"Table of Solomon " found by the the "steamboat gentlemans " at 

Arab conquerors in the Gothic trea- high jirices. The Brighton Kmc- 

sury of Spain, which their histo- raids, so largely jnirchased by 

rians descrilx^ as a table of consider- Cockney visitors, arc of similar 

able size, of one single i)iece of solid origin : the old glass fragments, 

Emerald, encircled with three rows thrown into the sea ]uiriH)sely by 

of fine jx-arls, supitorted bj' nti;") feet the lapidaries of the place, are by 

of gems and massy gold, and esti- the attrition of the sliingle speedily 

mated at the price of r)00,000 pieces converted into the fonn of real jieb- 

of gold. bles. These ingenious tradesmen 

^ The Cingalese anxiously seek literally thus cast their bread into 

after tlie thick lx)ttoms of our wine- llie water, and find it again after 

bottles, out of which they cut very many days. 


34 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Nero, who was extremely sliort-sighted, "Neroni oculi 
hebetes nisi qimm ad prope admota conniveret," used to view 
the combats of gladiators in the arena through an Emerald, 
"Smaragdo spectabat." This stone must have been hol- 
lowed out at the back, as many antique gems, especially 
Carbuncles, are still found to be, and thus have acted as a 
concave lens to assist his sight in watching the distant scene 
below the emperor's seat in the amphitheatre. But its 
power must then have been ascribed to the material, not to 
the form of the stone, for the looking at an Emerald was then 
considered as extremely beneficial to the sight a notion that 
prevailed as early as the times of Theophrastus, who notices 
that people wore Emeralds set in their rings for this very 
purpose. Gem-engravers were accustomed to refresh their 
wearied eyes, after the excessive straining of them required in 
their work, by gazing for some minutes upon an Emerald kept 
by them for that purpose. Had it not been for this confusion 
of ideas, the invention of spectacles, at least for myopes, 
would have been anticipated by more than a thousand years. 
Some commentators have absurdly supposed that Nero used a 
flat " table " Emerald as a mirror to reflect the distant view 
of the combat ; such writers could never themselves have 
suffered from the afiliction of short-sightedness, or they would 
have known that to such an eye a reflection of a distant view 
would be but doubly obscured obscurity.^ Any one that has 
examined the portraits of this emperor on a gem or a well- 
preserved medal will at once recognise, from the extraordi- 
nary size and fullness of his eyes, how very short-sighted he 
must have been. Curiously enough, myopism is still in Italy 
almost a distinct peculiarity of aristocratic birth. 

^ Had the Emerald been only bat," not merely "smaragdo," which 
employed on these occasions as a can only mean " by the aid of an 
mirror, Pliny would have used the Emerald he used to view the corn- 
expression " in smaragdo specta- bats of gladiators." 

Sect. I. EMERALDS. 35 

The Hindoos of the present day are very fond of the 
Emerald, especially when formed as a pear, and worn as a 
drop from the ear. They also wear it much in bracelets, and 
many a glorious gem of this species have they remorselessly 
ruined by drilling a liole tlirough it for the purpose of string- 
ing it as a bead. One of the finest known was thus to be 
seen martyrized upon the arm of Kunjeet Sing. Such stones, 
in order to be used in European ornaments, must be cut in 
two to get rid of the perforation ; and thus a gem of matchless 
magnitude is necessarily reduced into a pair of only ordinary 
dimensions. One of the largest and finest Sapphires that 
ever came under my notice had been thus cruelly maltreated 
in order to make an ear-pendant. 

It may be added that "Smaragdus" is the Greek corrup- 
tion of the Sanscrit Smarakata, the gem and its name having 
been imported together from Bactria into Eiu*ope by the 
traders of that race. Pliny's description of the Emerald will 
form a suitable conclusion to this lengthy dissertation : 
" After the Diamond and Pearl, the third place is given to 
the Emerald for many reasons. No other colour is so pleasing 
to the sight ; for grass and green foliage we view with plea- 
sure, but Emeralds with so much the gi-eater delight, as 
nothing wliatever compared witli them equals them in the 
intensity of its green. Besides, they are tlie only gems that 
fill the eye with their view, but yet do not fatigue it : nay, 
more, when the sight is wearied by any over-ex(^rtion, it is 
relieved by looking at an Emerald. For gem-engravers no 
other means of resting the eye is so agreeable ; so effectually, 
by their mild green lustre, do they refresh the wearied eye." 
After reading this just panegyric, can any one doubt that 
Pliny was acquainted with the true Emerald, or 8U])pose that 
he ct)uld have api)lied such terms of praise to the dull 
Plasma, Jasper, or jMalachite, which many writers on gems 

D 2 

36 MATERIALS. Sect. 1. 

have contended that he exclusively meant by the name 
Smaragdiis ? ' 

The Emerald is thus noticed by Theophrastus (On Stones, 
0. 23) : " Of stones there exist also others out of which they 
engrave signet-stones ; some for the sake of their beauty 
alone, such as the Sard, the Jasper, and the Sapphirus : this 
last is, as it were, spotted with gold-dust. But the Emerald 
possesses also some peculiar properties, for it assimilates the 
colour of the water into which it is thrown to its own colour 
the stone of middling quality tinging a smaller quantity, 
the best sort all the water, whilst the inferior gem only 
colours that immediately over and opposite to itself.' It is 
good also for the eyes, for which reason people wear ring- 
stones made of it, for the sake of looking at them. But it is 
rare, and small in size, unless we choose to believe the histo- 
ries about the Egyptian kings, for some assert that one was 
brought amongst other presents from the King of Babylon 
four cubits in length by three cubits in width ; and that there 
now exist, dedicated in the Temple of Jupiter, four obelisks 
made out of Emerald, forty cubits long, and fom* wide on one 
face, and three on the other. But these accounts rest merely 
on the testimony of their own writers. Of the sort called by 
many the Bactrian, that at Tyre is the largest, for there is 
a column of tolerable size in the Temple of Hercules there ; 
unless, perhaps, it be the spurious Emerald, for there is found 
such a sort of gem. It exists in localities easily accessible 

"* This, however, is not intended says that it could be used as a 

as a denial that many of the nume- solder for gold. Pliny is speaking 

rous Smaragdi, the list of which for himself in the above laudation 

he has extracted from more early of the beauties of the true gem. 
writers, were not mere green gems ' The meaning is that it will give 

of different s[:)ecies : for the Cyprian a gi-eenish cast to the water by the 

8inarai;dus of Theophrastus is clearly reflection of its own colour, not by 

notliing but our transparent Chry- staining the fluid, as most persons 

socolla, or copper Emerald, for he absurdly understand this passage. 

Sect. I. EMERALDS. 37 

and well known, chiefly in two places in Cyprus in the 
copper-raines, and in the island that lies over against Cal- 
cedon. In the latter spot they find the more peculiar speci- 
mens for this species of gem is mined after, like other 
metals and rods^ are made of it in Cyprus, quite by itself, 
and that too in great numbers. But few are met with of 
sufficient size for a signet-stone, since most of them are too 
small, for which reason they use it for the soldering of gold, 
for it solders quite as well as the Chrysocolla ; and some 
oven suspect both to be of the same nature, as they are cer- 
tainly both exactly alike in colour. Chrysocolla, however, is 
abundantly found both in gold-mines and still more so in 
copper-mines, as in those of Stobse. But the Emerald, on 
the contrary, is rare, as we have observed, and it appears to 
be produced from the Jasper ; for it is said that once there 
was found in Cyprus a stone of which the one half was 
Emerald, the other half Jasper as being not yet completely 
transformed by the action of the fluid. There is a peculiar 
mode of working up this gem so as to give it lustre, for in 
its native state it has no brilliancy." 

Olympic victor : EtruHcan Binienild, 

'^ Probably these are the cylindri jjendants so often seen in antique 
if the llomans, the long and slender works. 

38 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

latas or palsemon : Greco-Italiau. Beryl. 


" An Indian beryl erst, great Tryphon's skill 
Has bent my stubborn nature to bis will, 
And taught me Galatea's form to bear, 
And spread with gentle hands my flowing hair. 
Mark how my lips float o'er the wateiy plain, 
My swelling breasts the charmed winds constrain ; 
Freed from the envious gem that yet enslaves, 
Thou 'It see me sport amid my native waves." 

Add.'EUS,^ Anthol., ix. 544. 

The Beryl is of little value at the present day, both in con- 
sequence of its extreme softness and of the abundance in 
which it is now produced in many parts of the world, and 
that, too, often in masses of enormous magnitude, whose 
size reminds one of the monstrous Smaragdi spoken of by 
Theophrastus and Apion. In the British Museum are two 
Beryls from Acwortli, New Hampshire, one of the weight of 
48 lbs., the other of 83 lbs. This stone is of the same che- 
mical constitution as the Emerald, the basis of both being 
glucine in almost the same proportion, but it is much softer, 
and yields to the file. 

' Addanis was an Alexandriau cingram, therefore, fixes the date of 
poet under the flrst Ptolemies. This the engraver Tryi)hon. 

Skct. I. BERYL. 39 

I have met with but few indubitably antique intagli in 
this stone/ although it was subsequently a favourite material 
with the artists of the Renaissance and later times. Antique 
engravings on Beryl are almost as rare as on the Emerald : 
but those on tlie former stone, as far as my experience goes, 
all belong to an earlier period, being usually fine works of 
the Greek school, whilst I have never met with intagli on 
Emerald which were not clearly of Roman work. Besides 
the Taras on the Dolphin, already mentioned, one of the most 
exquisite relics of Magna Grecian art in existence, a Cupid 
similarly mounted, also on a fine Beryl, is one of the chief 
ornaments of the Cracherode Collection in tlie British 
IMuseum. This stone was of the same degree of rarity 
amongst the ancients as the Smaragdus itself, for it was then 
obtained from India alone. It is the vast supply from Ger- 
many and America that has so sunk the value of this gem in 
modem times. It possesses very great lustre, and the lighter 
variety is often used in jewellery, under the name of Rhine 
Diamond : and persons have often flattered themselves with 
being the owners of a time Diamond of enormous value, 
which, on examination by a skilful lapidary, has proved to 
be merely one of these comparatively worthless stones. 

This was the only gem facetted by the Romans, who cut it 
into a sexangular pyramid, as otherwise it had no lustre. 
Beryls were highly prized at Rome, both for the purpose of 
ear-drops, and of ornamental, i. e. not engraved, ring-stones. 
When Cynthia's shade appears to Rropertius he remarks 

" Et solitain digito beryllon adederat ignis." 

The finest tlicse few merit. In tlie same collection are 

is the 'Paras riding on a dolphin, of a few more intagli on Heryl of fair 

tlu' Merteus-Scliaulhaiison Collec- Human work. 
tion, a Ijreek work of tlie highest 

40 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

" The funeral pile had with its fire defaced 
The sparkling beryl which her finger graced." 

A line aifording a proof, if any were wanted, that the favourite 
rings of the deceased were burnt together with the corpse; 
a fact which fully accounts for the number of fine intagli, 
partly or wholly calcined, which every collector meets with 
not uufrequently, and often witli the greatest regret at the 
destruction of some matchless specimen of the skill of the 

The Indians had the art of tinging crystal so as to pass it 
oft' for the Beryl.^ They also cut this stone into long cylin- 
drical beads, and wore them strung on elephants' hair, believ- 
ing that their lustre was heightened by the perforation. But 
the most perfect in colour were not bored, but used for wear 
by having each end secured by a gold boss. 

It is a curious fact that Beryllus is tlie low Latin term for 
a magnifying glass ; hence the German " Brille," spectacles. 
Nicolas de Cusa, Bishop of Brixen (who died 1454), gave 
the name of Beryllus to one of his works, " because by its 
aid the mind would be able to penetrate into matters which 
otherwise it would be unable to penetrate." And in his 
second chapter he says, " The Beryl is a shining, colourless, 
transparent stone, to which a concave as well as a convex 
form is given by art ; and, looking through it, one sees what 
was previously invisible." Probably the first idea of this 
invention was got by accidentally looking through a double 
convex and clear Beryl (or one cut en cahochwi, a very usual 

'' At present the Indians paint nients are, when taken out, rarely 
the back of every coloured gem found to be of much value, as all 
they set to improve the colour, for of high intrinsic value are sold to 
which reason they never set them the European market, the inferior 
transi)arent. From this deceitful samples, when painted, being con- 
practice of giving a false beauty to sidered good enough for the native 
tlic stones, those set in Indian orna- jewellery. 

Sect. I. 



form of ancient transparent stones), and thence concluding 
that a clear piece of glass of the same shape would produce 
the same effect. Thus the observer by induction was led to 
apply a similar fact to that of Nero's use of his Emerald 
lorgnette to the working-out of a most important result ; 
through the happy thought that the marvellous effect was 
due not to the material, but to the shape of the stone. 

AiJoUo : ui. R work. 



a' Xidoa fST dfifdvoTos, eyo) S'6 ttoths Aiovvaos 

Anth. ix. 748. 

" On wincless gem I toper Bacchus reign; 
Stone, learn to drink, or teach me to abstain." 

The common Amethyst is only crystal coloured purple by 
manganese and iron. The deeper the tint, the less brilliant 
is the stone ; for which reason the ancient engravers preferred 
the light-coloured variety, which of all gems, next to the 
Jacinth, possesses the greatest lustre. This pale kind was 
su})p()sed by Lessing and many others to be the Hyacinthus 
of Pliny, which, according to him, differs from the Amethyst, 
"^ inasmuch as the violet splendour of the Amethyst is diluted 
in this gem. and, so far from tilling the eye, does not even 

42 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

reach it, fading away more speedily than the flower of the 
name name." This flower, it may be observed by the way, 
was not our hyacinth, a bulb derived from Persia, but the 
blue iris, or fleur-de-lys, the blossom of which only lasts one 
day. This appears from Ovid's elegant account of the origin 
of the plant from the blood of the youth Hyacinthus :-^ 

" Flos oritur formatnqne capit quam lilia, sinon 
Purpureas color hie argenteus esset in illis." 

" Formed like the lily, springs a flower to light, 
But robed in purple, not in silver white."* 

But we shall prove in the next chapter that the ancient 
Hyacinthus stone, as described by Solinus, agrees with the 
modern Sapphire in every particular ; and we have already 
seen that the stone, now called the Jacinth or Hyacinthe by 
the French, was the Lyncurium of the ancient lapidaries. 

Pliny mentions the suitableness of the Amethyst for 
engraving on, " sculpturis faciles," a sufScient proof that no 
species of this stone was the Hyacinthus, which Solinus calls 
the liardest of all gems, and only to be touched by the 
diamond point. 

Intagli of all dates and of every style of work occur on 
Amethyst, but usually on the light-coloured sort : in fact, an 
engraving on a dark stone may be suspected of being modern. 
I have, however, seen a fine Greek intaglio a full-fa(;ed head 
of Pan, the Mask of Terror upon a dark-coloured Amethyst, 
the antiquity of the work of which could not be called in ques- 
tion. Scarabei also, both Egyptian and Etruscan, are by no 
means uncommon in this stone ; and Koman intagli in it are 

* The liUum was probably the to typify, according to the satirical 

white fleur-de-lys, to judge from remark of Dante, the constant civil 

the Italian giglio. The giglio of wars of that State, 
tlie arms of Florence was first ar- per division fatto vcrmiglio." 

gent, but after changed to gules, 

Sect. I. xVMETHYST, 43 

sufficiently abundant, though not often of good execution. 
Amongst the finest gems of the Pulsky Collection is the 
head of a Syrian king upon a large and pale Amethyst, 
engraved with the artist's name, neapkhs. Small heads and 
busts, in full and half relief, are frequently found executed in 
this stone, which have probably served to complete statuettes 
in the precious metals. 

The name (though probably derived from the Indian word 
for the stone) was by the fanciful Greeks interpreted as if 
formed from their own language, and thereupon the gem was 
invested by them with the virtue of acting as an antidote to 
the effects of wine. Hence the point of the epigram prefixed 
to this article, and also of another by Asclepiades or Anti- 
l>atcr of Thessalonica (Anth. ix. 752) : 

" A Bacchante wild, on amethyst I stand, 
Tlic engraving truly of a skilful hand ; 
The subject 's foreign to the sober stone, 
But Cleopatra doth the jewel own ; 
And on her royal hand all will agree 
The drunken goddess needs must sober be." 

Even in the last century this stone was still held in high 
estimation. Queen Charlotte's necklace of well-matched 
Amethysts, the most perfect in existence, was valued at 
20001. ; at present it would not command as many shillings 
so groat has been the importation of late years of German 
Amethysts and Topazes (purple and yellow crystals of 
quartz), which are dug up in endless abundance in the Sie- 
b(ngeberge on tlie Rhine, where they are cut and polished 
by steam-power, and despatched into all parts of Europe to 
bo made u]) into clicap articles of jewelleiy. They are also 
found plentifully about Wicklow in Ireland. These occi- 
(U'utal stones are of a dec}), rich liiu', but have very little 
brilliancy : fornurly they were largely imported from the 

44 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

East Indies, and these were light coloured, but extremely 
lustrous. In modern usage the Amethyst is the only stone it 
is deemed allowable to wear in mourning.'' 

We may here mention the true oriental Amethyst, a very 
rare and valuable stone, being in reality a purple Sapphire, 
but its purple has little of the redness of that seen in the 
common Amethyst, but is rather an extremely deep shade of 
violet. It is a much rarer stone than the ordinary blue 
Sappliire, but very inferior to it in beauty, English jewellers 
absurdly call the common Amethyst, if very bright and of 
two shades of colour, by the name of Oriental ; a stone which 
in reahty few of them in all their experience have ever met 


That the Sapphirus of the ancients was our Lapis-lazuli is 
evident from Pliny's description of it, " that it came from 
Media (whence the entire supply of the latter stone is brought 
at the present day), that it was opaque, and sprinkled with 
specks of gold, and was of two sorts, a dark and a light blue. 
It was considered unfit for engraving upon in consequence of 
its substance being full of hard points," the small spots of 
yellow pyrites which appear like gold. Nevertheless both 
intagli and camei of Koman times are frequent in this 
material, but rarely any works of much merit, though fairly 
executed Roman intagli in it are not scarce.^ With Italian 

7 The colour of the Amethyst can a greater or shorter time until they 

be dispelled by a careful roasting in were all brought to the same tint 

liot ashes. Hence, in the last cen- of purple. 

tury, when it was desirable to ob- " I have lately seen a very tine 

tain a suite of stones of the same head of Alexander the Great on a 

shade, the jewellers were able to large and fine-coloured Lapis-lazuli, 

obtain this result by subjecting the the reverse of the stone engraved 

several Amethysts to the heat for with full-length figures of Apollo 


artists it has been a great favourite, especially for engravings 
in relief and for busts of statuettes. A serious defect of this 
substance is that it loses its beautiful azure by exposure to 
heat and moisture, and assumes a chalky appearance. It has 
been asserted positively by many modern mineralogists that 
the Cyanos of Pliny was our Sapphire ; but this opinion is 
by no means borne out by his description of the former 
stone : " The Cyanos shall be noticed separately, a favour 
granted to the blue colour lately mentioned (when speaking 
of the blue Jasper). The best sort is the Scythian, then the 
Cyprian, and last of all the Egyptian. It is very largely 
imitated by staining crystal, and a certain king of Egypt has 
the credit of having first discovered how to tinge crystal this 
colour. This also is divided into male and female. There 
is sometimes gold-dust seen within it, but different from that 
in the Lapis-lazuli. For in the latter the gold shines in 
points or specks amidst the azure colour." This mention of 
the gold-dust visible in the Cyanos, but only occasionally, 
would lead us to conclude it to have been the clear variety of 
the Lapis-lazuli, pieces of which sometimes occur entirely free 
from the golden specks of pyrites. Or it may liave been a 
bright crystal of the sulphate of copper, which is in its native 
state nearly transparent and of considerable hardness. What- 
ever it was, it was clearly not the present precious stone the 

^^'hat tlie Cyanus really was may bo deduced from the 
following passage of Thoophrastus (c. 55) : " And as there is 
a lied Ochre both natural and artificial, so is there a Cyanos, 
also both produced naturally, and made by art like that 

and Ycnua with Cupid. Tlie in- middle Roman work, and may liavc 

ta;j;lio was pronounced by the CJer- Ix-en the ornanieut of a lady of tlie 

man anticjuaries to Ix; coeval with family Macriana. 
Alexander ; to me it rather appears 

46 MATKRTALS. Sect. I. 

manufactured in Egypt. Of the Cyanos there are three 
kinds the Egyptian, the Scythian, and a third the Cyprian. 
The Egyptian is the best for thick-bodied paints, but the 
Scythian for those of a diluted kind. The Egyptian is pro- 
duced artificially", and the writers of the history of their kings 
mention this also, which of the kings it was who first made a 
fused Cyanos in imitation of the natural stone ; and that this 
mineral used to be sent as a present from other regions. 
From Phenicia, ho^^ever, it was brought as a fixed tribute, 
an appointed quantity of Cyanos, so much in its native state 
and so much calcined. The persons who grind up paints say 
that the Cyanos produces of itself four different shades of 
colour ; the first, made from the thinnest pieces, being the 
lightest ; the second, from the thickest, giving the darkest 
tint." This artificial substance is the blue enamel so uni- 
versally used in all Egyptian works in terracotta, and made 
by fusing together copper filings, powdered flint, and soda, in 
imitation of the native sulphate of copper, the true Cyanos. 
This antique invention is still employed by enamellers under 
the name of Zaffre. 


'a (r(j>payls vdmvdos, AttoXXcov 6' icrriv ev dvTjj 
KM Aa.<pvr], TTorepov fiakXov 6 AjjToiSay ; 

Anthol. ix. 751. 

" Engraved on Hyacinth fair Daphne shines 
With Phoebus ; say to which his heart inclines ? " 

That the Hyacinthus of the ancients was the Sapj)liir<3 of 
the present day will be clear to every mineralogist who will 
carefully consider the minute description of the gem given 
by Solinus : " Amongst those things of which we have 
spoken (in Ethiopia) is found also the Hyacinthus of a shin- 


ing sky-blnc colour ; a precious stone if it be found without 
blemish, for it is extremely subject to defects. For generally 
it is either diluted with violet, or clouded with dark shades, or 
else melts away into a watery hue with too much whiteness. 
The best colour of the stone is a steady one, neither dulled 
by too deep a dye nor too clear with excessive transparency, 
but which draws a sweetly coloured tint (florem) from the 
double mixture of brightness and purple. This is the gem 
that feels the air and sympathises with the heavens, and 
does not shine equally if the sky be cloudy or bright. Be- 
sides, when put in the mouth it is colder than other stones. 
For engravings indeed it is by no means adapted, inasmuch 
as it defies all giinding (attritum respuat) ; it is not however 
entirely invincible, for it is engraved upon and cut into 
shape (scribitur et figiiratur) by the diamond." In the pre- 
ceding passage Solinus has spoken of the production of cin- 
namon in the same district, which, as the native country of 
this spice, must have been situated on the Indian Ocean. 
The importations from India and from Ethiopia would 
naturally be confoimded together, since the produce of all 
these eastern regions came to Alexandi-ia by the way of the 
Red Sea. 

We have already noticed Pliny's account of the Hya- 
cinthus ; it agrees in the main with the above, although his 
description of the gem is by no means so particular as that of 
Solinus ; who, to judge from his style, probably flourished two 
centuries later than the former writer.^ The great com- 
mercial intercourse with India, established afttn- the age of 
Trajan, had by that time made the Romans much better 
acquainted with the Indian gems. At present all our best 
Sapphires come from Ceylon ; the only place in Europe 

The first author wlio quotes him is tho gmmmarian Priscianus, in the 
fifth couturv. 

48 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

where they have been found being a brook near Expailly, in 
France ; bnt these are all of a pale colour and small size. 
The ancients obtained their Hyacinths from the beds of 
torrents, just as the Cingalese do Sapphires at this day ; for 
the gem never occurs in the matrix, but always in rolled 
masses mingled with the gravel. This peculiarity of their 
origin is elegantly alluded to by Naumachius in his ' Mar- 
riage Precepts,' v, 58 : 

" Dote not on gold, nor round tliy neck so fair 
The purple hyacinth or green jasper wear ; 
For gold and silver are but dust and earth, 
And gems themselves can boast no real worth ; 
Stones are they, scattered o'er the pebbly coast, 
Or on the torrent's brink at random toss'd." 

Curiously enough, there is preserved amongst the anti- 
quities found at Kichborough, now in the library of Trinity 
College, Cambridge, a portion of a necklace formed of small 
rough Sapphires, drilled through the middle of each stone 
and linked together with gold wire, doubtless the very kind 
of ornament alluded to by Naumachius in the above lines. 

Some of the varieties of the Adamas of Pliny were evi- 
dently Sapphires, to judge from the terms he uses in de- 
scribing them: "laterum sexangulo Isevore turbinatus in 
mucronem ;" for this six-sided smooth and pointed crystal is 
the primitive form of the Sapphire. The steel-colour and 
great weight^" which he assigns to the Siderites also prove 
the same, for no other term could so aptly describe the tint 
of the unpolished light Sapphire. The " aereus color," 
also, of his Cyprian adamant is the sky-blue of our best 
Sapphire, its hue being the exact shade of the " air " or 

'" The specific gravity of the Sapphire is actually one degree greater than 
that of the Diamond. 


atmosphere in the climate of Kome.^ It is also stated of 
this variety that, besides its blue tinge, it could be perforated 
by means of another Diamond, i. e. of a true Indian stone, 
to wliich alone the Sapphire yields in hardness. The light- 
coloured Sapphires can be rendered entirely colourless by 
exposure to intense heat for some hours, and acquire also 
great brilliancy, so as often to be passed off" for real Dia- 
monds, The engravings on Diamond ascribed to Jacopo da 
Trezzo and other artists of the Renaissance were in reality 
upon this material, or else on white Topaz. Antique intagli 
in Sapphire that have come under my inspection are the 
following : a head of Julius Ca3sar, the stone an octagon and 
of the finest deep colour ; a head of Phoebus, full face and 
surrounded by rays, on a pale stone of nearly hemispherical 
shape, the work extremely sj)irited but not of so decidedly 
antique a character as the first mentioned (from the Herz 
Collection) ; a magnificent head of Jupiter, inscribed nv, 
supposed to be the signature of Pyrgoteles himself, but more 
l)robably the owner's name, engraved on a pale Sapphire, 
tlie back of which was somewhat globose and highly polished. 
This stone was nearly an inch in diameter, and was disco- 
vej-ed forming the ornament of the pommel of the handle 
to a Turkish dagger, the intaglio being entirely concealed 
by the setting, " the Sapphire being set as a stone cut en 
caboeJimi, the flat face downwards." This furnishes an addi- 
tional proof of its authenticity, and shows that the gem had 
been picked up by some Oriental wlio h)oked to nothing 
but the value of the material and utterly disregarded the 
art displayed upon it. This intaglio was, in the o})inion of 
the best judges, one of the finest productions of the Greek 
school. A head of Alexander as represented on his drachmae, 

AiMis ccfo ((.lor tutn rum siiu> miWluis " "l"'"' '<>"'' ">" H'e "'" "^ ^l<--"' <>" biRli, . 
,.,' iifi.l A. A iil. 171. Wlicn not a oldiul U s(\'n through hU (lie 




Skct. 1. 

and of the same size as that coin, on a pale stone strcal^ed 
with indigo, the execution of the intaglio in a flat, peculiar 
manner, very similar to that of the gems assigned to the 
cities of j\ragna Grecia, and indubitably antique.^ Of intagli 
of a later date the Pulsky Collection can boast of a portrait 
of Pope Paul III., by the famous Alessandro Cesati, on a 
beautiful Sapphire three-quarters of an inch square, a truly 
inestimable gem both for the fineness of the stone and the 
spirit and life of the engraving. 

This stone derived its ancient name Hyacinthus from the 
resemblance of its colour to the blue fleur-de-lys fabled to 
have sprung from the blood of Apollo's favourite Hyacinthus, 
and to bear inscribed on its petals aim, the cry of grief of 
the god, an inscription still to be seen there. This sameness 
of names, of the boy and of the stone, gave the origin of the 
(epigram at the beginning of this article. 

The modern name of Sapphire is due to its colour ; the 

- Another very important intaglio 
of clearly auti(|ue lioman work, on 
a large pale stone, has lately come 
luider my notice. The subject is 
two actors, the one in front seated, 
and both bending over a comic mask 
lying on a low altar (the Thymele) 
in front of them. The princiiial 
figure is wrapped in a toga, and 
holds in his hand the usual crooked 
stick, the badge of the comedian. 
On the back of the chair hangs a 
liuge ti-agic mask. The intaglio 
appears of the date of the Middle 
Empire. In the jiossession of the 
same collector is a small Etruscan 
scarabeus on a very pale stone ; a 
proof how early that people had at- 
tained the skill of working in this 
most difiicult material. But the 
roost important antique piece in 
Sapi)hire that has ever been dis- 

covered is a cameo (now in the pos- 
session of Mr. Eastwood), present- 
ing the well-known subject of Hebe 
and the Eagle, cut in half-relief on 
a heart-shaped stone of fine colour, 
I5 inch long by IJ wide. The w'ork 
is apparently of the time of Hadrian, 
and is of considerable merit, though 
producing but little effect, from the 
clouded surfiice of the gem upon 
which such wonderful patience and 
skill have been lavished : a circum- 
stance of itself attesting the late 
period of its execution. The stone 
has a hole drilled through its longer 
axis, evidently done in India,-that 
it might be worn as a bead, before 
it was purchased by the Eonian 
dealer, and subsequently engraved 
as a cameo ; for the work in one 
place has cut down into the per- 


ancient Sapphinis or Lapis-lazuli furnishing the paint ultra- 
marine, " sapphirinus " came to signify " azure ;" and we 
find the blue varieties of the precious Corundum already- 
called Sapphirini by Camillo Leonardo at the end of the 
15th century, to distinguish them from the red and yellow 
varieties (Ruby and Oriental Topaz) of tlie same family. 
The Hyacinthus of the classic writers is always the blue 
kind ; but Marbodus, in the lltli century, already makes 
the three divisions above noticed, the blue, red, and yellow, 
and, with an accuracy surprising for that early period, refers 
them all to the same family the modern mineralogical clas- 

At the Renaissance the price of coloured gems of perfect 
quality far exceeded that of the Diamond; and as a curiosity 
I give Cellini's tabic of their comparative value, from liis 
' Orificeria ' 

Ruby (of one carat weight) = 800 gold scudi. 

Emerald 400 ,, 

Diamond 100 ,, 

Sapphire 10 ,, 

The gold scudo equalled a half-sovereign in weight, but 
was of far greater value on account of the difference in the 
worth of money. This, however, was not so great at the 
time he wrote (about 15G0) in Italy, then the richest country 
of Europe, as it was in England, wliere tlio diflerenco between 
the value of money then and now is usually computed as 
fifteen to one. At th(^ present day a perfect Sapphire or 
Emerald of one carat will sell e([ually for .1/., a Diamond 
brilliant-cut for S/. A Kuby of a carat is worth the same as 
the two first ; but if it sho\dd weigh more than two carats 
and be perfect, its value far exceeds that of the Diamond. 
1 have seen a perfect Ruby, weighing four carats, that had 
been bought for 'M)()l. ; a Diamond of the same weight woidd 

E 2 

52 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

only have been worth 160Z.^ Vossius mentions a lluby 
belonging to the Empei'or Rudolph II. as large as a small 
hen's egg, and valued at 60,000 ducats, or 30,000?. The 
King of Ava possesses at present one even larger, and quite 
perfect in colour and in water, set as an ear-drop. Its value 
is inestimable and far beyond that of a Diamond of similar 


The name of this stone is merely an epithet of its colour, 
as being the red variety of the Hyacinthus. For the same 
reason Marbodus calls the same gem " Granaticus," from its 
resemblance to the vermilion blossom of the pomegranate. 
This was probably the anthrax ^ of Theophrastus, of which he 
says that a very small stone used to sell for forty gold staters 
(about forty guineas), a statement which could not apply, at 
that period of high civilisation and extensive commerce with 
all regions, to the Garnet or Carbuncle, a common stone and 
produced abundantly in many parts of Europe. It must 
also be included among the numerous species of the Car- 
bunculus described by Pliny, although he gives the first rank 
to the Carbunculi Amethystizontes, our Almandines ^ or Gar- 
nets of Siriam. One of the qualities which he assigns to the 
Carbun cuius, that of not being affected by the fire, whence 
they Avere called Acausti, only applies to the Euby, for the 
Garnet easily fuses into a dark globule of oxide of iron. 

3 I have been assured by a person Nonius, 
of great experience in precious stones, * This name signifies a live coal, 
that he has inspected a perfect Ruby, because it is red in colour, but held 
weighing only eleven grains, which against the sun assumes the appear- 
had been sold for llOOL, or 1001. ance of a burning piece of charcoal, 
per grain ! probably the highest ' So called from resembling in 
rate at which a jirecious stone has colour the blossom of the almond- 
been estimated since the times of tree, a purplish pink. 
the famous Opal of the senator 

Hect. I. RUBY. r>3 

Henckel relates an experiment in which a Ruby Mas suffi- 
ciently softened by means of a powerful burning-glass to 
receive the impression from a Jasper intaglio without the 
slightest detriment to its original colour and hardness when 
it became cold. 

It is almost certain that this gem was the ancient Lychnis 
already mentioned under " Jacinth." All that Pliny says of 
it is, " Of the same family of blazing stones is the Lychnis, 
so called from its lighting up lamps (or, perhaps, lighting up 
by lamjiliglit, lucernarura accensu), but yet of extraordinary 
beauty. It is joroduced near Orthosia and in the whole of 
Caria and the neighbouring regions ; but the most esteemed 
in India, which sort some have called a Carbuncle of milder 
hue. The second in rank is the Ionia, so called from its 
similarity to the flower of the same name (the Greek lov, or 
red cyclamen). And amongst these sorts I find there is a 
difference ; one kind has a purple lustre, the other a red 
(cocco) : Avarmod in the sun or by friction with the fingers, 
they attract straws and scraps of paper." The descrijjtion of 
it given by Solinus is, as before, more definite ; he calls the 
stone Lychnites, boeauso it shines most by lamplight : it is 
bt)th of a transparent purple and of a light red, and attracts 
bits of thread, straws, &c., Avhon rubbed or heated in the 
sun. It is very difficult to engrave, and tJien pulls away the 
wax as if by a bite '' velut quodam animalis morsu." Now 
all those qualities can be found united in no other gem than 
the Kuby : the best still come from India (though inferior 
ones are sometimes found in Ijohemia), The finest Ruby 
shines with the red of the cochineal (cocco), the ]]alais is 
often (piito of a lilac colour (purpura) : they are only sur- 
passed in hardness by the Sapphire and the Diamond; in fact, 
none but Oriental artists iner attempt engraving on them 
in modern tinn^s, I have not yet had an opportunity of 

54 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

trying whether the scarlet Kuby is electric; but, from its 
belonging to the same class as the Sapphire, it probably will 
be found to possess that property. In my own collection is 
an antique intaglio, a head of IM. Aurelius, cut on a gem 
exactly answering to this description of the Lychnis : its colour 
is a curious mixture, a yellowish red, appearing purple or 
lilac when held against the light, and at a certain angle 
presenting shades of blood-red : the stone itself is as electric 
as amber, and apparently of excessive hardness. It was 
pronounced by a very experienced lapidary to be a Spinelle 
Ruby, but more probably it should be termed a Balais. 

The Eomans experienced the same difficulty as exists at 
the present day in distinguishing the various sorts of the 
Carbunculus from each other, in consequence of the practice 
of jewellers of backing them with various foils so as to 
improve their colour, "tanta est in illis occasio artis, sub- 
ditis per quae translucere cogantur." Tliis delusion is espe- 
cially to be observed in works of the Renaissance, where 
camei portraits, set in rings, often appear like the finest 
Rubies, but are in fact only Garnets backed with a ruby 
foil. It was also believed, in Pliny's time, that the dull- 
coloured Carbunculi could be made lustrous by maceration in 
vinegar for the space of fourteen days, and that tlie effect 
lasted for the same number of montlis. These gems were 
also imitated so well in jjaste, that the false ones could only 
be distinguished by their inferior hardness. And this is 
exactly true, for I have met with an antique paste bearing 
a splendid intaglio of a ]\Iedusa's head, which could with diffi- 
culty be known not to bo a real Carbuncle ; it even showed 
all the flaws within its substance, ^vhich the real stone always 

'' 'riiesc flaws are ]iro(luced pur- Miulilenly on it.s witlidrawal fruin 
posoly, In- letting tlie paste cool the riirnuee. 

Sect. I. RUBY. .55 

True Kubies, and of good colour, uncut, but rudely polished, 
occur botli in ancient jewellery and set in antique rings. In 
the Herz Collection was a necklace formed of rough Rubies 
and Emeralds of fine colour of the size of horsebeans, drilled 
through and linked together with strong twisted gold-wire, 
in a similar manner (but much more substantially) to the 
Sapphire necklace from Richborough, already described. 
The Ruby, though of the same chemical composition as the 
Sapphire, yields to it in hardness ; but yet antique intagli 
are even rarer in it than in the former stone. In fact, the 
experienced Lessing, as well as the Comte de Chirac, alto- 
gether deny the existence of any really antique intagli in 
these harder gems, but the instances already adduced nnder 
" Emerald " and " Sapphire " sufticieutly prove that this 
dictum, though generally true, yet admits of some rare 
exceptions. It may also be remarked in this place that 
engravings on any of the precious stones are always to be 
examined with the greatest suspicion, modern artists en- 
graving for wealthy patrons having found it their interest to 
employ such substances as recommended themselves to their 
purse-proud em})loyors by the mere value of the stone (a thing 
which at least tliey could appreciate), as well as by the art 
thereupon displayed, Avliieh was frequently to them but a 
minor consideration. The ancient artists, on the contrary, 
chose such stones as were best suited for the execution of 
the work, and to give the most perfect impression of it when 
rccpiinMl for use as a signet ; always, for tliese reasons, pre- 
ferring the Sard, on wliich more engravings by the famous 
artists of anticpiity are to be found than upon all the other 
gems put togctlier. Entirely devoted to the one object, 
that of attaining to perfection, they entirely disregarded the 
paltry jnerit of overconiing obstacles by the fruitless waste of 
their invalual>l(> time; ncitlirr did they seek for glory by 

56 MATERIALS. Sect. 1. 

the preciousness of the material of their work rather than by 
the excellence of the work itself. 

The following are the only intagli on Euby that I have 
met with of apparently indisputable authenticity : A head 
of Hercules, in the Webb Cabinet, of good bold work, the 
stone of small size, and bad colour, and full of flaws. A mag- 
nificent head of Thetis, wearing a helmet formed of a crab's 
shell, of the finest Greek work as far as the style can guide 
one's judgment, engTaved on a large irregular stone of a 
beautiful rose-colour: it belonged to the Herz Collection, 
where, however, it was classed among the Cinque-Cento gems. 
On a pale Ruby, too, occurred the very finest intaglio I have 
ever beheld, a full face of a Baccliante crowned with ivy ; 
the expression of the countenance full of a wild inspiration, 
and the exquisite treatment of the hair and the flesh beyond 
all praise, a true masterpiece of the best days of the Greek 
glyptic school. At the side was the name eaahn in very 
minute and elegant characters, a name which was previously 
known as occurring upon an admirable bust of Harpocrates. 
This gem was pronounced antique by the best judges in 
Paris, and is now in the Fould Collection. 


The ancient Topaz ' was the present Chrysolite or Peridot, 
as clearly appears from the description of it as being im- 
ported into Europe from the Red Sea, of a bright greenish- 
yellow, a colour peculiar to itself (in suo virenti genere), and 
the softest of all the precious stones, yielding readily to the 
file. The Peridot is extremely difiicult to pohsh so as to 

" Pliny oddly derives Topazion " to seek," because the island where 
from " topazoin," which he says in it is found is often lost amidst thick 
tlie " TroLclodytc " tongue means fogs. 


bring out all its brilliancy, and this can only be done by a 
peculiar process, known but to few lapidaries, in which vitriol 
is employed. 

Theophrastus (c. 27), speaking of the Smaragdus, says, 
" There is a certain mode of working this stone so as to give 
it lustre, for in its native state it has no brilliancy." It is 
very likely that he has the Peridot in view in this passage, 
for in his age the coast of the Eed Sea was the only source of 
the supply of the true Emerald, as well as of the Peridot or 
Topazion ; which last, by the way, Pliny classes in his de- 
scrijjtion as next in order to the Smaragdus. It was found 
in j:>ieces of such size as to allow of a statuette of Queen 
Arsinoe, in whose time it was first brought to Egypt, to be 
carved out of a single gem. All these characteristics are 
combined in our Peridot, a stone on which I have rarely 
seen antique engravings, although such of modern times are 
sufficiently abundant. Its extreme softness probably de- 
terred the ancients from using it for engraving upon, as it 
soon wears away when carried on the finger.* It was higlily 
valued still in Pliny's age, though somewhat fallen in esti- 
mation from the time of its first discovery, when it was pre- 
ferred to all other gems.'-' 

In compensation for tliis exchange of names the ancient 

" I liavc, however, met with two lustre of tlie Diamond, ami apiiears 

Uoinan intagli, both fiy;iires of ^li- of the purest water, its colour not 

nerva, upon this stone, and now pos- bein;^ then discernible. The C'hry- 

sess a Medusa's head, cut in the solite differs from the Peridot in 

bold, grand style of the period of its being much harder, as well as of a 

first introduction into Alexandria, yellower tint ; for in it the yellow 

in a large and very glol>ose Peridot : predominates over the green. In 

an extraordinary gem, botli for work- the Peridot green is the prevailing 

manship and rarity of material. colour, niotlified by yellow : the 

Were it not for its softness tliis stone, in fact, in the rough, much 

would lie one of the most desirable resembles a rolled i>ebl)le of bottlc- 

(if all gems as an ornament : by glass or Brighton Emerald. 
candle-light especially it has all the 

58 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Clirysolitlms is the present Topaz. The best kind is a yellow 
variety of the Ruby, of equal value and hardness with that 
gem, and very rare ; Dutens values it at a third higher than 
the Sapphire. But most Topazes come now from Brazil; 
they are much softer, and of a different chemical composition 
from the Ruby ; and besides the orange, there are white, red, 
and blue varieties of this stone, only to be distinguished from 
the Diamond, Ruby, and Sapphire by their much greater 

The Chrysolithus was the only gem set transparent by the 
Romans, who seem never to have engraved it. All other 
stones were foiled with auriehalcum, ^. e. a red foil of copper 
and gold. In confirmation of this remark of Pliny, I may 
observe that, on taking out a Sard intaglio from the oxidised 
remains of an antique iron ring, I found it backed by a 
thin plate of gold of a reddish colour, very different to the 
fine gold usually employed in ancient jewellery. Both Cel- 
lini and Winckelman have noticed this ancient practice of 
backing transparent intagli with a leaf of gold, which in fact 
shows off the engraving to greater advantage, when in wear, 
than if the stone according to the modern fashion were set 
open. Pliny mentions the practice of backing Carbuncles 
with silver foil, a method still used, and the best if the stone 
be of good quality. The use of coloured foils is a mere de- 
ception, and the sole end that the setter has had in view is 
to impose upon the unskilful by thus imparting to an in- 
ferior gem the finest colour of its own class. 

The Chrysoprase is an opaque, apple-green stone of a 
most agreeable hue, and extremely hard; its material is^cal- 
cedony coloured by oxide of nickel. It is much of the same 
nature as the Plasma, but differs from it in the brightness of 
its tint, in its hardness, and in its opacity. Intagli are some- 
times met with cut upon a stone which is either the true 

Sect. I. TUKQUOIS. 59 

Clirysoprase, or else a Plasma very nearly approaching to it 
in beauty."^ At present this gem is only found at Kosemiitz 
in Silesia. 


This stone agrees pretty well with the description of the 
ancient Callais : " which grew upon its native rock in shape 
like an eye, was cut, not ground into shape, set off gold 
better than any other gem, was spoilt by wetting with oil, 
grease, or wine, and was the easiest of all to imitate in glass. 
It was also the most favourite ornament of the Carmanians of 
that day," an observation equally applicable to the modem 
Persians, who lavish it in profusion over all their ornaments 
and weapons. Many supposed antique intagli and camei 
are shown cut in this gem ; but I suspect the authenticity of 
all that have come under my inspection. From the rapid 
decay of this substance w hen exposed for a few years to the 
light and to moisture, there can be little doubt that any in- 
taglio of Roman times executed in Turquois would long ere 
this have been reduced to a chalky mass. This actually is 
the case with such gems set in ornaments but a few centuries 
old, and which have lain underground for part of that period. 
The modiaival notion concerning this change of colour was 
that the Turquois grew pale on the finger of a sickly person, 
but recovered its colour when transferred to a healthy hand. 
Another fancy was that its hue varied with the hour of the 
day, so that to the careful observer it could serve the purpose 
of a dial. In (iermany it is believed that, when presented as 
a love-gift, its colour will remain unaltered so long as the 
giver is faithful, but will grow pale as his affection fades. 
The " fossil ivorv mottled with dark blue and white," of 

'" 'I'lie true ClirysopraM' is some- jinvclUrv, st't alternately with lit.s 
tiiiios t'nuiul ill antitiiK' Eizyptian <>t' l.a|iis-l;izuli. 

60 MATERIALS. Sect. 1. 

Theoplirastus, was our Occidental Turquois: in which the 
osseous structure is plainly discernible to the microscope, and 
which also is much softer than the true Oriental Turquois, or, 
as jewellers name it, that " de la vieille roche," which strikes 
fire with steel, while the Occidental can be scratched by steel. 
According to Hill, the blue which mottles the white surface 
of the latter can by means of heat be made to diffuse itself 
regularly throughout the whole, thus greatly improving its 
appearance and enabling it to be passed off for the precious 
variety. It is in this softer material that all the truly an- 
tique camei that I have seen have been executed, by far the 
best of which is a laureated head of Augustus among the 
Pulsky gems, and a Gorgon's head now in the Fould Col- 
lection. It is hardly necessary to add that the original azure 
of these gems, due to the oxide of copper, has been converted 
into a dull green by the action of the earth. 


On Magnet, a black compact and hard iron-ore,' I have 
seen rude intagli of the Lower Empire, especially of Gnostic 
subjects : the mysterious quality of the stone naturally point- 
ing it out as a fit material for amulets. The Magnet was 
thought by the Romans capable of imjiarting knowledge in a 
case where ignorance is bliss, as appears from Orpheus, 312 : 

" If e'er thoii wish thy spouse's trvith to prove, 
If pure she's kept her from adulterous love, 
Within thy bed unseen this stone bestow, 
Muttering a soothing spell in whispers low : 
Though wrapped in shimber sound, if pm-e and chaste, ~ 
She 'U seek to fold thee in her fond embrace ; 
But if polluted by adultery found, 
Hurled from the couch, she lies upon the groimd." 

' 'I'his i.s the Uhual material of (he cylinders of the purely Babylonian clasti. 

Skct. r. MAGNET. 61 

Dinochares, the architect of the city of Alexandria, had 
commenced the building of a temple in honour of Arsinoe, wife 
of Ptolemy Philadelphus, intended to be constructed entirely 
of loadstone, with the idea that an iron statue of the queen 
would, by the counterbalancing attraction of every part of the 
structure, remain suspended in mid-air; but the plan was 
never carried out in consequence of the death of Ptolemy. 
Here we have the origin of the mediaeval fiction of the iron 
coffin of Mahomet. Claudian, Idyl, v., thus describes a temple 
containing a statue formed out of loadstone, as actually exist- 
ing in his own time, the end of the 4th century : 

" A stone there i.s which people magnet style, 
Dull, dark of colour, in appearance vile ; 
Unlike to such as deck the conihed-back hair 
Of princes, or the necks of maidens fair ; 
Or such as on the golden buckles shine, 
AVhicli by their clasp the imperial belt confine. 
Yet such its wondrous force it far outweighs 
All beauteous ornaments, all jewels' blaze, 
Or all those treasures which on Eastern shores 
Th' Indian midst gi'oves of coral red explores. 
From iron draws its force,* from iron lives ; 
'T is this its food, 't is this its banquet gives ; 
And hence renews its strength ; borne through its veins 
The nigged aliment its life maintains. 
Of this deprived, its frame exhaiisted lies, 
Fi(>rce hunger gnaws, and thirst ctmsuniing dries. 
With gilded ceilings decked a temple shines. 
And two immortals grace two common shrines ; 
Mars scom-ging cities with his Ijlood-stained spear, 
And Venus, solace sweet of human care. 

- Tlie Ivonian antiiiiiavics at jne- in a box of iron filin,u,.s in onlor " to 
sent, wlioncvor tlicy meet with a keep up its strcngtii." 
loadstone intaijiUo, always preserve it 

62- MATERIAT.S. Skct. I. 

Diifcrcnt their fonns in iron Mars commands ; 

Scnlptiii'ed in magnet lovely \ erms stands. 

Their nuptials liigli with solemn rites to grace 

The jiriest prepares, the gnardian of the place : 

The blazing flambeaux lead the dancing quire, 

High o'er the gates the myi'tle-bonghs aspire ; 

With heaped-up roses swells the marriage bed, 

The bridal chamber is with pui-plo spread. 

Behold a marvel ! instant to her arms 

Her eager husband Cythereia channs, 

And, ever mindful of her ancient fires. 

With amorous breath his martial breast inspires. 

Lifts the loved weight, close round his helmet twines 

Her loving arms, and fond embraces joins. 

Drawn by the mystic influence from afar, 

Flies to the wedded gem the god of war : 

The magnet weds the steel, the secret rites 

Nature attends, and th' heavenly pair unites. 

Say fiom what source to diifering metals came 

This hid affinity, this w^ondrous flame ? 

W'hat mystic concord bends their stubborn minds ? 

The panting stone love's melting influence finds, 

Seeks the loved metal her deep wound to heal, 

Whilst love's mild pleasures tame the ciaiel steel." 


The Tourmaline is a dark olive-green stone, often nearly 
black and almost opaque. But Brazil, the land of coloured 
gems, produces also a blue and a bright-green variety, trans- 
parent and ornamental ring-stones. A red kind, or Rubellite, 
comes from India ; the specimen in tlie British Museum is of 
extraordinary size, and valued at 1000?. This stone is the 
most electric of all gems ; one end of the crystal attracts, the 
other re})els, light objects, when heated by friction. Some 
have supposed the Rubellite to be the Lychnis of the Eo- 


mans ; but its inferior hardness, only equal to that of quartz, 
controverts this theory. On the olive-coloured sort I have 
met with intagli, but all modern ; in fact, the Tourmaline was 
not known in Europe before the last century. 


The Sandaresus, an Arabian stone, classed by Pliny among 
the Carbunculi, seems to have been our Aventurine, for he 
describes it as full of golden stars shining through a trans- 
parent substance, not from the surface, but from within tlie 
body of the stone. The true Aventurine, or Goldie-stone, is 
a brownish semi-transparent quartz, full of specks of yellow 
mica. It is very hard, and takes a high polish : in the last 
century it was of considerable value, but now is altogether 
neglected. The common sort, so often seen in Italian orna- 
ments, is a composition made by stirring brass filings into 
melted glass, and is said to have been discovered by accident, 
" })er aventura," whence the name Aventiu'ine. 

norciilos. Ofjsid-.a 


Pliny describes the Obsidian as a stone found in Ethiopia 
by a certain Obsidius, who gave it his own name. It was 
very black, and sometimes transparent. Used as slabs to 

64 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

line walls of rooms, it acted as a dark mirror reflecting 
shadows instead of tlie objects themselves. " Many persons 
make ring-stones out of it, and we have seen complete 
figures of Augustus made of it." That prince was charmed 
with the deep colour (crassitudine) of the stone, and himself 
dedicated four elephants of Obsidian in the Temple of Con- 
cord. An Obsidian statue of Menelaus, found among the 
property of a former prefect of Egypt, was restored by order 
of Tiberius to the Heliopolitans, its original destination a 
fact which proves the ancient use of the stone itself, now so 
largely imitated in glass. I have met with a few intagli in 
this stone, which greatly resembles black glass, and is semi- 
transparent in the thinnest parts ; indeed it can only be dis- 
tinguished from black glass by its superior hardness, easily 
scratching the latter substance. I know of a splendid head 
of Hercules crowned with poplar-leaves in Obsidian, a work 
apparently of the Augustan age : a gem generally considered 
by its former owners as nothing better than a modern dark 
pasto.^ By a curious coincidence this stone was emjjloyed by 
tlie old Peruvians also for mirrors, as well as for cutting in- 
struments, specimens of which are often found in their tombs. 


The first of these extremely hard stones is easily recog- 
nised by its deep red colour, thickly dotted with small white 
spots.^ It was chiefly employed by the Eomans for columns 
and bas-reliefs, and first introduced by Vitrasius Pollio, who 
brought from Egypt statues of Claudius on this stone : though 

* Among the Praun gems 1 ob- stone ; and a rare addition, with a 

served a gvylhis of the common Gnostic device, of ajiparently coeval 

type, the cock and masks, cut in a work, upon the reverse, 

very lold deeji manner on this * Hence called Leptopsephos. 

Sect. I. OPALS. 65 

it did not take, at least in Pliny's time, as he adds that no 
one followed Pollio's example. However, as taste declined, 
it became under the Lower Empire a favourite building 
material, magnificent relics of which are still preserved. It 
was also, probably when still a novelty, used for intagli, on 
selected pieces of peculiar bright colour, some of which I 
have noticed of very good work, and of an early imperial 
date. It was also employed for this purpose by the Italian 
artists of the Revival : the Florence Gallery possesses a fine 
head of Leo X., engraved on a piece of large size, and set in 
iron, to be used as an official seal. 

On Basalt, a dark, iron-coloured stone of a veiy fine grain, 
looking w^hen worked more like metal than a stone, intagli 
also occur, but usually rude in style, and of the Gnostic class. 
This stone was largely used for statues, both by the Egj'p- 
tians and the Romans of the Empire. 


Opals came to the Romans from India ; at present the best 
are brought from Hungary. The largest known to the an- 
cients did not exceed the size of a hazel-nut ; this was the 
famous Opal of Nonius, valued at 20,000^. of our money; 
rather than yield which to M. Antony, he preferred going into 
exile. The Turks at present esteem the stone almost as highly, 
and readily give lOOOZ. for a fine and perfect one of the above- 
nanio<l size. Pliny grows quite poetical in his description of 
the Opal : *' Made up of the glories of the most precious 
geins, to describe them is a matter of inexpressible diffi- 
culty. For there is amongst them the gentler fire of the 
Ruby, there is the rich purple of the Amethyst, there is 
the soa-gi-een of the Emerald, and all shining together in 
an indescribable union. Others by an excessive heightening 


66 MATERIALS. Sect. T. 

of their hues equal all the colours of the painter, others the 
flame of burning brimstone, or of a fire quickened by oil." 
Yet the mines of Hungary now supply Opals infinitely larger 
than those known to Pliny, the finest of which are preserved 
among the Austrian crown-jewels. Although so high a value 
is set upon this beautiful gem, yet it is but a precarious pos- 
session, being extremely brittle, sometimes cracking when 
the hand is held near the fire in cold weather, and losing its 
beauty completely by wear, after dust and grease have closed 
up the innumerable cracks of its flinty substance, which pro- 
duce the brilliant play of colours constituting its only charm. 
It is said that by roasting an Opal thus spoilt, and so expel- 
ling the grease from its pores, its former lustre can be restored ; 
a process which seems to me extremely hazardous. The Opal 
was counterfeited by the Indians in glass more successfully 
than any other gem (similitudine indiscreta). The Komans 
named it the Paederos, or Cupid, as being the perfection of 
beauty ; for the same reason it was called, in the Latin and 
German of the Middle Ages, the Orphanus and the Waise. 

Some rude intagli, but apparently antique, sometimes are 
found upon bad and opaque Opals.^ Though Pliny calls 
India the sole mother of the Opal, yet he can only mean of 
the best variety, as he afterwards mentions some found in 
Egypt, Pontus, Galatia, Thasos, and Cyprus : these had less 
lustre than the Indian, their colours being a mixture of sky- 
blue and purple, "ex aere et purpura," which wanted the 
emerald green of the Indian variety. 

* But there is a fine Opal in the diocre Roman work, and pronounced 

Praun Collection, engraved with antique by the best judges a truly 

heads of Jupiter, Ai3ollo, and Diana, unique gem. 
surrounded by nine stars, of me- 

Sect. T. DIAMOND. 67 


The Diamond, contrary to the usual custom, must, in pur- 
suance of my plan, occupy the last place in the list of gems, 
as furnishing no engravings of either ancient or modem 
artists, and merely supplying an instrument for the execu- 
tion of their work. 

Under the Romans it was a well-known gem, and then, as 
now, " the most precious of all possessions." Before the age of 
Pliny it had been seen only on the hands of kings, and of 
but a few among them ; but the spread of commerce under 
the Cajsars had by that time made the gem much more 
common. Six varieties were then known, of wliich the 
Indian, " sometimes as large as a hazel-nut kernel," and the 
Arabian were clearly real diamonds, as is shown by their 
peculiar form, described by Pliny as that of two whipping- 
tops united at their broadest ends. Their silvery or steely 
lustre is also noticed, a striking peculiarity of the stone in 
its natural state. The Macedonian found in the gold-mines 
of Philippi was no larger than a cucumber-seed. The Cyprian, 
of a bluish tinge, "vergens in sereum colorem," and the 
Siderites, of a steel colour and very heavy, were doubtless 
Sapphires, for they could be drilled by means of another 
Diamond. Pliny goes on to repeat the jeweller's fiction as 
to the infrangibility of the Diamond, a thing still believed in 
by most people, who cannot separate the ideas of hardness 
and of resistance to violence, and who do not choose to try 
so costly an experiment on any Diamond in their own pos- 
session. But in reality, from the fact of this gem being com- 
posed of thin layers deposited over each other parallel to the 
original faces of the crj^stal, it (.-an easily be split by a small 
blow in the direction of these lamina). This property may 
be exemplified by the following story. The London jeweller 

F 2 



Sect. I. 

intrusted with the re-cutting of the Koh-i-noor*^ was displaying 
his finished work to a wealthy patron, who accidentally let 
the slippery and weighty gem slip through his fingers and 
fall on the ground. The jeweller was on the point of fainting 
with alarm, and, on recovering himself, reduced the other to 
the same state by informing him, that, had the stone struck 
the floor at a particular angle, it would infallibly have split 
in two, and been irreparably ruined. A few particulars about 
this famous Diamond will not be out of place here. Taver- 
nier saw it two centuries ago in the treasury of the Great 
Mogul, not many years after its discovery. Its weight in the 
rough, of above 800 carats (according to report), had been 
reduced to 284 by the bunghng Italian lapidary who had 

* The Hindoos have a superstition 
that this Diamond brings certain 
ruin upon the person or the dynasty 
possessing it. It was turned up by 
a peasant when ploughing in a field 
forty miles distant from Golconda, 
and was in its rough state fully as 
large as a hen's egg. Its first 
owner, in the 17th century, was a 
Hindoo Rajah, from whom it was 
wrested by Meer Jomlah, who pre- 
sented it to Aurungzebe. Imme- 
diately after this fatal gift the Mogul 
race degenerated, each of his suc- 
cessors being more vicious and in- 
capable than his father, until, in 
1739, the last, Mohammed Shah, 
was deprived of the unlucky jeAvel 
in the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah, 
The conqueror was assassinated by 
his generals on his return to Persia, 
and the Diamond fell into the hands 
of one of the conspirators, Ahmed 
Shah Doorannee, the founder of the 
Affghan monarchy, the history of 
which is a perpetual series of crimes 
and massacres. From the last of 
this line, Shah Soojah, it was ex- 

torted by Runjeet Singh (by the 
means of starving him into a sur- 
render of the treasure), when he 
had fled to the Khalsa Court for re- 
fuge from Dost Mohammed. Run- 
jeet, in order to break the spell and 
avert the fatal influence from his 
race, bequeathed at his death the 
stone to the Temple of Juggernaut ; 
but his successors would not relin- 
quish the baleful treasure, which in 
a very few years worked its destined 
effect the ruin of his family and 
the subjugation of the Punjaub to 
the English. Lord Dalhousie pre- 
sented it to Queen Victoria in 1849 ; 
within ten years the usual conse- 
quences of its possession were niani- 
fested in the Sepoy revolt, and the 
all but total loss of India to the 
British crown, in which beams its 
malignant lustre, lighting up a very 
inauspicious future for that region, 
fated apparently ever to be dis- 
turbed by the measures of ignorant 
zealots at home and the plots of 
discontented and overpowerful allies 
in the country itself. 

Sect I. DIAMOND. 69 

brought it to the ugly and unskilful form in which it appeared 
when brought to this country. This was a rude hemisphere 
facetted all over, apparently intended for the rose shape. 
The re-cutting in London was effected by the means of a 
small steam-engine, under the superintendence of two artists 
brought expressly from Holland, where alone the business is 
kept up. This operation cost 8000^., and has brought the 
stone to the form of a perfect brilliant, with a wonderful 
augmentation of its beauty and lustre, though with a reduc- 
tion of the weight to 180 carats. Even now it remains one of 
the largest Diamonds in Europe Halphen's Star of the South 
weighing 244 carats ; the great Russian 193 ; the Pitt or 
Regent of France 136 ; the Austrian, a yellow stone, 139 ; 
and Hope's blue Diamond, the most beautiful, though least 
valuable of all, 177.' The art of cutting and polishing this 
gem was only discovered in the fifteenth century by Louis de 
Berghem, and the first ever cut by him was a large one be- 
longing to Charles the Bold, and weighing 55 carats. It is 
now known as the Sancy diamond, which, having been found 
on his corpse on the field of Granson, was sold for a few 
francs, and, after passing through innumerable vicissitudes 
(having once been swallowed by a faithful servant when beset 
by robbers, and afterwards extracted from his dead body by 
his master), now reposes amongst the French regalia. Vos- 
sius says, the largest Diamond known in his time, the end of 
the sixteenth century, was that bought by Philip II. of Carlo 
Aftetati, of Antwerp, in 1559, for 80,000 crowns. Its weight 
was but 47^ carats. It was then a prevalent opinion that 
the stone lost its lustre by too much wannth, whence persons 

^ 'l"ho Rajah of Mattan in Borneo It may, after all, like the famous 

is indeed rejiorted to ix)ssess a Dia- rortugucse stone, prove only a white 

niund of tlie incredible weight of Topaz when examined by an Eu- 

.'?07 Ciirats, but no particulars are ro|x;an connoisseur, 
given of its water, perfection, itc. 

70 MATERIALS, Sect. I. 

on going to bed used to place their diamond rings on a 
marble-table, or in a glass of water. 

Hence they were always worn by the Komans in their 
native form, a fine instance of which is afforded by the clasp 
of the mantle of Charlemagne set wdth four large Diamonds, 
the legacy doubtless of his Imperial predecessors. The Herz 
Collection also possessed a Avell-formed octahedral Diamond 
of about one carat, set open in a massy gold ring of indubit- 
able antiquity. The largest cabinets of Europe do not, to my 
knowledge, boast any such specimens, yet I have met Avith 
another example in the collection of an acquaintance, where 
a small pyramidal Diamond, showing distinctly its primitive 
form and silvery lustre, was set in its original ring of thick 
gold-wire, to all appearance a work of Roman times. Such 

was the 

" Adamas notissimxis et Berenices 
lu digito factus pretiosior" 

that graced the hand of the imperious lady of the days of 
Juvenal ; the stone being prized, not for its beauty, but for its 
rarity and extraordinary virtues as an amulet. 

It is said that the Austrian Diamond was originally bought 
for a mere trifle at a curiosity-shop at Florence, being consi- 
dered merely a yellow crystal. Brazil furnishes a vast supply 
of these yellow stones, the most unpleasing of all the tints 
the Diamond assumes, for to my taste the pink and blue 
varieties are much superior in beauty to the colourless. 

The ancient Indian mines of Golconda and Cooloun (where 
at the time of Tavernier's visit more than 60,000 men, wo- 
men, and children were employed in the various operations 
of the search), in the Madras Presidency, have long since 
been exhausted ; the only source of the supply at present is 
Brazil, and even there the tract containing the gravel (cas- 
calhao) in which thev are found is nearly worked out. But 


I have little doubt that in a short time the market will be 
flooded with an importation of this gem from Australia, even 
greater than that which took place on the first discovery of 
the Brazilian mines. As in that region they were accident- 
ally discovered in the search for gold, so in Australia a few 
have already made their appearance under similar cii'cum- 
stances ; one of which, as well as a Sapphire from the same 
locality, has been deposited in the Museum of Geology, 
Jermyn-street. And this important discovery will doubtless 
take place when the gravel of the Australian diggings comes 
to be turned over by persons having eyes for other things 
besides gold flakes and nuggets.^ The observation made of 
old by Pliny, that the diamond always accompanies gold, has 
been fully borne out by the experience of succeeding ages,^ 
for in most deposits of alluvial gold have they been found in 
greater or less abundance, even in Wicklow and in Cornwall. 
This stone is highly electric, attracting light substances 
when heated by friction, and, as we have already noticed, 
has the pecuKarity of becoming phosphorescent in the dark 
after long exposure to the rays of the sun. The ancients 
also ascribed magnetic powers to the Diamond in even a 
greater degree than to the loadstone, so much so that they 
believed the latter was totally deprived of this quality in the 
presence of the Diamond ; but this notion is quite ungromided. 
Their sole idea of magnetism was the property of attraction ; 
thcrefoi'e, seeing that the Diamond i)0ssessed this for light 
objects, the step to ascribing to it a superiority in this as 
in all other respects over the loadstone was an easy one for 
their lively imaginations. 

" A letter lias aiipcared this sum- possession, 

nier (I8r)'.)) from a miner, speaking In the British Museum, among 

of the vast quantity of small Rubies the native Diamonds, is " an octa- 

fuund in washinji the " dirt," some hedral Diamond attached to alluvial 

hundreds ot" which were in his own uold." 

72 MATEllIALS. Sect. I. 

Pates are imitatious of precious stones and of engraved 
gems, both camei and intagli, transparent and opaque, in 
coloured glass, and are manufactured in the following man- 
ner : A small iron case of the required size is filled with 
fine tripoli mixed with pipeclay, and moistened, on the sur- 
face of which an impression is made of the gem to be copied. 
This matrix is next carefully dried, and a piece of glass of the 
proper colour is placed upon it. If a stone composed of va- 
rious strata is to be imitated, the proper number of layers of 
coloured glass are piled upon each other. The whole is then 
carefully placed in a furnace and watched until the glass 
begins to melt, when it is closely pressed down upon the 
mould by means of a flat iron, coated with French chalk in 
order to prevent the glass from adhering to it. It is then 
taken out of the furnace and cooled gradually, when the 
glass will be found to have received an exact hollow impres- 
sion of the design first made in relief upon the tripoli. If 
it is required to imitate a gem full of flaws, as a Carbuncle 
or Emerald, the effect is produced by throwing the paste, 
when still hot, into cold water. This was, doubtless, the 
method followed by the ancients, except that they used a 
coarser material for their moulds, perhaps those terracotta 
impressions of intagli hereafter to be noticed, for antique 
pastes have a much rougher surface than the modern, and 
are full of air-bubbles. A curious fact, however, concerning 
them is that they are much harder than our common win- 
dow-glass, and will scratch it in the same way as a splinter 
of flint does, whereas all modern coloured glass is softer than 
the transparent kind. This was due to the composition of tlie 
substance ; for at present the German glass, which is made with 
soda, is greatly superior in hardness to the English, into which 
a large quantity of lead enters. Isesides this superior hard- 

Sect. I. PASTES. 73 

ness, other supposed marks of an antique paste are the beau- 
tiful iridescence with which its surface is often coated, owing 
to the oxidation of the glass by the action of the acids of the 
earth in which it has lain, as well as the bubbly and porous 
texture, not merely of the whole exterior, but also of the 
entire substance itself. This last peculiarity distinguishes 
the antique from the modern glass-pastes, which, when they 
imitate the transparent gems, are usually clear and homo- 
geneous throughout, being, in fact, made out of pieces of what 
glass-painters call " pot-metal," or stained glass of one colour 
selected for the purpose ; and these, from the greater fusi- 
bility of the material, usually show an even interior within 
the intaglio with difficulty to be detected from the work on 
a real gem. But it may be remarked that this superior 
hardness may be found in pastes of the modern fabrique, if 
manufactured out of fragments of ancient glass, whilst the 
porousness and roughness of the cast will depend upon the 
coarseness of the sand or clay used in forming the matrix, 
and also upon the regulation of tlie cooling of the paste 
after the fragment of glass has been fused down upon the 
impression. Thus, at present, false Carbuncles and Emeralds 
are made to show all the flaws and " feathers " of the time 
stones by cooling them suddenly when removed from the fur- 
nace. As for the iridescence so much valued by collectoi-s, 
I strongly suspect that it is often produced by artificial 
means, by the use of acids ; for bits of window-glass, after a 
few years' exposure in a garden-bed, will be found with a 
surface as much corroded and as iridescent as tliat of the 
finest antique pastes. 

We have already remarked, under "Emerald," the high 
l)erfection to wliich the Ivomans had carried the art of 
making false gems, and the difficulty of distinguishing such 
Iroui (he true is frequently alluded to by Pliny. He also 

74 MATERIALS. Skct. I. 

enumerates the following kinds of coloured glass as employed 
for drinki ng- vessel s : "Glass like Obsidian is made for 
dishes (' escaria vasa '), and an entirely red, opaque sort, 
called Haematinon. An opaque white is also made, and imi- 
tations of Agates, Sapphires, and Lapis-lazuli ; and all other 
colours." Specimens of all these kinds are continually met 
with among the fragments of vessels found in company with 
Koman remains; more especially those imitations of the 
Sappliire here mentioned, a semi-transparent glass of the 
richest blue.^ Probably the finest paste in existence is an 
exact imitation of Lapis-lazuli, now preserved amongst the 
antique glass in the British Museum, on which is a three- 
quarter figure, in half-relief, of Bonus Eventus, a naked 
youth holding a cornucopia. The slab is of considerable 
size, and has been worked all over with the wheel, or some 
similar instrument, after the manner of a gem cameo, and 
not simply cast, as is usually the case with antique pastes. 
Hadrian sent his friend Servian as a present from Alexan- 
dria (Yopiscus, Vita Saturnini) two cups of opalescent glass 
(" calicos allassontes versicolores ") given him by the priest 
of the Temple of Serapis, probably as a choice specimen of 
a national manufacture for which that city had been long 
celebrated.' Pliny also speaks of draughtmen made of 

'" These fragments are collected ' The Egyptian glass-workers also 
by the Eoman lapidaries, cut and produced small mosaics of the most 
])olished and set in bracelets and minute and delicate finish, and suflfi- 
brooches, where they show like ciently small to be worn in rings, 
Agates of the most novel and beau- and as pendants to necklaces, in the 
tiful varieties, variegated with bril- following ingenious manner. A 
liant colours, arranged in wavy pat- number of fine glass rods, of the 
terns. Blue with white stripes colours required, were arranged to- 
passing through its substance, and gether in a bumlle, in such a way 
green similarlj' marked with red, that their ends represented the out- 
were favourites of the antique glass- line and shades of the object to be 
workers, judging from the frequency depicted, as a bird or a flower, 
of such fragments. exactly as is practised at present in 

Sect. I. PASTES. 75 

coloured glass of several varying tints, " pluribus modis versi- 

The art of making paste intagli was rediscovered by the 
Italians of the Renaissance, and afterwards brought to per- 
fection by the Regent Orleans, under whose patronage the 
manufacture attained the greatest celebrity, and far sur- 
passed any productions of the ancients in the same line. 

Clarac gives the following notice of the origin of the Orleans 
pastes: "Having engaged (1691-1715) the services of the 
celebrated chemist Romberg, and assisting him with his own 
hands in his operations (in a laboratory establislied in the 
Palais Royal), the Regent made him reproduce in glass- 
pastes all the gems that he himself had collected, and also 
a large number selected from the royal cabinet. It is said 
tliat he manufactured six complete sets of these pastes, one 
of which Clarac himself possessed, the bequest of M. Gosselin 
of the Academic. It had been in his hands for many years, 
and was always regarded as one of the original six sets 
coming from the Regent's own laboratory. It had, however, 

the inaiiut'acture of Tunbridgc-waro. tion. The most bcaiitiful specimen 
This bundle was next enclosed in a of this elegant art in existence is to 
coating of glass of a single colour, be seen amongst the gems of the 
usually an opaque blue : then the British Museum. It is a square of 
whole mass, being fused together, one inch, the ground a brilliant blue, 
sufficiently to unite all the rods into enclosing a kneeling figure of a 
one compact body, was drawn out winged goddess. Sate, in which the 
to the i)roper diameter. Thus the union of the pieces defies the closest 
rotls all became equally atteniiated scrutiny, and gives the efiect of a 
without losing their relative ]iosi- miniature painted by the finest 
tions, and the surroiuiding case of pencil, and in the most brilliant 
glass, when the whole mass was cut colours, which are brought out by 
througli at certain intervals, formed the liigh polish given to the surface 
the ground of a miniature mosaic, of the slab. The back, left un- 
apparently composed of the minutest polished, clearly shows the process 
ti'ssara>, jnit together with incon- of the manufacture. It formerly 
ceivablc dexterity and niceness of In'louged to the Duchess of Devon- 
touch. Each slice of the finished sliirc, and was deemed one of the 
mass necessarily pro<lueed the same choicest treasures of her collection. 
]iattern, without the sliglitest varia- 

76 MATERIALS. Sect. 1. 

been increased by the addition of several other pastes, pro- 
bably made by Clachant and Mdlle. Falloix, who had been 
instructed by Homberg in this art, and became dealers in 
its productions. These pastes of the Kegent are of very 
fine glass, or of enamel, and exactly reproduce the colours 
of the original gems. It is plain that they were produced 
with the utmost care ; the material is very dense and free 
from flaws and air-bubbles; the intagli in them are clean, 
polished, and lustrous in the interior, a result extremely 
difficult to obtain. When held against the light, those 
which are transparent produce, by the richness of their tints, 
precisely the effects of the real stones. Some of them, 
however, particularly the Sardonyx, have been better imi- 
tated subsequently as far as the tone of the colour is con- 
cerned ; but nevertheless, in spite of the recent advances 
in the art of glass-making, and in enamels, as well as in 
chemistry, it is very much to be doubted if finer pastes than 
these of the Regent could be produced in our times." 

The new process was soon spread throughout Europe ; and 
when Goethe visited Eome, in the last quarter of the past 
century, the making these glass pastes was a favourite occu- 
pation of the dilettanti residing there. At present the Romans 
display the very greatest skill in this art : I have seen some 
of their pastes, especially of the opaque kind, such as onyxes, 
that could not be distinguished from the real stone except 
by the file. To baffle this mode of detection, the dealers 
use the ingenious contrivance of backing the paste with a 
slice of real stone of the same colour ; this being set in a 
ring, the junction is concealed, and when tested by the file 
enables the whole to pass for the real gem adorned with a 
valuable engraving.^ The same method is adopted for 

^ Clarac mentions his having been Marchant, and still retaining traces 
shown a paste from an intagho by of his signature, which, having been 

Sect. 1. PASTES. 77 

forging all the precious coloured stones, the Ruby, Emerald, 
and Sapphire : a paste of proper colour is backed by a piece 
of rock crystal facetted in order to give the requisite bril- 
liancy, and then sold to the unwary as a gem of the first 
class ; nor is the deception detected until the wear of some 
time begins to act upon the soft surface of the upper vitreous 
layer. Pliny mentions a somewhat similar device of the 
Roman lapidaries in the case of the Jaspis Terebinthizusa, 
the three several strata being made up of three separate 
stones of the best colours respectively, cemented together 
with Venice turpentine, which is still used for the purpose on 
account of its perfect transparency. 

I have seen tolerable antique pastes set in old bronze 
rings, and evidently genuine, but hardly ever in rings of 
the precious metals; as might have been expected, for such 
base imitations were only worn by people of the lowest class 
or slaves. Pliny mentions expressly " the glass gems of the 
rings of the populace," which, when ground up with pipeclay, 
produced the paint called " annulare." A paste cameo of a 
sphinx seated, an imitation of the Sardonyx and very well 
executed, set in a massy antique gold ring, once came 
under my notice ; but without doubt this cameo had been 
passed oif upon the ancient owner as the real gem of which 
it was so admirable a counterfeit. This antique fraud re- 
minds one of the jocular punishment inflicted by Gallienus 
upon the jeweller who had taken in the Empress Salonina 
with some false gems. She demanded that an example 
should be made of him, and the emperor ordered that he 
should be exposed to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre. 
The poor wretch was thrown naked into the arena, the door 

inamifacturod into an antique Sard liad been sold at an enormous price 
in this matnicr, and vouclied to have to a Nea]>olitan duke, an enthusiastic 
been recently dug up at Otranto, amateur of gems. 

78 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

of the den thrown open, when out strutted a cock, and the 
culprit got ofl' with the fright, Gallienus saying that it was 
just that he who had cheated others should himself be 
cheated. Antique glass rings also occur, with the shank 
of a twisted pattern, and in colour imitating the Agate, 
the head bearing a comic mask, in relief, in opaque paste 
of green or some different colour from the ring, copies, no 
doubt, of the cameo masks in Emerald, and Plasma, and 
Amethyst so often met with in collections. I once bought 
one at Rome, the very fac-simUe of that given by Caylus (II. 
Ixxxix.). These, from the fragility of the material, are 
naturally of extreme rarity when perfect. 

I shall now hazard a remark that will greatly shock the 
faith of most collectors, to this effect, that, of the pastes sold 
as antique in such abundance, hardly one in a hundred is 
genuine. In the handfuls of stones brought to the dealers 
at Rome by the peasants, just as they are found in turning 
over the ground of their vineyards and gardens in the neigh- 
bourhood, pastes never occur without some portion of the 
old bronze mounting still adhering to them : the loose intagli 
are always cut on stones, even though most of them are 
engraved in the rudest manner, and evidently for the wear 
of the poorest classes. Besides, as these valueless glass gems 
were never worn by people who could afford rings of gold 
or silver, there was no probability that they were taken out 
of tlie settings and thrown away when the ring was melted 
down for the sake of the metal, as was the case witli the 
real gems in the times of barbarism. Again, every one who 
has ever seen a paste in its original bronze ring will be 
convinced of the all but impossibility of its being extracted 
from the metal without being broken into fragments. Had 
pastes been as abundant in antiquity as they are in collec- 
tions, they would form the majority of the intagli turned up 

Sect. I. PASTKS. 79 

in the ground about Rome, whereas the direct contrary is 
the case ; whence we may fairly conclude that any paste 
appearing never to have had a setting may be looked upon 
with the utmost suspicion. One of the best antique pastes 
I have ever met with was one found near Eome in the spring 
of 1850 : the intaglio representing the town of Troy upon an 
excellent imitation of a black and white Agate, and still set in 
its massy bronze ring, which was almost entire. Many pastes 
are produced as antiques which still retain the projecting 
edges of the superfluous piece of glass, forming, as it were, 
a thin frame around the back, which clearly shows that they 
have never been set at all or intended for setting : all such 
may be put down, without hesitation, to the account of the 
fabrique of the amateurs of the last century. 

Some early pastes of the Renaissance are occasionally to 
be met with in settings of the time, which fixes the date of 
their manufacture : they are very rude and cast out of " pot- 
metal," to imitate the Sapphire. But the pastes of the 
flourishing period of the same school are often very minute 
and carefully finished productions, containing elaborate groups, 
and finished up by means of the wheel : and such have often 
passed for true antique intagli. One in particular, a group 
on an imitation of Garnet in an enamelled gold ring of the 
period, was quite a masterpiece of imitative art. 

The abundance of pastes, all styled antique, but due in 
great part to the ateliers of the dilettanti of the last century, 
tliat now fill the English collections, is perfectly amazing, 
and furnishes another and a most amusing proof of Ovid's 
remark, that to believe 

" qnod volinmis crednla turba suimis." 

Many amateurs possess several hundreds of them at once, 
and must believe, therefore, that the ancient glass-workers 

80 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

passed all their days in making these fac-similes of gems for 
the mere purpose of sowing them broadcast in the earth for 
the delectation of future ages. 

At some of the sales of collections of gems in London I 
have seen cards full of pastes sold at the rate of two shillings 
and sixpence the dozen pieces, many being as good and as 
genuine as such generally are. It was therefore an amusing 
proof of the influence of a name in this branch of art, as in 
every other, to see at the sale of the Herz Collection the 
ignorant dealers in antiquities bidding high prices, often 
some pounds per lot, for the worthless pastes forming so 
large a portion of its numbers, and which the astute old 
diamond-merchant, the first possessor, had purchased in 
former years at the rate of a shilling for every pound 
realised at the sale. 

I have lately examined a large quantity, perhaps above 
200 lumps, of coloured antique glass, of the size and shape 
of the various kinds of gooseberries, some much larger than 
others, but all cast as much as possible to the same form, 
and evidently intended to receive an impression from the 
proper matrix after a semi-fusion in the manner above de- 
scribed. Some of these lumps were of very fine colours, and 
a few were observable composed of two different layers, 
designed to imitate the Sardonyx. Although many were of 
a pure kind of pot-metal, the greatest part exhibited that 
porous, bubbly texture so generally found in antique pastes. 
This entire stock, including a few finished works (one a 
remarkably fine cameo bust of Jupiter in green glass) as 
well as a few rude intagli in Sards and Garnets, was stated 
to have been discovered in one deposit near Naples. Unfor- 
tunately no dependence whatever can be placed upon these 
accounts as to the discovery of antique gems imported from 
Italy, the dealers having always a well-autlienticated and 



circumstantial story at their fingers' ends to give a false 
value to whatever they may have to dispose of: these em- 
bryo pastes, therefore, may either have been collected singly, 
if antique, or else recently made to order for the antiquity 
market by some glass-worker ; but supposing this statement 
as to tl\e provenance of the hoard to be essentially tiiie, we 
should have here a very interesting example of the first 
processes of this curious manufacture. Many years ago a 
specimen, beyond all suspicion of forgery, of a globule of 
paste prepared for the matrix came under my notice, though 
at the time its object was unexplained ; a lenticular piece of 
dark-blue glass, rougli as when cast, and looking like a dark 
flat pebble, was found, together with a large Carnelian, cut 
ready for setting but unengraved, and a silver ring set with 
a rude intaglio of Mars in red Jasper, all deposited beneath 
a large stone in the ruins of a lloman buikling in the Broad- 
wav, Caerleon. 

Sfals of SenriHcborib and Sabaco II, 


Impressions of intagli on small pieces of burnt clay of the 
same form as the gems are not unfrequcnt in collections. 
Tliose discovered so abundantly amongst Assyrian remains, 
bearing the impress of the royal seal (and in one most inte- 
resting case given by Layard, that of the cotemporary king of 


82 MATERIALS. Sect. T. 

Egypt), were deposited in the places whence they have been 
exhumed (ancient archive-offices) when attached by a string 
to documents, as is clearly proved by certain papyri still 
extant with similar clay seals appended. Others of later 
date, I have little doubt, served as moulds for making the 
pastes described above, and the coarseness of the material 
will account for that roughness of surface which so dis- 
tinguishes the antique from the modern productions. This 
view is confirmed by the fact that the moulds used for 
the issue of the extensive base silver forgeries of the Lower 
Empire are also made of the same material and in a 
very similar manner; these coin-moulds have been found 
abundantly in Somersetshire, Yorkshire, and in France at 
Aries and Lyons.^ Many of the clay impressions of intagli 
come from Syria, a country always famed in ancient times for 
its glass manufactures. Some, however, have taken these 
stamped pieces of terra-cotta for " tesserae hospitales," or cre- 
dentials carried by travellers as means of introduction from 
one friend to another at a distant city. In the ' Pseudolus ' 
of Plautus the Macedonian soldier leaves an impression of his 
signet, his own portrait, in the hands of the slave-dealer, with 
a part of the purchase-money of the girl whom he has bar- 
gained for, and subsequently sends his servant Harpax with 
the remainder of the sum, who, to authenticate his mission, 
brings with him another impression of the same signet. This 
Plautus styles Symbolum ; and the various counters still 
preserved so abundantly in lead, ivory, and clay, are supposed 
to have been intended for similar purposes. The famous 
courtezan Glycera, amongst her other witticisms recorded by 
Athenseus, on receiving the clay impression of her lover's 

^ Hence it is certainly allowable analogous process of mamifacturing 
to conclude that moulds of the same the cheap paste gems so much in 
material would be employed for the demand at the same ]x.'riod. 

Sect. I. MURRHINA. 83 

signet, a pre-arranged signal that she was to visit him, 
replies to the messenger, " Tell him I cannot come, for it is 
muddy (or mud)," the Greek word admitting both meanings ; 
hence the joke. That too enthusiastic collector, Verres, has 
it laid to his charge by Cicero as a most heinous crime, that, 
liaving been greatly pleased with the seal on a letter, he 
sent for the signet itself, and never returned it to the owner, 
a proceeding whicli would be reprobated and imitated by 
many antiquarians of the present day. 


To treat of gems and to omit the Murrhine would be like 
writing a history of this century which should contain no 
mention of Napoleon, so fierce a war has been waged by 
tlieoretical archaeologists with one another about the real 
nature of this substance. Some have absurdly supposed it to 
be Chinese porcelain, basing this theory entirely upon the 
line of Propertius 

" Murrhoaque in Parihis pocula cocta focis." 

" And mun-hino goblets baked in Parthian fii-es." 

A mode of expression which is nothing more than one of his 
favourite poetical conceits for conveying the same idea as 
l*liny, when he says " Some consider it to be a liquid substance 
solidified by subterranean heat." This, by the way, is a strange 
anticipation of the modern theory ascribing the production of 
Agatt'S and Jaspers to igneous action. One consideration 
alone sufliccs to show the utter absurdity of the porcelain 
hypothesis, as though Pliny, a man so skilled in the arts, 
could ever have mistaken the Chinese painting of figures, 
iinimals, or ilowi'rs, on their porcelain ware, for natural spots 
and colours on a real stone. Pesides, the material itself was 

G 2 

84 MATERIALS. Sect. T. 

brouglit to Rome in the rough, and there wrought up into 
dishes and flat bowls, for which purpose alone it was suited, 
in consequence of the want of thickness of the strata. Pieces 
however were obtained of considerable superficial extent; 
for, amongst the valuable objects displayed at Pompey's 
triumph, was a draught-board four feet long by three wide, 
formed out of only two slabs. This was the first occa- 
sion on which the stone w^as introduced into Rome, and 
Pompey dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus the unworked 
pieces (lapides) and the vases borne in procession during 
the triumph.^ 

The dimensions of a slab were never beyond those required 
for a dish (abaci escarii) ; and the trulla, especially particu- 
larised as usually made of this stone, was precisely of the 
form and size of a modern breakfast-saucer. These Murrhine 
vessels Avere, in spite of their high price, accumulated in 
large numbers by the wealthy Romans ; those belonging to a 
single senator, and which, on the owner's death, Xero seized 
for himself, were sufficient, when set out as a spectacle to 
the public, to fill a theatre in the Palace-gardens of con- 
siderable capacity. They are mentioned by various ancient 
authors as being in use down to the close of the empire ; 
and legal writers especially distinguish Murrhina from vessels 
of glass or of the precious metals. Heliogabalus is recorded 
to have employed Murrhine vases, as well as those of Onyx, 
for the basest purposes,^ which seems to have been regarded 
as the very extreme of licentious extravagance. As the 
material was indestructible, we should expect to find these 

^ Tliis was his third triumph to Albania, Iberia, Crete, the Basterni, 

celebrate his victories over the Cili- and the kings Mithridates and Ti- 

cian pirates, Fontus, Armenia, Cap- granes. 

padocia, Paphlagonia, Syria, Jllda3a, ^ " in murrhlnis ct onycbinls minxit.' 

Sect. T. MUKHHINA. 85 

vases, either whole or in fragments, amongst ancient remains, 
on the axiom that whatever cannot be annihilated must 
exist in some place or another, and the only vases we do 
meet with under circumstances fulfilling all the requirements 
of the case, are of Agate, fragments of which I have seen 
at Rome belonging to bowls of extraordinary diameter, fully 
accounting for the vast sums paid by the luxurious for the 
rarities amongst this class. For instance, Petronius pos- 
sessed a trulla valued at 3000 talents, which, immediately 
before killing himself, he broke to pieces, in order to disap- 
point the expectations of Nero, who himself is said to have 
afterwards paid the same sum for a smaller vase. These 
fragments even now are found so abundantly at Rome as to 
prove the extensive use of these Agate vessels in ancient 
tiuies : they are now cut up into brooch-stones, if not large 
enough to be preserved as curiosities for their own sake. 
Perfect vessels, as may be supposed, are of the greatest 

Pliny describes the Murrhine as a stone covered with spots 
varying from white to purple, which last colour at that time 
included all shades from dark-red to indigo. The substance 
also exliibited a mixture of tints, the purple passing into a 
flame-colour, and the milky shades turning to a red. Such 
changes I have myself witnessed in an Agate trulla be- 
longing to an acquaintance, the colours of which are a 
nearly transparent white, milky in parts, and a reddish- 
brown, going through many curious changes of hue as the 
light is allowed to pass through the vessel at difierent 
angles. Agates present all possible varieties of colour : they 
occur with shades of Sapphire, blue mixed with the white, 

'I'lio si>k'n(li(l A;j;ato vase of tlie Musco Borboiiico was purchased for 
the Kuiii of l0,O'>(i (hicuti, ur 1500/. 

86 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

with well-defined stripes of the brightest opaque colours, and 
the China Agate has a milk-white ground, in parts semi- 
transparent, variegated with a dark-red ; and this last seems 
to come nearer to Pliny's poetical but somewhat obscure 
description than any other stone. "Murrhine vases have a 
lustre without any strength, or more properly a polish than 
a lustre. But their value lies in their variety of colours, 
the spots occasionally turning themselves into purple and 
white, and a third made up of both ; the purple, by as it were 
a transition of colour, becoming fiery, or the milky hue 
turning red. Some especially admire the edges of these 
spots, and a kind of play of colours such as is seen in the 
rainbow. Opaque spots are most esteemed ; any part trans- 
parent or pale is a defect, as are also flaws and warts not 
projecting from the surface, but as if implanted within the 
substance itself. There is some recommendation also in 
their agreeable smell." This description exactly agrees with 
that of a polished Agate : the absence of lustre, the infinite 
variety of shades, and even the defects noticed, can be 
observed in no other material of sufficient size for the pur- 
poses to which the Murrhine was employed. It has been 
supposed that this stone was Fluor Spar, the Blue John of 
Derbyshire ; but, besides the fact that this is almost peculiar 
to England, I do not believe that fragments of it have ever 
been found amongst Roman remains. Even granting that 
a few fragments of the fluor spar of undoubted antiquity did 
occur, the great frequency of the pieces of Agate vases is a 
sufficient proof that they once constituted the class of vessels 
so abundant under the Empire. For, if the whole vessels of 
an imperishable substance were so plentiful at a former 
period, it is a logical consequence that at least their frag- 
ments must be as abundant at the present day, as no pos- 
sible circumstance could have swept them out of existence. 

Sect. I. MURllHINA. 87 

Another corroboration of this opinion is the fact of many 
glass vessels being found, both entire and broken, which are 
very good imitations of striped Agates ; and Pliny expressly 
mentions, amongst the varieties of coloured glass made in his 
day, one imitating the Murrhine. 

The most splendid Agate vase in existence is the two- 
handled cup, carchesium, of the capacity of a sextarius (above 
a pint), and covered with Bacchanalian subjects, presented by 
Charles the Bald, in the 9th century, to the Abbey of St. 
Denis, and which was always used to hold the wine at the 
coronation of the kings of France. In this case, then, we 
trace a Murrhine cup almost up to the days of the Eoman 
Empire ; and, from the style of art displayed upon it, the 
vase might, without hazard, be ascribed to the epoch of Nero 
himself.'' We may conclude, from Pliny's mode of expression, 
that, although flat saucere of Murrhine were not uncommon, 
the thinness of the slabs of the stone made a scyphus, or deep 
hemispherical bowl, an extraordinary rarity ; for, among the 
show of Nero's vases in the Palace-garden theatre " were the 
broken fragments of one scyphus preserved in a case with as 
much care as the corpse of Alexander the Great, and exhibited 
to the public to excite, I suppose, the grief of the age, and to 
cast odium upon fortune !" 

At the present day we might still say with Pliny, " The 
East sends us Murrhine vases." Collections of Agate vases 
formed in India frequently occur in the auctions of articles 
of virtu in London, where they still fetch high prices, though 

^ 'J'his cup bore iii)Ou its setting gold enriched with precious stones 

the le.neiul added at the time of its melted down by the thieves ; but 

donation to the abbey by Charles : the vase itself was fortunately re- 

" Hue vas Christc tibi dcvouniciite dicavit Covered undamaged, and has been 

TortiusiiiKraiicosubiiiuisrcgininoCarius." remounted in au elegant style by 

It was stolen in Feb. 1804 from the DelafonUiine. 
Museum, and the ancient setting of 

88 MATERIALS, Sect. I. 

by no means equal to those paid for them in their native 
country. It was grievous to read of the amount of skill, 
labour, and value, annihilated in a moment, when, at the 
recent sack of the palace of Delhi, our soldiers, with the brutal 
love of destruction that characterises John Bull, smashed 
chests upon chests full of these elegant productions. Had 
they been preserved and sent to England they would have 
added largely to the amount of prize-money, being worth 
considerably more than their weight in gold. 


This stone was originally known as the Onyx, a name 
afterwards exclusively appropriated to the gem still called 
by that name. From the description of it given by Pliny 
it must have been the stone now known as the Oriental 
Alabaster, "being of the colour of honey, variegated with 
spu^al spots, and opaque." It came from Arabia and Egypt, 
but the best sort of it from Carmania. It was at first only 
used for making drinking-cups, but soon became so plentiful 
at Rome that Pliny mentions columns thirty-two feet long 
formed of it, and also a dining-room of Callistus (a freedman 
of Claudius) adorned with more than thirty such pillars. 
The columns and pilasters presented by Mahomet Ali to the 
building of the church of S. Paolo-fuoride-Mura at Eome 
are above forty feet in length, of a single block each, and of 
the most beautiful quality. This stone is often of a rich 
brown mixed with lemon-colour; and this kind is quarried 
to a large extent at Volterra, where it is worked up into 
those elegant vases of colossal size now often to be seen in 
the London shops. Pliny says that it received the name of 
Alabaster from its being used to make the little jars for 
holding |)erfumes, which were called alabastra as being 

Sect. I. ALABASTER. 89 

shaped like an ampliora without handles ; hence the stone of 
which they were commonly made got the designation of 
Lapis Alabastrites. These perfume-jars are of common occur- 
rence and of all sizes, both in this material and also in glass 
and pottery, but those of stone were thought to preserve the 
perfume better. Hence we see that St. Mark's "alabastnim 
unguenti nardi spicati " and the " uardi parvus onyx " of 
Horace meant the same thing. The " box of ointment " of 
the Jacobean translators gives an incorrect idea of the passage, 
an error due to their notions being biassed by the usages of 
their own times, Avhen ointments, as at present, were solid 
compounds of lard, and necessarily kept in boxes for use ; a 
mistranslation the more absurd when we consider the epoch 
and the country where the event recorded by the evangelist 
took place. But the unguenta of the ancients were merely 
scented oils obtained by macerating spices or flowers in olive 
oil, and thus obtaining their essence by pressure. The neck 
of the Alabaster vessel was broken off when its contents were 
required, as it had been hermetically sealed by the maker 
to prevent the evaporation of the scent. In the museum at 
Naples are shown some large Alabaster jars from Pompeii 
still retaining a strong perfume from their former contents, 
at which fact the Emperor Nicolas, on his visit, "rimase 
sorpreso," as well he might ; at least so says the custode of 
the gallery. We find a large number of canopi, or sacred 
]']gyptian vases, with a cover shaped like the head of a 
nmnnny, made of tliis stone. Tiie commoner variety used 
for these little vessels is exactly like that of Derbysliire 
worked u[) into similar forms at the present day. This stone 
deserves tl\e name of Onyx much better than the gem to 
wliieh, at a later period, the term was exclusively confined, 
lor it is of the exact colour of the finger-nail, and shaded in 
the same luunuer. The Onyx vjises already mentioned as 

00 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

having, as well as Murrhine, been so degraded by Helioga- 
balus, must have been some elegant drinking- vessels of the 
Oriental Alabaster designed to adorn the tables of his more 
tasteful predecessors. 


The Murrhine Vases naturally introduce the subject of 
those of Crystal, which were as much in fashion among the 
Romans as with their imitators, the wealthy Italians of the 
Cinque-Cento period. The ancients had a notion that this 
stone was only hardened ice, and hence its name, the Greek 
word for ice. This theory was supposed to be confirmed by the 
circumstance that their chief supply of Crystal was obtained 
from the Alps, where it still abounds in the moraine, or ddbris 
left by the glaciers. The Romans used it almost exclusively 
for making cups and vases. I have met wdth hardly any 
antique intagli in Crystal ; no doubt its want of colour operated 
against its use as a ring-stone. The engravers of the Re- 
vival, on the other hand, often employed it for intagli, and 
executed some of their best works in this stone. Vasari espe- 
cially praises the Crystals of Giovanni del Castel Bolognese,^ 
the most eminent of those early artists. Their engravings 
were not so much intended for signets as for personal orna- 
ments, and to adorn articles of plate, where largeness of 
extent and transparency were rather recommendations than 
otherwise. Pliny mentions the lucrative fraud then common 
of staining Crystal so as to imitate Emeralds, Amethysts, and 
other coloured gems, but forbears to give the process, because 
even luxury, as he says, ought to be protected against imposi- 
tion. Dutens, however, is less scrupulous ; he asserts that a 

^ Yasavi names in particular the 'J'ityus and the Ganymede engraved 
by him for Ippolito dci Medici. 

Sect. I. ROCK-CRYSTAL. 91 

Crystal heated and plunged into the tincture of cochineal, be- 
comes a Ruby; into a mixture of turnesole and saffron, a 
Sapphire ; and so on for the rest, always assuming the colour 
of the tincture into which it is plunged. Or the same end 
may be obtained by macerating the crystal for some months 
in spirits of turpentine, saturated with a metaUic oxide of the 
required tint. I believe it much more probable that the 
ancients employed the more simple miethod now so much in 
use, and to which most of the Carbuncles of the London shops 
are due, and that is to cut the crystal to the proper form, and 
painting its back the required colour, so to set it in the piece 
of jewellery. The fact that ancient gems were usually set 
with a back to them, would greatly favour the execution of 
this fraud, to baffle which, in the case of the Chiysolithus for 
instance, Pliny expressly mentions that the stone was set 
open. Although the lloman jewellers made false Jaspers of 
three colours by cementing as many slices of different stones 
together, and hence its name Terebinthizusa, they do not 
seem to have been acquainted with doublets, the favourite 
device of the modern trade, by which a thin slice of real 
stone is backed by a facetted Crystal, and then so set as to 
conceal tlie junction. The ancient frauds in coloured stones 
were entirely confined to the substitution of pastes for the true, 
to detect which Pliny lays down many rules, some fanciful 
enough, but containing one that is infallible, that by means 
of a splinter of Obsidian a paste may be scratched, but not a 
real stone. We may as well conclude the subject of false 
gems, which falls a})propriately under the head of the Crystal, 
so much used in their fabrication, by quoting the curious 
observations of Camillo Leonardo, of Pesaro, on the various 
frauds practised by the jewellers of his own times, 1502. 
IMany of these are extremely ingenious, and the recipes for 
them doubtless handed down by tradition from remote ages. 

92 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Besides pastes of Smalto, which exactly counterfeited the 
true gems, they converted common stones into others of a 
more precious quality by various curious processes. Thus a 
Garnet cut very thin and backed with Crystal, was sold as a 
Kuby ; an Amethyst hollowed out and filled with a coloured 
tincture imitated the Balais, which gem was likewise counter- 
feited by a thin tablet of Amethyst laid upon a ruby-coloured 
foil. Diamonds were forged by cutting a pale Sapphire or 
a Beryl to the right shape, and then backing it with the 
proper tincture. To understand this, it must be observed, 
that until quite lately Diamonds were always set upon a 
black ground, to give them lustre : on the proper preparation 
of which Cellini treats at great length in his ' Oreflceria,' as 
being of the utmost importance to the effect of the stone. 
To baffle the test of the file, which no paste can resist, the 
forgers of the time of Camillo Leonardo chiefly imitated the 
Emerald and the Peridot, as these gems are in reality but 
little harder than glass, and yield to the file almost as easily 
as their counterfeits in paste ; so that the sole means of detec- 
tion remaining, was to examine them by the light of a candle, 
when the colour of the false gems would be found to fade 
away the more intently they were viewed. 

The annexed epigram is entitled in the Anthology, " Upon 
an Engraved Crystal," in which case it would give us the 
name of another ancient engraver of the Greek period ; but 
the expressions of the epigram itself would rather make me 
conclude that the portrait was painted in gold on the back of 
a piece of glass, which was covered by another piece fused 
upon it, so that the painting appeared enclosed in the sub- 
stance of the glass, of which art some beautiful specimens are 
still preserved.^ 

'' The finest ])robal)ly of these is perty of Dr. Conyers Middleton, and 
the ])ortr;ut of a child, once the pro- now in the British Museum. 

Sect. T. ROCK-CRYSTAL. 93 

DiODOBUS, Anthol. ix. 770. 

" The art and colour well might Zeuxis claim, 
But Satyreius is my author's name, 
Who on the tiny crystal drew the face, 
Arsinoe's portrait full of living grace ; 
An offering to his queen, though small in size. 
No larger work with me in merit vies." 

Renaissance Crystal intagli are sometimes found in jewellery 
of that period, set with the engraved side downwards upon a 
gold or azure foil. The effect thus produced is very singular, 
the figures appearing as though cut in relief in a transparent 
gem, a Topaz or Sapphire, and the deception is so perfect as 
only to be detected by the touch. A veiled bust of the Ma- 
donna, thus treated and set in a ring, the first instance of this 
ingenious device that came under my notice, puzzled me for 
some time, by the apparent relief of the work upon an actually 
l)lain surface. This style of work in Crystal is also men- 
tioned by Mariette, in whose time several had been circulated 
amongst the Parisian connoisseura as antiques of the Roman 

The Romans used to give fabulous prices for vessels in 
this material. Pliny mentions a lady, and one too by no 
moans wealthy, who bought a Crystal trulla for a sum equal 
to loOO?. of our money ; and Nero, to avenge himself upon 
the world, when informed of his deposition by the Senate, 
throw down and smashed two ciystal bowls, scyphi, engraved 
witli subjects from Homer. 

Crystal is found in very large masses ; the largest known 
to the Romans weighed 50 pounds, and was dedicated by 
Livia in the Ca})itol ; and a bowl is mentioned which held 
four sextarii, or about two quarts. I myself have seen a rolled 
Crystal more than a foot in length, of a perfect egg-sliape, 
and of .admirable transparency. It had formed a part of 

94 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

the plunder of Delhi, and was intended to be cut into a 
vase, the capacity of which would doubtless approach to that 
recorded by Pliny. 

The balls of Crystal occasionally found amongst ancient 
remains were used as burning-glasses.'" That they Avere thus 
employed by surgeons appears from the passage of Pliny : 
" I find it asserted by physicians, that when any part of the 
body requires to be cauterized, it cannot be better done than 
by means of a crystal-ball held up against the sun's rays." 
Orpheus (170) recommends their employment to kindle 
the sacrificial fire : 

" Take in thy pious hand the Crystal bright, 
Translucent image of the Eternal Light. 
Pleased with its lustre, every power divine 
Shall grant thy vows presented at their shrine. 
But how to prove the virtue of the stone, 
A certain mode I will to thee make known : 
To kindle without fire the sacred blaze, 
This wondrous gem on splintered pine-wood place, 
Forthwith, reflecting the bright orb of day, 
Upon the wood it shoots a slender ray. 
Caught by the unctuous fuel this will raise 
First smoke, then sparkles, then a mighty blaze. 
Such we the fire of ancient Vesta name, 
Loved by th' immortals all, a holy flame. 
No other fire with such grateful fumes 
The fatted victim on their hearths consumes ; 
Yet though of flame the cause, strange to be told, 
The stone snatched from the blaze is icy cold." 

The Cairngorum, so much in fashion at the beginning of 
this century, that Mawe (1804) speaks of ten guineas being 
the usual price of a seal-stone, is only a Crystal coloured a 

'" They were also held in the hand ness during the fiery heat of the 
for the sake of their refreshing cool- southern summers. 

Sect. I. ROCK-CRYSTAL. 95 

dark orange or deep brown by some metallic oxide. Some 
of them are certainly very beautiful, much resembling the 
Jacinth, and are by far superior in lustre to the German 
Topaz, a stone of the same kind, and now imported in such 
large quantities. 

Crystals and Agates are not uncommon in collections, con- 
taining a small quantity of water in a cavity left within 
them at the time of their formation. I am informed that in 
California the miners often meet with large nodules of quartz 
thus filled, and are often killed by drinking the liquid con- 
tained therein, so strongly impregnated is it with silica. 
This is the Enhydros of Pliny and the Mediaeval miner- 
alogists, who looked upon it as a most wonderful miracle of 
nature, to judge from the numerous epigrams, of which it has 
been thought worthy by Claudian and other poets : 

Epigram VIII. et seq. 

" When the Alpine ice, frost-hardened into stone, 
First braved the sun, and as a jewel shone, 
Not all its substance could the gem assume ; 
Some tell-tale drops still linger in its womb. 
Hence with augmented fame its wonders grow, 
And charms tlie soul the stone's mysterious flow, 
Whilst stored within it from Creation's birth, 
The treasured waters add a double worth. 

]\Iark where extended a translucent vein 
Of brighter ciystal tracks the glittering plain. 
No Boreas fierce, no nipping winter knows 
The hidden spring, but ever ebbs and flows ; 
No frosts congeal it, and no Dog-star dries, 
E'en all-consuming Time its youth defies. 

A stream unfettered pent in crystal round, 
A truant foimt by hardened waters bound, 
Mark how the gem with native sources foams. 
How tlie live spring in refluent eddies roams .' 

96 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

How tho bright rainbow paints the opposing ray 
As with the imprisoned winter fights the day ! 
Strange nymph ! above all rivers' fame supreme, 
Gem yet no gem ; a stone, yet flowing stream. 

Erst, while the boy, pleased with its polish clear, 
AVith gentle finger twirled the icy sphere. 
He marked the drops pent in its stony hold, 
Spared by the rigour of the wintry cold ; 
AVith thirsty lips th' unmoistened ball he tries, 
And the loved draught with fruitless kisses plies. 

Streams which a stream in kindred prison chain, 
Which water icere and water still remain, 
What art hath bound ye, by what wondrous force 
Hath ice to stone congealed the limpid source ? 
What heat the captive saves from winter hoar, 
Oi* what warm zephyr thaws the frozen core ? 
Say in what hid recess of inmost earth. 
Prison of fleeting tides, thou hadst thy birth ? 
AVhat power thy substance fixed with icy spell, 
Tlien loosed the prisoner in his crystal cell ? 

Hercules ilad ; Etruscan. Crystal. 

I have read of one of tliese pregnant crystals exploding 
when held in a person's mouth, in consequence of the expan- 
sion of the inclosed fluid, and lacerating his palate very dan- 
gerously. Whether the water was inclosed within the stone 
at the time of its formation, as the ancients supposed, or 
afterwards infiltrated through its pores in the lapse of ages, 
is still a matter of dispute. I have myself seen the holloAV 
spherical portions of the stems of Venice glasses nearly filled 
with water, A\hich has penetrated either through their sub- 

Sect. I. JADE. 97 

stance, or else through some imperceptible fissures in the 
soldering, during the few centuries they have lain under 
ground ; and curiously enough the marks made by the suc- 
cessive deposits of the rising liquid on the interior of the 
glass exactly imitate the natural layers of an Agate. At the 
sale of Barbetti's collection of Phosnician antiquities, some 
hollow rims of glass sepulchral urns filled with water, which 
had doubtless penetrated in the same manner as in the sphe- 
rical bosses above mentioned, were bought at high prices by 
credulous antiquaries, who took for granted the truth of the 
wily Italian's assertion, that they contained a wonderful per- 
fume with which they had been filled at the time of their 
manufacture. And to increase the prodigy, he pretended that 
this liquid was of so powerful an odour, that one of these 
rims liaving been broken by accident in a room in Paris, all 
the persons present were immediately driven out by its 
strength ! 


Jade is a semi-opaque stone of a soapy appearance, and 
varying in colour from a dirty white to a dull olive. Amulets 
made of it were believed in the Middle Ages to prevent all 
diseases of the kidneys ; hence the name of the stone from 
Hijada, the Spanish for " kidney," and its scientific title of 
Nephrite. JMany vases and figures in this material are to be 
seen in collections, but few of them probably are antique. 
Tlio sole merit of these works lies in the extreme difticulty 
of their execntiim on account of the excessive hardness of 
the stouc, wliich circumstance greatly recommends it to the 
Chinese and to their brethren in taste, certain amongst the 
rich and curiosity-loving of the English collectors. I scarcely 
believe the stone to have been known to tlie ancients, from 
the fact that its popular name is due to the Spaniards or 


98 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

Portuguese, who first imported it from the East ; for if com- 
monly employed in ancient art,' we should have expected to 
find it still designated by some Italian corruption of its 
Latin synonym. Pliny mentions a Syrian stone, the Adadu- 
nephros, or " kidney of Adonis ;" but as there was also the 
"eye" and the "finger" of the same personage represented 
by gems, we may conclude they all owed their names merely 
to their similarity in form to those parts of the human body. 
Even had the Jade been known at an earlier period, the 
ancient love of the beautiful and their correct taste would 
have prevented their throwing away their labour and time 
upon so ugly and refractory a material. 


This name is a corruption of Gagates, its ancient appella- 
tion ; but it was then chiefly used in medicine and in magic, 
as a means of fumigation. It was also employed for staining 
pottery an idelible black : " fictilia ex eo inscripta non de- 
lentur." Anklets and bracelets are found turned out of it, as 
well as of the similar substance, Kimmeridge coal, the works 
of the Eoman-British inhabitants of our coasts f but the in- 
tagli in Jet palmed off upon antiquarians so abundantly Avithin 
these few years, are known now to be recent forgeries. 

' I have, however, met with one rings, a half-crotalon with the head 
or two intagli of the Gnostic class of Medusa, in all 26 articles, were 
ui)on either this stone or else a bad discovered in two stone-coffins, de- 
plasma, not to be distinguished from posited under the chief entrance of 
it by the eye. Saint Gere'on, Cologne, at the 'time 

2 A complete suite of Jet orna- of the repairs of that church in 184(). 

ments, comprising two liair-pins They are supposed to have been the 

with heads composed of pine-cones, ornaments of some priestesses of 

almonds, and trefoils, bracelets, Cybele. 



In the age of Pliny the favourite form was, he says, the 
oblong, meaning thereby the very long oval in which an- 
tique gems are so often to be found. In the next degree of 
favour stood the lentile-shaped, or a sphere much flattened 
on both sides, now called a " stone cut en cabochon," or in 
jewellers' phrase " tallow drop." Lessing has some ingenious 
speculations as to the general adoption of this form, which is 
to be seen in fully half the number of intagli existing. He 
endeavours to show that it facilitated the engraving of the 
design, and assisted the perspective by bringing the various 
depths of the intaglio into the same plane. But the most 
probable motive was, that the projecting surface of tlie gem 
forming a corresponding depression in the wax might serve 
to protect from defacement tlie impression of the intaglio in 
that soft material.^ 

Next in favour came the cycloidal or elliptic shape, a very 
common one in the intagli of the preceding century ; and last 
of all the circular. Angular stones were disliked, and indeed 
we never meet with fine intagli cut upon such, for whenever 
gems of this shape do occur, which is but seldom, tliey present 
engravings belonging to the latest ages of the Empire ; and 
sue] I are also octangular. A square antique intaglio I have 
never met with. Gems with a hollow or irregularly projecting 
surface were naturally regarded as inferior to those of a flat 
and even exterior. To understand this remark, it is necessary 
to have seen in what manner the llomans employed the harder 
})r('cious stones, as 1 lubies and Sapphires, and we find that they 
never attemi)ted to reduce them to any regular shape, but set 
tlieiii retaining their natural form, to which the lapidary had 

' r>csi(lcs, tlic i>rotul)erant fiTin of ornainontiil and showy when worn 
tlu' coloured L^cni rendeivd it nioro on tlie fin<j;(T. 

H 2 

100 MATERIALS. Sect. I. 

contrived to give a certain degree of polish. Hence such a 
stone, if naturally presenting a regular shape, or that of the ori- 
ginal crystal, was much more ornamental than those occurring, 
as is most usual, in the ungainly form of irregularly rolled 
pebbles. The most valuable coloured gems, almost as rude 
(with the exception of a slight polish) as when picked up 
amongst the gravel of the Indian torrent, may be seen adorn- 
ing, more by their intrinsic value than by their beauty, the 
most precious treasures of antiquity, as the Iron Crown, that 
of Hungary, and the five coronets of the Gothic kings of Spain 
now deposited in the Hotel de Cluny. 


Diamond: pure Carbon. Specific gravity, 3.50; hardness = 10. 
&2)//uVe ; nearly pure Alumina., 4; hardness = 10 nearly. 
Rahy : the same, but slightly less hard. 
Emerald: Glucine, 12.5; Silica, 68.5; Alumina, 15.75; Oxide 

of Chromium, 0.3 ; Oxide of Iron, 1 ; Lime, 0.25. Sp. gr., 2.7 ; 

hardness = 7.5 to 8. 
Jacinth : Zircon, 70 ; Silica, 25 ; Oxide of Iron, 0.5. Sp. gr., 4.5 

to 4.7 ; hardness = 7.5. 
Garnet: Silica, 33.75; Alumina, 27.25; Oxide of Iron, 3G ; 

Oxide of Manganese, 0.25. Sp. gr., 4.2; hardness = () to 7. 
Amethyst or Coloured Quartz: Silica, 97.5; Oxide of Iron, 0.75; 

Alumina, 0.25. Sp. gr., 2.6 ; hardness = 7. 
Turquoise: Alumina, 73; Oxide of Copper, 4.5; Oxide of Iron, 

4 ; Water, 18. Sp, gr., 2.8 ; hardness = 5. 
Lapis-lazuli : Silica, 49 ; Alumina, 1 1 ; Lime, 1 6 ; Soda, 8 ; 

Oxide of Iron, 4; Magnesia, 2; Sulphuric Acid, 2., 

2.95 ; hardness, scratches glass. 
Calcedony (including Garaelian, Onyx, Plasma) : Silica, 84 ; Alu- 
mina, 16. Sp. gr., 2.6; hardness, somewhat greater than 



Section II. ART, STYLES OF. 

Horses of Achilles mourning over the slaiu Patroclus . Greek, Yellow Sard. 




On commencing the Second Section of this work, which treats 
of the Intagli and Camei considered in themselves, it will bo 
a most suitable introduction to the subject, to make a few ob- 
servations on the two points, forming the title of this chapter, 
so intimately connected with each other. No definite rules 
can indeed be given, as nothing but long experience, and the 
careful examination of large numbers of gems belonging to 
every period, can supply that almost intuitive perception in 
the art, so impossible to be acquired in any other manner. 
The remarks that follow are the result of much thought, and 
of many years study of antique gems, and of the careful 
examination of some of the principal European collections. 

If wo consider the purpose to which intagli were almost ex- 
clusively ai)plied, at the time of their execution, namely, that 
of signets, to be worn set in rings, we shall naturally look with 
suspicion upon any engraved gems the dimensions of which 

102 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

exceed those of an ordinary ring-stone ; and it will be found, 
by observation, that this rule has but very few exceptions, 
and that almost all intagli of a large size are of a period 
subsequent to the revival of the art. Of course we except 
from this rule the large gnostic gems which were intended to 
be worn on the dress, or to be carried on the person as 
amulets, and not to be employed as signet-rings. For pur- 
poses of ornament to dresses, plate, and jewellery, the Romans 
preferred precious stones the beauty and value of which con- 
sisted in their colour alone, and which were employed uncut ; 
or else camei which their size and style of work rendered 
effective when viewed from a distance, whereas intagli make 
no show unless upon a close examination. The finest antique 
cameo that ever delighted my eyes was a large profile head 
of Jupiter Dodonaeus on Sardonyx, still enclosed in the 
oxidised iron-setting that had formerly served to fix it upon 
the cuirass of some Koman general. This custom explains 
the use of the fine perforation running through the whole 
width of the stone, so often to be observed in really antique 
camei, and which is merely of sufficient size to admit a thread 
for the purpose of affixing the cameo to the dress. But to 
return to the point noticed at starting. The small size of 
antique intagli, so observable on looking over any collection, 
will of itself prove what a striking difference this peculiarity 
alone makes between them and the works executed after 
the revival of gem-engraving. Ever since that period, the 
artists have always preferred stones of considerable magni- 
tude ; and their best works are to be seen on gems of larger 
size than those used for tlieir less impoi-tant compositions, 
which is exactly the reverse of the antique practice. Groups 
of several figures, and representations of well-known historical 
events, are an almost certain mark of modern work ; whilst 
the drawing of the earlier Cinque-Cento engravers, has all 


the quaint and exaggerated character to be found in the 
paintings on the Majolica of the same period. 

Again, antique gems are often of a very irregular form on 
the back, in fact retaining their natural shape, the edge being 
merely rounded off for the convenience of setting. This was 
done to increase the depth of colour of the gem, which would 
have been lowered had its thickness been diminished. The 
back of the gem also, although highly polished, will often 
show traces of deep parallel scratches, occasioned by its 
having been first rubbed down into shape on a slab of emery, 
and afterwards brought to a lustrous surface by some peculiar 
process ; whereas modern stones are ground down and 
polished at once upon the same instrument, a revolving disk 
of copper moistened with oil, and emery powder, which gives 
them a perfectly smooth and even surface. 

A high degree of polish on the face of the gem, although in 
itself a suspicious circumstance, does not however infallibly 
stamp the intaglio as a work of modern times, for it has been 
the unfortunate practice with jewellers to repolish the surface 
of a good antique intaglio, in order to remove the scratches 
and traces of friction wliich true antiques usually present, so 
as to make the stone look better as a mere ornament when 
mounted. This is a most ruinous operation ; for besides 
making the intaglio itself appear of dubious antiquity, it also 
destroys the perfect outline of the design, by lowering the 
surface of the stone ; and many lamentable instances present 
themselves of admirable engravings almost entirely spoiled in 
this way, for the sake of a little outward improvement. On 
tlie other liand. a rougli and worn surface must not bo relied 
oil as ail infallible i)roof of antiquity, for Italian ingenuity has 
long ago discovered that a handful of new-made gems crammed 
down a turkey's throat will in a few days, by the trituration 
of the gizzard, assume a roughness of exterior apparently 

104 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

produced by the wear of many centuries.' Hence, if a stone 
has too rough a surface, it requires to be examined still more 
carefully, as affording good grounds for suspicion by its exag- 
gerated ostentation of antiquity. In a word, though Faith 
may be the cardinal virtue of the theologian, Distrust ought 
to be that of every gem-collecter ; so beset is he, at every 
step, by the most ingenious frauds, devised and carried out by 
the roguery and dexterity of three centuries. 

Again, though the stone itself may be antique, yet it may 
have been used as the vehicle of another species of deception, 
and that the most difficult to guard against of any that I know. 
It is a common practice of Italian engravers to get antique 
gems bearing inferior intagli upon them, and to retouch, or 
sometimes to work over again entirely, the whole design ; thus 
producing an apparently antique intaglio of a good style, upon 
a stone the appearance of which lulls to sleep all suspicion. 
This is the most common fraud of modern times, and one 
against which the only safeguard is the careful examination, 
with a lens, of the entire intaglio ; when, if some portions of 
the work bear a fresher and higher polish than others, and, 
above all, if they are sunk deeper into the stone than is 
required by the exigencies of the design, a shrewd guess 
may be hazarded that this deception has been practised. 

Dealers, for their own piu-poses, foster a belief in their 
customers, that a high polish in the interior of the intaglio is 
a sure proof of its antiquity ; but this doctrine is altogether 
false, for all the good Italian engravers give to their works 
an internal polish fully equal to that of the antique. It 
merely requires the expenditure of a little extra time and 
labour in workina- over the interior of the cutting with a 

' The effects of this treatment aio very observable hi many of tlie 
I'ouiatowski j'ems. 


leaden point charged with fine diamond powder. Another 
popular notion is, that soft wax will not adhere so readily 
to antique as to modern intagli, but this circumstance merely 
depends upon the relative degree of polish of the stones. 
The truest test of antiquity (leaving out the question of art 
for a subsequent discussion), appears to me to be a certain 
degree of dulnoss, like the mist produced by breathing on a 
polished surface, which the lapse of ages has always cast upon 
the high lustre of the interior of the intaglio. This appearance 
is not to be imitated by any contrivance of the modern forger, 
and, when once remarked, is so peculiar in itself, as to be 
easily recognized ever afterwards. So constant is this 
peculiarity in works of genuine antiquity, that its absence is 
always to be regarded as very unfavourable to the authen- 
ticity of any intaglio. The effect also of the real wear and 
tear of time upon the surface of the stone, is rather a fine 
roughness, like that of ground-glass, than the deep scratches 
and indentations produced by the violent methods of the 
dealers, or, as they are justly styled by Pliny, " mangones 
gemmarum," personages whose reputation for honesty was 
precisely the same in his time as it is at the present day. 
Again, a very satisfactory proof of antiquity is found when 
the engraving appears to have been executed almost entirely 
with the diamond-point ; that is to say, when all the hollows 
seem cut into the stone by a succession of little scratches 
repeated one upon the other, w^liile the deeper parts of the 
design show that they have been sunk by means of the drill, 
a tool with a blunt and rounded point, producing a succession 
of hemis})lu'ri<'al hollows of various dimensions. Some intagli 
even occur, entirely scratched into the stone by means of the 
diaiuond-point alone, especially the works in shallow relief 
of the litruscan and early (Jrcek e})och ; and, as a general 
rule, according t( the observation of the famous gem-engraver 

106 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. 11. 

Natter, the extensive use of the diamond-point is the great 
distinction between the antique and the modern art. The 
word itself, scalpere, used by the Eomans to express the 
process of engraving on gems, signifies to scratch, and, in 
itself, supplies a proof of the manner in which the work Avas 
carried on when first introduced to their notice ; and the 
Greek technical term y^acjieiv has the same primary significa- 
tion. The use of the diamond-point is particularly observ- 
able in the execution of the hair of portraits, when of good 
work of almost every epoch of antiquity, where it produces an 
admirable and natural effect which cannot be given by the 
modern instruments. Of these latter-it may be proper to say 
a few words in this place. The principal among them, by 
means of which all the above named operations, both of pro- 
ducing lines and hollowing out depressions in the design, are 
carried out, is the Wlieel, a minute disk of copper fi:xed on 
the end of a spindle, which is put into rapid motion by a kind 
of lathe. The fine edge of this tool, moistened with oil and 
emery or diamond dust, speedily cuts into the hardest gems, 
and by repeating and prolonging the lines thus produced, the 
minuter portions of the design are executed. The larger and 
deeper hollows are still sunk by means of a round pointed 
drill, substituted for tlie cutting disk, and acting just as the 
ancient drill, which last, however, appears to have been 
always worked by the liand, by moans of a bow, in the same 
way as the similar tool still used by jewellers. The modern 
method, though greatly expediting the operation for 
]\lariette speaks of Smart, a celebrated English engraver of 
the last century, finishing several good portraits in oneway 
yet renders the operation more mechanical and stiff, 
whereas the ancient scalptor, working with his diamond-point, 
like the etcher with his needle, had all the freedom of hand 
and boldness of the latter artist. 


These diamond-points, so often alluded to, were produced 
by splintering a diamond by the blow of a heavy hammer. 
Pliny adds a jeweller's story (probably invented to keep up 
the mystery of the business), that it was necessary first to 
macerate the stone in goat's blood, and that even then it often 
split both the anvil and the hammer. These little splinters 
were then fixed into the end of an iron tool (pretty much as 
a glazier's diamond is at present), and cut with ease into 
the hardest of the coloured gems, "nullam non duritiem 
ex facili cavantes." The Naxian stone, also used by the 
ancients, both in cutting and in polishing gems, was our 
Emery, a combination of corundum and iron, and which is 
still exported for the same purposes from that island. To 
the present day the sole means employed by the Hindoos for 
polishing the hardest stones, even the diamond, is by rubbing 
them by hand upon an iron slab, covered with corundum- 
powder and oil, which explains the uneven manner in which 
the facets on Indian gems are always cut. The terehrarum 
fervor, or the rapidly-revolving drill, was of the gi*eatest 
service to the ancient engraver ; and this observation of 
Pliny's is fully borne out by the appearance of many intagli, 
especially of the majority of the figures upon the Etniscan 
scarabs, which were evidently produced by means of a blunt 
drill and emery-powder exclusively. In these, the whole 
design is carried out by the juxtajiosition of a number of 
hemispherical hollows of various extent, touching and over- 
laying each other, by which inartificial method such extra- 
ordinary caricatures of man and beast were produced by the 
Etruscan artist. And their failure in the art of intaglio- 
cutting strikes us the more, and must, witli the greater con- 
fidence, be ascribed to the imperfect mechanical means at 
tlioir command, when wo observe that the very rudest 
intagli, and those evidently the very first essays of the art, 

108 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

appear on the base of scarabs, which are themselves cut out 
of the stone with the greatest skill and the most elaborate 
finish ; often, also, set in jeweller's work, displaying the 
greatest taste and most perfect workmanship ; all circum- 
stances pointing out the scarab as the property of a person 
able to command the utmost efforts of the artistic skill of his 

Some writers quote the Ostracias as being named by Pliny 
as employed in gem-engraving, and they still more absurdly 
suppose it to have been the bone of the cuttle-fish ; but his 
words only imply that it was hard enough to scratch other 
gems, a circumstance the more remarkable, as it was only a 
species of sea-shell. Lippert, himself a gem-engraver, M^as 
of opinion that the instrument used by the ancients both cut 
and polished the stone at the same time, inferring this from 
the circumstance of so many rude and apparently unfinished 
intagli being as highly polished in the interior, as those 
completed in the most minute details, and of the most 
elaborate style of workmanship ; but this argument does not 
seem to me altogether conclusive. It might have been that 
the ancients possessed some mode of polishing the intaglio, 
with very little trouble, by a merely mechanical process, 
which the lowest class of engravers, who worked entirely for 
the populace, were equally able to impart to their work, as 
the most skilful artists. In Pliny's time ^ the wheel does not 
appear to have been in use, otherwise he would certainly 
have mentioned so important an innovation, which, when 
once introduced, speedily drove all other means of engi-aving 
out of the lapidary's workshop, in consequence of the extreme 
facility and rapidity of its operation. Of the use of this 

* Pietramari, an old Itoniau dealer opinion that the wheel began to be 
in geniS, of great experience, was of first used under Domitian. 


instrument we see abundant marks in the intagli of the 
Lower Empire ; more especially are its effects observable in 
the letters occurring upon the gnostic amulets, where we find 
the square form of the characters usually employed, on account 
of the difficulty of cutting curved lines by an instrument re- 
volving in a vertical plane, and consequently working forward 
on the surface presented to it, and in a straight direction. 
The rude Sassanian intagli (to be hereafter noticed) appear 
to have been universally cut by the wheel ; and the artist 
must have employed but a single disk for the whole of his 
work, to judge from the fact, that all the lines composing his 
figures are precisely of the same thickness, and that usually 
very coarse. The wheel was probably introduced into Europe 
from the East, when the commerce in gems began to attain 
such considerable extent as we find it had done even in the 
time of Pliny ; and the Persian conquests of Trajan, in the 
next century, must have greatly widened the relations 
between the two univei'sal empires of Pome and Parthia. 
Down to the fall of the Empire, and even later, as we shall 
see (Cross of Lotharius), this instrument remained the sole 
means of engraving the barbarous productions of ex2)iring 
taste. In the East, the mechanical processes have always 
been kept up in full perfection, from the Mahometan custom 
of wearing signets engraved on gems, often the liardest and 
the most precious Miat could be procured. I have seen 
Persian legends admirably cut on the finest Sap})liire and the 
Ruby; and those k)ng inscriptions formed in beautiful llowing 
curves, united in the most intricate cyphers, and adorned 
with flowers and stars, required as much taste and skill in 
their execution as the classical designs of the European artist. 
At the period of the Revival, the instrument, together with 
the art of gem-engraving, was again brought into Italy from 
the East, probably not before the time of Lorenzo de' Medici, 

110 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

under whose patronage flourished Giovanni delle Carniole, 
the earhest gem-engraver of whom any trace can be found. 

But to make one concluding remark on the antique method, 
it is my firm conviction, deduced from the appearance of the 
best and truly genuine intagli, that the artist having hollowed 
out his design to the requisite depth by means of the drill, and 
having completed all the details with the aid of the diamond- 
point, afterwards disguised all traces of the instruments em- 
ployed, by the high polish which he gave to the interior of 
his work ; thereby producing that appearance so characteristic 
of tnie antique intagli, that soft and flowing outline, which 
leaves nothing angular or sharply defined, but rather makes 
the whole design appear to have been modelled by the most 
delicate touch in a soft and yielding material. So true is 
this, that one is frequently inclined to view an excellent 
antique work with suspicion as a modern paste, until the 
reality of the gem is tested by the file, so stronga na ppear- 
ance does it bear of having been produced at once by casting 
in a fused material, rather than of a design cut out by patient 
labour on the hardest and most refractory of substances. 

On account of the extreme minuteness of detail observable 
in many antique intagli, some writers on this subject have 
boldly asserted that the artists who executed them must have 
had some means of assisting the eye equivalent to our mag- 
nifying-glasses. In confirmation of this theory, a story is 
told of certain intagli found at Pompeii in company with a 
crystal lens, and they at once jump to the conclusion that 
this lens had been employed in the engraving of these parti- 
cular gems. But it is most jDrobable that the supposed -lens 
was nothing more than a crystal or pale amethyst, cut en ca- 
boehon, and prepared itself to be engraved on, a form of which 
innumerable instances occur among transparent stones both 
with intagli upon them and plain. A large pale amethyst 


in my collection of a very spherical form, and in which the 
intaglio, a hippocampus, occupies but a small portion of the 
surface, acts, when properly applied, as a magnifying lens of 
great power, a quality which one cannot but suppose must in 
similar cases have attracted the notice of some of the ancient 
possessors of gems of this form. I have also seen an antique 
Greek ring set with a crystal or white paste, of a perfect 
lenticular form, which certainly, if found by itself, might very 
well have passed for an ordinary magnifying-glass. But Pliny, 
who mentions so carefully the various instruments of the 
engraver's art, and who possessed much more than a merely 
theoretical knowledge of the subject, would never have 
omitted this most important auxiliary both to the artist and 
the amateur, especially where he actually mentions that " the 
engravers, when their sight was fatigued by the excessive strain 
required in their work, refreshed their wearied eyes by look- 
ing at an emerald." Seneca, indeed, says (Nat. Quajst. i. C), 
tliat glass globes filled with water make small and obscure 
letters seen through them appear quite legible and distinct ; 
but he ascribes the magnifying power to the nature of the 
water, and gives no hint that this discovery had been applied 
to any useful pur{)Ose in his day. It has been thought that the 
ancient engravers directed the light from a small window, or 
from a lamp, so as to pass through one of these globes, and fall 
in a concentrated spot upon their work, in the same manner as 
is still practised by jewellers when working upon minute objects 
by lamp-light ; and as the custom can be traced back lor many 
centuries, there is a possibility of its having been handed down 
by the traditions of the trade from remote antiquity. 

Engravers, however, actually execute their work with but 
little assistance from tlie magnifier, the chief use of which is 
to ascertain the progress made in the cutting of the design, 
and the sinldng of the intaglio into the stone, by repeated 

112 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. TI. 

examinations of the impression taken at short intervals in 
soft wax. For by the very nature of the operation, in which 
the stone is held, cemented upon a liandle, against the edge 
of a rapidly-revolving disk smeared with oil and diamond- 
dust or emery-powder, the work itself is concealed from the 
eye of the artist, who regulates the cutting of the design 
more by the feel and by the instinct derived from long prac- 
tice, than by his actual observation ; whilst he keeps a check 
upon the destructive power of the instrument by the repeated 
application of the lens to the stone and to the wax impres- 
sion. Again, the dust and oil combined fill up the lines as 
the work proceeds, so that the actual view of the cutting 
itself is rendered practically impossible. Even in intagli exe- 
cuted by the diamond-point alone, the same inconvenience 
existed, if we suppose the ancient engravers employed this 
tool in the same manner as the Italians in Vettori's time, 
" who fixed a diamond splinter in the end of an iron-pencil a 
span in length, and rubbed it to and fro over the lines to be 
traced on the stone, dropping upon the place occasionally 
emery-dust and oil." Such being the case, the whole seeming 
diificulty is at once removed, for the impressions of the most 
minute intagli, the early Greek, are easily distinguishable in 
every detail to an eye practised in the examination of such 
objects ; whilst the works of Roman date, from the bolder and 
less delicate nature of their finish, offer no difficulty whatever 
to the ordinary sight, which is able to catch every particular 
of the design without any artificial assistance. As for really 
antique Camei, the work in them is so bold, or if w^e may use 
the term, of so unfinished a character, their sole purpose 
being to produce effect at a distance, that the artist could 
have experienced scarcely more difficulty in working them 
out of the Sardonyx with his unassisted eye, than in the exe- 
cution of a small bas-relief in any other hard material. 

Sect. II. 



Sacred Hawk. Garnet. 

Sacred Acimals, Green Jasper. 


We cannot more appropriately enter upon the considera- 
tion of the engravings on the gems themselves, and of the 
various styles of art characterising their respective countries 
and ages, than by a notice of the Egyptian Scarabei, or as 
the Germans call them " Beetle- stones," which are without 
dispute the earliest monuments of the glyptic art in exist- 
ence. The beetles themselves are cut out of Basalt, Carne- 
lian, Agate, Lapis-lazuli, and other hard stones ; but are quite 
as frequently made of a soft Innestone' resembling chalk, or 
of a vitrified clay. Though the figure of the insect is often 
very well formed, yet they are not equal to the Etruscan in 
this respect ; there is also a difference in shape which dis- 
tinguishes the scarabs of each nation from one another. The 
back of the wing-cases in the Egyptian beetle is flat, whilst in 
the Etruscan there is usually a raised ridge running along 
their junction. The harder stones appear to have been Jiled 

* In fact tlio larj^cst proportion 
will be found to be cut out of 
Steatite and a calcareous schist of 
different colours, blue, green, dark, 
and white. Some arc found in co- 
loured iilass, but these are among 
tlie rarest. Very few of the earliest 

scarabs or tablets are fonued out oi 
the liarder kinds of gems : the .scarabs 
in these are probably almost all of 
the time of the Ptolemies, when the 
Greek processes of engraving had 
been introduced into Egypt. 

114 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

into shape by means of a piece of emery, probably the " lima 
Thynica" of Majcenas, in his lines 

" Nee quos Thynica lima pei"polivit 
Anellos noc Jaspidas lapillos." 

The softer substances were probably fashioned into the 
beetles, and then engraved upon their bases with a splinter 
of flint.^ Herodotus speaks of the Ethiopian arrows as being 
headed with the stone "by means of which they engrave 
their signets," and of the use of an Ethiopian stone to make 
the first incision in the corpse preparatory to embalment. 
That this stone was flint, is abundantly proved by the arrovr- 
heads found in Egj^pt, as well as on the plains of Marathon, 
where the warriors spoken of by Herodotus emptied their 

But these Egyptian intagli are all extremely rude, and 
only attempt the representation of hieroglyphics^ until we 
arrive at the epoch of the Ptolemies, which has presented us 
with some splendid examples of Greco-Egyptian art, such as 

* Even the scarabs and tablets in loved of Amon Ra;" "Beloved of 
porcelain all appear to have been Atlior, the Lady of Lower Egypt ;" 
cut by hand upon the material in " Sou of the Sun ;" " At i^eace 
its dry state, and then burnt and through Truth," &c. Others bear 
covered over by a blue or green figures of deities with invocations ; 
vitrified glaze. Many of these small as the Sacred Serpent and " Living 
works are probably composed of a Lord of the World ;" a Hawk, " The 
stone that would stand the fire, and Good God ;" " Osiris the Living 
admit of being glazed as well as the Lord ;" " The Sun, Disposer of the 
clay so often employed. This pecu- Lower Country ;" and others of tlie 
liarity of manufacture supplies a same nature, and which we shall see 
means of detecting the false Egyj)- reappear in the intagli of Roman- 
tian works in glazed clay, now so Egyptian date. Others, again, have 
extensively manufactured in Eng- tlie names of private persons and 
land, and exported to Alexandria their offices, as " The Bard of 
for the benefit of travellers up the Thoth ;" or qualities of the owner, 
Nile. as " Truth ;" or good wishes, " A 

* These legends, when interpreted, happy life ;" " May your name en- 
are found to consist of the names of dure and your being be renewed." 
the kings, with their titles of "Be- 


the famous front face of a monarch, very deeply cut on a 
brown Sard, one of the chiefest stars of the Herz Collection, 
and which brought at the sale the high price (for these days) 
of 40^. 10s. 

Portrait of a Itolemy : 6i:a3CO-Egj-pi;au. Dark Sard. 

This magnificent intaglio is a portrait of one of the Ptole- 
mies, pi'obably the Fifth of that name, for the face is that of 
a young person. It is represented in the same manner as 
the well-known Bust of IMemnon, the received mode of de- 
picting their regal divinities ; but the life-like fidelity of the 
Grecian portraits is combined with admirable skill with the 
majestic repose distinguishing the conventional type of the 
Eg}ptian godhead. Its expression is absolutely marvellous, 
and to the attentive gaze produces th same effect as the 
original colossal statue. In the British Museum there is a 
large bust, with features much resembling this, of a prince 
of the same dynasty, admirably sculptured according to 
this established type of the Egyptian School. Another fine 
example is the Sacred Hawk of the Berlin Cabinet, a 
largo intaglio sunk in flat relief, but with uncommon force 
and s{)irit ; and among the British INIuseum gems is another 
on Sard exactly similar, but of smaller dimensions. In 
the Webb Catalogue, No. 2, was a Sard, engraved with a 
priestess adoring Osiris and Isis, represented as terminal 
figures. This intaglio, from its precise correspondence with 
the type of some of the autonomous coins of Malta, was 
doubtless contemporary with their issue, and therefore be- 

I 2 

116 ART, STYLES OF. Sect II, 

longing to this period. Among the Uzielli gems are two 
very interesting Camei of the Egyptian School, but perhaps 
to be assigned to the times of Eoman domination. One, a 
bust of Cleopatra, given in exact accordance with the pre- 
scribed type of the Queen, as seen on the oldest monuments, 
adorned with a profusion of small curls and many rows of 
necklaces, but worked out with extreme delicacy in the black 
layer of an Onyx in very flat relief; the other, a most curious 
representation of a fight between a hippopotamus and cro- 
codile, executed with great truth to nature on an extremely 
small green and white stone. 

When the Egyptian religion again revived under Hadrian 
some good intagli were executed in the ancient style, amongst 
which I have seen a cylinder in Plasma, with two rows of 
figures of deities engraved round it in a neat manner ; but 
this brings us down nearly to the date of the Alexandrian 
class of Abraxas gems, to be hereafter more fully discussed. 
Although we have already remarked that many of the early 
scarabei used for signets are formed of a soft calcareous 
stone, or of a vitrified clay, yet we find many, especially of 
the larger kind, sculptured in Basalt, one of the hardest stones 
known. The lines of hieroglyphics, usually covering the flat 
surface of the bases of these scarabs, form by the rudeness of 
their execution a striking contrast to the perfect finish of the 
beetle-figure itself. They usually present a rough irregular 
outline, as if scratched into the surface of the stone by the 
point of some harder substance, the management of which 
was somewhat difficult to the hand of the engraver. The 
interior therefore of the figures and the lines are extremely 
uneven and ill-defined, very different from the neat finish of 
similar works executed under the Greek and Roman rulers 
of that country. The same remark applies to the liiero- 
glyphics cut on the larger monuments, which from their 


broken outline appear rather to have been hammered into 
the stone than cut out by a sharp instrument. The smaller 
engravings, I have little doubt, were scratched in with a piece 
of emery ; the execution of the larger as well as the mode in 
which such immense masses of the hardest rocks were worked 
with such facility, will doubtless ever remain a mystery. For 
there is no doubt that the sculptors used only bronze chisels, 
which indeed are often discovered among the debris of their 
work ; and that too for cutting granite and basalt, which now 
spoil the best steel instruments after a few strokes. Sir G. 
Wilkinson supposes that the workman used emery powder 
laid upon the part to be cut, and drove it into the stone with 
his soft chisel, by which process the powder itself formed a 
continually renewed edge to the tool, capable of subduing 
the most impenetrable substances. I do not know whether 
tills be a mere theory, or if the experiment has been actually 
tried. It rather seems to me that some means must have 
been known of softening the stone to a certain extent, and 
this, together with an unbounded supply of forced labour, 
affords the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty. 

Cicognetti, a Roman architect, who erected an altar in 
Cardinal Tosti's chapel in S. IMaria IMaggiore, the upper part 
of which was decorated with small columns of red Porphyry, 
informed me that the only way now known of cutting that 
stone is to steep it for several weeks in urine, and that even 
then it was worked with the greatest difficulty. It occupied 
the French workmen w ith the best modern tools the space 
of .six weeks to cut a small groove around the base of 
the obelisk of Luxor, before removing it from its pedestal. 
And yet, besides these Egyptian relics so profusely covered 
with seulptures, huge coIutuus, as well as statues and bas- 
reliefs of IWphyry, continued to be made in great profusion 
by the Koniaiis quite to the close of the Empire. Magnificent 



Sect. II. 

examples of this still remain in the tombs of the Empress 
Helena, and of her grand-daughter Constantia, sculptured 
from enormous blocks of that stone, and adorned with busts 
and groups in alto-relievo, the mere repolishing and restora- 
tion of which, on their removal to the museum of the Vatican, 
occupied several workmen for the space of seven years. 

Signet of Sabaco II. 


These classes of intagli are treated of here under the same 
head, because it is as difficult to distinguish those belonging 
to the archaic period of G-reek art from the Etruscan, as it is 
to decide the long-agitated question, whether the majority of 
painted vases are of Greek or Etruscan origin.*' There is one 
remarkable peculiarity in these intagli, that no middle class 
of works presents itself between the extremely rude designs 
almost entirely executed by the drill, and engravings of the 
nicest finish in low relief, almost entirely scratched into the 
stone with the diamond point. While the first class offer 
caricatures of men and animals, the favourite subjects being 

^ Pytliagoras is said by Hermippus the Etruscans, and that it had already 

to have been the son of Mnesarchus, constituted a distinct profession at 

a gem-engraver and an Etruscan this very remote period, nearly six 

according to Aristotle. This shows centuries before our era. 
the high antiquity of the art among 



figures throwing the discus, fauns with amphorae, cows with 
sucking calves, or the latter alone ; the second gives us subjects 
from the Greek mythology, especially scenes from Homer 
and the Tragedians, among which the stories of Philoctetes 
and Bellerophon occur with remarkable frequency. The 
usual finish to all these designs is a border, in most cases 
simply milled like the edge of a coin, but sometimes very 
carefully worked in the pattern, called the guilloche,^ resem- 

f Syba 

bling a wide-linked chain, or a loosely-twisted cable. From 
this striking contrast between the style of the two classes of 
gems, and as no traces are to be discovered of a transition 
from one to the other, a thing so observable in the various 
gradations of Roman art, it is certainly allowable to con- 
jecture that the fine are of Greek, the barbarous of Etruscan 
manufacture. Their being fomid abundantly in the Etrurian 

^ This giiilloclie border is often 
fouiid enclosing; the tyixjs upon the 
large flat didrachins of certain cities 
of ^lagna Grecia, as Metapontum 
and Sybaris. Tlie figure of tlic IniU- 
licaded river-god, the Aclielous, on 
the former coins, and tlie knig-honieil 
ox regardant, resembling an ante- 
lope, uix)n the latter, are executed 
in a flat stifl' manner, but highly 
finished, and very similar to the 
woric on many of these gems, with 
which there can be no doubt they 
were coeval. This cinlirnis mv 

opinion that the best of these intagli 
are not of Etruscan origin, but tliat 
the idea was taken from that people, 
and improved upon by the Greek 
colonists of the south of Italy. As 
the city of Sybaris was utterly de- 
stroyed K.c. 510, and never restored, 
all the extant coins must have been 
issued during the two centuries be- 
fore that date ; and hence we can 
fqrm a notion as to the actual ei)Och 
of the intagli corresi>onding with 
these in style and workmanship. 

120 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

soil is no proof of their native origin, for in the flourishing 
times of the Etruscans before tlie ruin of their power by the 
Gallic invasion, they carried on an extensive commerce with 
the Grecian states. And it is a circumstance somewhat at 
variance with our notions of Greek pre-eminence in art in 
every age, that Etruria supplied even the Athenians with 
every kind of ornamental article in bronze, as vases, lamps, 
&c., which is proved by the lines of Critias, (Athenaeus, 
i. 50) : 

Tvparrjvr] 8f Kparei ;(puo-orv7roy (f>idkrj 
Kai Tray x^^'^^ o'"'^ Koaixfi So/Jiov iv rivi XP^'?- 

" Etruria bears the palm for gold-wrought bowls, 
And all the bronze that decorates our dwellings." 

It was not until after the age of Alexander that the Greek 
works in bronze became celebrated. All the masterpieces 
of the early Athenian sculptors were executed in marble, 
wood, or ivory. The Etruscans were naturally led to per- 
fection in this manufacture, like the Florentines of the 
Cinque-Cento period, from the inexhaustible supply of the 
metal which they derived from Monte-Catino, near Leghorn, 
still a source of great wealth to the company working the 

But to return to our gems. Those assigned above to the 
Greeks are usually the light amber-coloured Sards, which 
seem always to have been a favourite with that people. Many 
of these gems have evidently been sawn off from scarabs, 
even in ancient times, for the purpose of being set in rings, 
when the wearing of the beetle-stones, had gone out of 
fashion as soon as the religious motive became obsolete 
which had made this figure so popular with the Egyptians 

* At the moment of the accession a fleet of Tuscan pirates was pliin- 
of Alexander tlie Great to the throne, rlcring the sea-coast of Macedonia. 


and their disciples, the Etruscans. For to all appearance 
they had derived from Egypt tlieir entire religious system, as 
is shown by the existence of a sacerdotal caste, the institution 
of mysteries, and the extraordinary care lavished upon the 
construction and decoration of their sepulchres. 

I have seen scarabs in all possible materials from emerald 
to amber, and glass pastes (the latter the rarest of all) ; but 
by far the greatest number are formed of the common red 
Carnelian, supplied by the beds of their torrents, and they 
are usually very much of the same size. Few will be found 
to exceed an incli in length, and in this particular they 
contrast strongly with the Egyptian, which vary from the 
colossal beetle of some feet across the back, to the tiny pen- 
dant no larger than a fly. 

This is tlie proper place briefly to notice the manner in 
whicli they were worn as ornaments by their ancient owners. 
The earliest method was that of simply stringing them, in- 
termixed with other beads, and thus wearing them as a neck- 
lace, the engraved base of the scarab serving at the same 
time the purpose of a signet. Sometimes, liowever, they 
seem to have been introduced into tliese necklaces merely as 
ornaments, as in the famous one found in Tuscany in 1852, 
and wliich merits a particular description. It is composed of 
a cliaiu woven of the finest gold wire, J inch in diameter, 
and 11 inches long; each end terminating in bands of scroll- 
work witli loops attached. From this cliain descend .^2 
others, IJ inch long, of a curb-pattern, the alternate links to 
the loft and to the right forming a diamond-pattern. Be- 
tween these chains, and attaclied to the broad chain, are 16 
fnll-faeod boarded heads of Bacclnis. In the centre of each 
diamond formed by tlie smaller cliains, are alternately C full- 
faced harpies in a seated posture, and 7 diota-sliaped onia- 
iiicnts ; botweon tlioso comes another row of esoalloped forms, 

122 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

14 in number. At the point of eacli alternate diamond 
formed by the small chains are suspended scarabei of onyx 
and amber mounted in a border of fine wire- work ; the other 
points having full-faced harpies, the wings curving gracefully 
above the shoulders. 

This unique specimen of ancient jewellery was sold for 
160Z., by Sotheby and Wilkinson in 1856. At the same sale, 
the finest Etruscan ring known, once belonging to the Prince 
di Canino, and engraved in Micali's ' Atlas of Plates,' was 
also disposed of for the small sum of 211. Subjoined is the 
accurate description of it given in the catalogue. " It is 
formed on each side of a lion, their heads facing, and the 
front paws of each supporting a border of fine grain-work, in 
which is set a scarabeus of Sardonyx, engraved with a lion, 
his head turned back to the left." But the usual mode of 
mounting the scarab, as a finger-ring, was the swivel, a wire, 
as a pivot, passing through the longitudinal perforation of the 
stone (the edge of which was generally protected by a gold 
rim), and then brought through holes in each end of a bar of 
gold ; or else of a broad flat band of plaited wire, and bent 
into a loop of sufficient size to admit the finger, which was 
usually the fore-finger of the left hand. For the sake of 
security, the ends of the loop were formed into small disks, 
touching each extremity of the scarabeus. This loop, or 
ring-shank, as it may be considered, was treated in a great 
variety of fashions, and sometimes was made extremely 
ornamental. One that I have seen terminated in ram's 
heads, the pivot entering the mouth of each ; in another, the 
shank was formed as a serpent, the head of which was one of 
the supporting points, and the tail, tied into a knot, the 
other. Occasionally, the form of the shank was varied by 
bending the bar upon itself, so as to form a bow in the middle 
of its length ; the ends were then beaten to a point, which, 


being twisted inwards, passed into the opposite holes of the 
stone, and thus formed a handle to the signet. This last 
manner of mounting the scarabeus was often used by the 
Egyptians, the shank being made of every kind of metal : it 
was also the common setting of the Phcenician stones of this 
form. These last are found abundantly in Sardinia. An ex- 
tensive collection of them, from the cemeteries of Tliarros, a 
Phoenician colony, was brought to London, by the Com- 
mandante Barbetti, in 1857, and afterwards sold at Christie 
and Manson's. These differed from the other classes of 
beetle-stones, both in the material tlie greatest part of them 
being made of a dark-green Jasper, instead of Carnelian and 
also in the style of the intagli engraved upon them ; which 
closely resembled, iu their treatment, the engravings on the 
best executed Persian cylinders, and were, in many cases, 
very neatly finished, certainly superior to the majority of the 
Etruscan class. The cutting of the figures was deep and 
carefully fmished, although rather stiff, which latter character 
seems to be inseparable from all the productions of Oriental 
art ; but some of the animals engraved upon them, especially 
the antelopes, displayed an extraordinary degree of spirit and 
freedom of execution. 

Beetles, in coloured marble, and of considerable bulk, may 
be assigned (as their Roman style points out) to the revival 
of the Egyptian religion in the days of Hadrian. Early 
scarabs of that nation also occur with Gnostic devices en- 
graved upon their bases, but the disparity of work in the 
beetles, and in the intagli upon them, proves the latter to 
have been an addition of the times of incipient barbarism. 
We may conclude this subject, by noticing a very rare 
peculiarity of some early Etruscan scarabei, where the back 
of the beetle is formed into a full front mask, apparently of 
the same dat(> as the r(^st of tlw composition. Of this un- 



Sect. II. 

accountable variation only two instances have come to my 

Scarab with Mask. 

A curious kind of natural signet was used by the Athe- 
nians of the time of Aristophanes, the invention of which he 
jocosely ascribes to the subtle genius of the misogynist Euri- 
pides. As it was found that the wives were able to get them- 
selves a fac-simile of their husband's signet for half a drachma, 
and thus to open, without fear of detection, all the stores 
sealed up by their lords, Euripides had taught the latter to 
seal tlie wax or clay securing the doors with bits of worm- 
eaten wood, 6pnvr)hf(TTa acppnyidia, (Tliesmopll. 425). TllO 

curious windings and intricate curves traced on the surface of 
the wood by the " fairies' coach-maker," were quite beyond all 

^ I have lately seen two additional 
and very extraordinary examples of 
this ornament to the scarabens. The 
first was a large one in black and 
white Agate, the beetle itself formed 
with astonishing truth to nature, 
and the cameo-mask cut out of the 
wliite stratum of the stone upon the 
lower part of the wing-cases of the 
insect. I extract the description of 
it from the M.-S. catalogue : " No. 
171. Scarabeus. Jupiter, nude, dart- 
ing the thunderbolt with the left 
hand ; in the field a bust of Ehea 
with a crown of towers. The back 
of the scarab has been cut in relief. 

and forms a bare head, of which the 
chin and beard consist of the lower 
body and of the wings of an insect, 
llie figure of Jupiter has a foreign 
character, somewhat in the rhoo- 
nician style. Onyx." The second, 
and I believe an unique example, is 
an Egyptian scarab of vitrified clay, 
the base filled with well-formed 
hieroglyphics, and the back adorned 
with a large full-faced mask. It is 
very possible that these camco-lieads 
are the additions to the original 
stone, of a later but still antique 


imitation, and tlius supplied a signet that could not be counter- 
feited. Caylus gives an intaglio, the design a mere pattern 
of wavy lines curiously entwined, which he takes, and pro- 
bably with reason, for an imitation of one of these natural 


These are composed of different species of hard stone, 
Jasper, and Calcedony for the greatest part, but also of 
Carnelian, Agate, Loadstone, and Lapis-lazuli. They are 
of a cylindrical form,' usually from one to two inches 
in length, and half as much in thickness, with a large 
hole passing through their length, for a string, and in 
this manner were worn tied round the wrist as a bracelet. 
This custom accounts for their hardly ever being found, 
with metal mountings, among Assyrian remains ; the few 
that do occur, set in nuissy gold swivel-rings, prove, by the 
liieroglyphical engravings they bear, that they were used by 
Egyptians during the time that country was subject to the 
Persian rule. The subjects they usually present are sacrifices 
or combats between a man and a monstrous beast, probably 
typifying the contest of the Good and Evil Principles, the 
fundamental doctrine of the Persian religion. The following 
are types of frequent occurrence upon these cylinders.' Two 
figures, half-bull half-man, fighting with two lions : between 
each group are cuneiform inscriptions, arranged in vertical 
lines. Four human figures : beneath the second of them is 
a plant, between the third and fourth an animal, under 
which are placed three balls. A figure, in a long robe, hold- 
ing at arm's length, by their horns, two antelopes.* Four 

'" Some arc barrel-shaped, others Collection, 
have the sides sliLriitly concave. ^ This is a very common type on 

' All in the Mertens-Schaafhaust'n l)oth seals and cylinders. 

FIRST PERIOD : Assyrian Cylinders. 

No. 6 inscribed with Phenician characters. 


3. Triumph of king. 


figures : one with bull's feet and tail (the prototype of 
the modern devil), is fighting with a man ; the third, with 
hands raised, appears praying to the fourth, who stands 
motionless. Two men, one of whom has his hands raised : 
between the two is a tree ; the other figure holds a sceptre ; 
on the other side are three vertical lines of cuneiform letters. 
Two tall figures : a shorter one and two lines of cuneiform 
letters between them. Two figures standing erect, a plant 
and a staff between them : two lines of characters, mixed 
with animals, on the other side. Hieroglyphics entirely 
surrounding the cylinder, which is probably of Egypto- 
Persian date. 

Layard divides cylinders into four classes the Early and 
liOwer Assyrian, the purely Babylonian, and the Persian. 
The Early Assyrian are usually of Serpentine, rudely en- 
graved, and agreeing, in their subjects and style, with the 
most ancient bas-reliefs of Nimroud, such as the king in his 
chariot, discharging his arrows at the lion or wdld bull ; war- 
riors in battle ; the king or priest adoring the emblem of the 
deity ; the eagle-headed god ; winged bulls and lions ; all 
accompanied by the common Assyrian symbols, the sun, 
moon, seven stars, the sacred tree, winged globe, and the 
wedge. Next in date are the Lower Assyrian, of the time of 
Sargon (Shalmaneser) and his successors. These are found 
in Agate, Jasper, Quartz, and Syenite, and other hard stones.* 

' This proves tliat the discovery ujhmi metal, like those Royal Seals 
of the process of cuttiiij;; ititagli upon still preserved in gold. This is con- 
the harder <;ems, known technically firmed by the impression of the sig- 
as "Hard Stones," is due to the As- net of Sabaco II., stamj^ed on the 
Syrian on<^ravers of the early times same clay seal as that of Senna- 
of Nineveh, for the contemporary cherib ; the former K'ing evidently 
Egyptian signets are, {lerhaps with- produced from an engraving cut 
i)Ut exception, merely cut ujKJn such on metal, the latter from a gem- 
soft materials as Steaschists, or else intaglio. 

SECOND PERIOD : Purk Babylonian. 

4. Mithras, Athor. Bel. 


Tliat ascribed to Sennacherib is of Amazon-stone ; the intaglio 
beinir of the finest and most minute execution. The usual 
subjects of this class are the various gods and their wor- 
shippers ; thus, one (5) presents the figure of Astarte, backed 
by ten stars, the crescent over her head and a seated dog in 
front ; the worshipper is a female, behind whom is a tree 
and an antelope rampant. 

The purely Babylonian are more common in European 
collections than the two former classes. For these Haema- 
tite, or rather Loadstone, is the favourite material, but Agates 
and Jaspers also occur. They bear the sacred figures, but 
are distinguished by legends in the Babylonian cuneiform 
character, containing the name of the owner and his patron 
god. Many of these exhibit excellent workmanship : one (2) 
in green Jasper the Assyrian Hercules wrestling with a 
buffalo, and a horned human figure, having bull's legs, with 
a lion is remarkable for the depth of the intaglio and the 
spirit of the design. 

The latest of all, the Persian, are found in all the varieties 
of hard stones. Onyx, Calcedony, Crystal, Carnelian, &c. 
They often boar legends in the Achajmenian cuneiform : thus 
tlie signet of Darius, of green Calcedony, now in the British 
]\ruseum, represents him in his car, accompanied by his name 
and patronymic. Another is engraved with the name of a 
certain Arsaces, the chamberlain. Tlio -Persian work is easily 
recognised by the draperies of the figures gathered up into 
narrow folds, as in the sculptures of the Acha?menian dynasty, 
a peculiarity never found on pure Assyrian or Babylonian 
inouumonts. Another mark of distinction is the crown worn 
by the royal personage, the figure of Ormuzd, now first intro- 
duced, and the fantastic monsters, agreeing in design with 
those of Persepolis. A cylinder of Crystal belonging to this 
period, representing Ormuzd raised aloft by two human- 


130 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. IT. 

headed winged bulls above an oval containing the royal por- 
trait, is a work of extraordinary delicacy and minuteness. 

Cylinders went out of use on the IMaeedonian conquest, 
and do not reappear under either the Arsacidae or the Sassa- 
nians. A few, Assyrian in character, are inscribed with 
Semitic letters resembling the Phenician. They belong to 
various periods, from the time of the lower Assyrian dynasty 
to the Persian occupation of Babylonia. To the first Layard 
assigns one (6) with two human-headed bulls raising the 
emblem of the deity above the sacred tree, flanked by a 
priest bearing a goat and by the worshipper, behind whom is 
the legend, placed vertically. Of Persian date is another (8), 
the king contending with a bull and griffin ; above him soars 
Ormuzd. The legend, in four lines, reads, " the seal of " 
a name and patronymic undeciphered. 

These cylinders are found in great abundance among the 
ruins of all ancient Assyrian cities, verifying the assertion of 
Herodotus, that every man of that nation carried a signet of 
his own. As for their style of work, it is generally very rude, 
the figures seeming to have been ground out of the solid 
surface by rubbing and filing with a piece of emery ; they are 
also often much worn and defaced by use, so as to be almost 
unintelligible. Very few indeed dis])lay any finish of execu- 
tion; and such, especially the beautiful one in Sapphirine 
(before mentioned under " Calcedony "), I am disposed to 
assign to the skill of some Greek engraver in the service of 
the later kings of Persia. Their court was an asylum for all 
adventurers of the Hellenic race, just as that of the Great 
Mogul was in the 17th century for Italian jewellers and 
architects, and as that of the Sultan is for Frank pretenders 
at the present day. 

The impression of these signets, when required for use, 
was taken by rolling them over a lump of tempered clay, laid 




N'o. :( with a legend in cliaracters. 

upon the object to be secured by the seal ; and this is the 
source of the comparison in Job, where "the heavens are 
turned as clay to the seal," by which he poetically likens the 
concave vault, studded with the constellations, represented to 
his mind by numerous fanciful figures, to the surface of the 
clay spread out in a hollow plain adorned with the m}i;ho- 
logical devices impressed upon it by the revolution of the 
cvliudcr. Some stones of this form we have already noticed 
as evidently dating from Roman times, like that in Plasma 
previously described, but they are very uncommon, and 
merely due to the superstitious revival of an ancient usage. 

AVhcnever signets are mentioned in the Old Testament, it 
is always as being borne on the hand, and never on the finger. 
Tlius, in Gen. xxxviii. 18, Tamar demands the seal and the 

K 2 

132 ART, STYLES OF: Sect. II. 

twisted cord {Chotam and Phetil), usually rendered "ring," 
"signet," or "bracelet." Again, Pharaoh takes the signet 
off his own hand and puts it upon that of Joseph. " The 
signet upon my right hand " (Jer. xxii. 24) ; and " Zorobabel, 
even he was as a signet on the right hand" (Eccus. xlix. 11), 
with many other similar allusions, all go to prove the same 
thing. Thus (2 Kings i. 10) the young Amalekite brings to 
David, as the ensigns of royalty, the diadem and the bracelet 
taken from the corpse of Saul, apparently because the latter 
contained the royal signet, the only mode of authenticating 
the edicts of the sovereign. In the list of the articles con- 
tained in the treasury of the Acropolis, engraved on marble 
about the time of the Peloponnesian War, and published in 
Chandler (Part II., No. iv., 2), are enumerated " two glass 
signets of various colours, set in gold, and having gold chains 
to them." Pliny also expressly asserts (xxxiii. 4) that " the 
use of finger-rings was of no very great antiquity ; " although 
we find signets mentioned in the most ancient of all historical 
records. On a painted vase, figm-ed by Visconti (Opere 
Yarie, ii. 1), Jupiter appears seated in the heavens, holding 
his eagle-topped sceptre, and wearing on his wrist a large 
oval gem, apparently intended for a scarabeus, threaded 
upon a very fine line ; a manner of wearing a stone of 
so convex a form much more convenient than the later 
fashion of setting it in a swivel-ring, and where, by having 
the engraved face next to the skin of the arm, it was much 
less exposed to injury than when borne upon the finger. 
The very large relative diameter of the perforation through 
the axis of the Babylonian cylinders, proves conclusively 
that they were intended for the reception of a thick cord, 
such as might be fastened round the arm without incon- 
venience, and which, if dyed of a bright colour, might also 
serve as an ornamental bracelet. Thus we find that the 


Amethyst lynx of the sorceress Nico (which I strongly sus- 
pect was an Oriental cylinder), is strung upon a fleece of 
piu-ple lamb's wool, when dedicated to Venus. That the 
Babylonian cylinders were rarely mounted in metal is evident 
from the extreme rarity of any that retain traces of such 
mounting amongst the hundreds continually brought to this 
country. I have noticed the almost unique instances that 
have come under my notice, as being mounted in gold-swivels 
in the Egyptian manner ; and one of Herz's still retained the 
bronze pin or axis rusted away into the perforation. Had the 
custom of having them thus mounted been prevalent in As- 
syria, they would be discovered retaining their swivels, at 
least those made of the baser metals, quite as frequently as 
the Egyptian scarabei. Again, all such gems, either Egyp- 
tian or Etruscan, originally intended to revolve on a metal 
wire, are bored with a very fine hole ; whereas the cylinders, 
even when of the smallest size and less than one inch in 
length, have so large a perforation as to reduce them almost 
to the form of the section of a tube ; so that, unless the 
substance passed through this cavity were of a soft and 
yielding nature, they would have been extremely liable to 
split when used. The later Persian conical seals were 
probably worn in the same manner. Their flat and broad 
bases were adapted to sit firmly upon the wrist, and the 
convex part would form an ornament after the manner of 
tlie embossed disk, invariably appearing as tlie centre of the 
bracelets worn by the ancient Assyrian kings. The later 
Porsiaiis adopted the shape of the signet-stones of their 
Macedonian rulers ; but even here retained their preference 
for the conical form, for these Sassanian ring-stones are 
almost invariably cut en cabochon, and with a degree of 
convexity rarely met with in those of European origin. 

134 ART, STYLES OF. Skct. IF. 


Here some notice may be taken of the breast-plate, or 
Rationale, worn by the Jewish High Priest ; the earliest in- 
stance on record of the art of the gem-engraver. The first idea 
of it was doubtless taken from the vitrified tablets Avorn on 
their breasts by the Egyptian priests when engaged in their 
sacred functions, and which represent a deity in a shrine, 
Surrounded by various emblems. We are also told by ^lian 
(xiv. 34), that the chief-priest of the Egyptians, who was also 
the supreme judge, wore round his neck an image of truth, 
made of Lapis-lazuli (Sapphirus) ; and it is a cm-ious coin- 
cidence, that the above-named tablets are formed of a vitrified 
composition of a bright blue colour. 

The ancient tradition of the Greeks, as to the origin of the 
Jewish nation, recorded by Diodorus Siculus, is, that they 
were a colony despatched from Egypt into Syria, at the same 
time that Danaus set out for Greece ; and the striking 
analogy of their customs and laws with those of Egypt, as 
given by this author, strongly supports this tradition. The 
Jews themselves appear, from their own chronicles, always to 
have retained a strong attachment to the parent state. In 
all their political distresses, when menaced by their Syrian 
neighbours, the idea of a return to Egypt continually sug- 
gests itself to their minds, although strongly opposed by the 
sacerdotal caste. The famous letter of Areius, king of the 
Lacedgemonians, to the High Priest Onias (Josephus, xii. 5), 
in which he speaks of the common descent of both nations 
from Abraham ! though probably a J ewish forgery, 'yet 
sufficiently proves the general belief, at that early period, of 
the original unity of the races, as colonists from the same 
mother country. Diodorus (i. 24) speaks of the Egyptian 
Hercules travelling all over the world, before erecting the 


celebrated Pillars. Again, the Grecian Hercules, the pro- 
genitor of the Spartan royal house, was a native of Argos, 
the first Egyptian colony planted in Europe. From the same 
tradition of their common origin, the Spartans style the 
Jews " their brethren," in their letter of cougratulation to 
Simon Maccabaeus. Intimate relations seem to have been 
kept up, until a late period, between Jerusalem and Sparta ; 
it M as a noble Spartan, Eurycles, who became the miaister 
of Herod the Great, and by his pernicious counsels brought 
about the ruin of his family. 

The gems set in the breast-plate were engraved with the 
names of the tribes, probably in hieroglyphics, and arranged 
thus, if we follow tlie Vulgate (which also coincides with 
Josephus), an authority to be respected in this point, the 
version having been made at a time the 5th century when 
the knowledge of precious stones, and of their ancient names, 
still nourished. 

l.s-i Jww. Sardius, red. Topazion, yellowish green. ISmaragdus, 

bright green. 
2nd Row. ( 'arbunculus, dark red. Sapphirus, dark blue. Jaspis, 

dark green. 
'6nl Row. Ligurius, or Lyncurium, orange. Achates (perhaps), 

black and white. Amethyst, purple. 
4^/t RoK. Chrysolithus, bright yellow. Onyx, blue and black. 

Beryl, light green. 

Our version gives the same stones in difl'erent order, but 
substitutes a Diamond for the Chrysolite, a most absurd 
exchange, as it would bafile all engravers, both of ancient and 
modern tunes, to cut an inscription upon this invincible gem ; 
add to whicli, owe of a size to match the rest of the stones in 
the breast-plate, would have been equal in magnitude to the 
Koh-i-Noor. Josephus says, that the stones were conspicuous 
ior their hirgeness and beauty, and of incomparable value. The 

136 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

names of the tribes were engraved in the " national character," 
but the breast-plate seen by him must have been only a copy 
by tradition of the first one made by order of Moses. Being 
a square of a span, i. e., of 8 inches each side, and having the 
gems arranged in four rows of three each, it follows that each 
gem, with its settmg, occupied a space of 2f inches long by 
2 deep ; and that, therefore, they were cut in the form of 
long ovals, or rather ellipses, like the cartouches containing 
the proper names in hieroglyphic inscriptions. It \\ill sound 
incredible to the ear of the unmitiated, but every one con- 
versant with the nature of gems will admit, that these most 
venerable productions of the glyptic art must still be in 
existence. No lapse of time produces any sensible effect 
upon these monuments, as is testified by the numerous seals, 
even in a softer material, vitrified clay, bearing the name of 
Thothmes III., the contemporary of Moses himself. Their 
intrinsic value also, as the finest gems that could be procured 
by the zeal of a race trafficking all over the world, must 
have rendered them objects of care to all the conquerors 
into Avhose hands they fell ; and though removed from their 
original arrangement, and re-set in various ornaments, they 
must always have ranked amongst the most precious state- 
jewels of the captor of the Holy City. This doubtless was 
the cause that the breast-plate belonging to the first Temple 
is not mentioned in the list of the sacred articles sent back by 
Cyrus to J erusalem ; the rest of the consecrated vessels and 
ornaments appear to have been easily identified as having been 
deposited, as trophies, at the time of their capture, in the 
various temples of Babylon. The breast-plate in use after 
the Captivity, when worn by the High Priest, shot forth, 
according to Josephus, brilliant rays of fire, that manifested 
the immediate presence of the Deity. He, hoAvever, 
prudently adds, that this miraculous property had become 

Sect. II. 



extinct, in consequence of the inipiety of the nation, 200 

years before the time at which he was wTiting. 

This invaluable trophy was carried to Rome, together with 

the other spoils of the Temple. Of the subsequent fate of 

these treasures there are two opposite accounts; one, that 

they were conveyed by Genseric, after his sack of Rome, to 

Carthage, but that the ship containing them was lost on the 

voyage ; the other, and the more probable one, that they had 

been transferred, long before that time, to Constantinople, 

and had been deposited by Justinian in the sacristy of Santa 

Sophia. Hence there is a chance of the gems at least 

emerging from oblivion, at no distant day, when the dark 

recesses of the Sultan's treasmy shall be rummaged by the 

Russian heir of the " sick man," whilst he 

" Jam circum loculos et claves lastus ovansqiio 

" Joyous tlic long-expected wealth to seize, 
Bustles about the money-chests and keys." 

AV^hat a day of rejoicing, both to archaeologists and to the reli- 
gious world, will the identification of one of these sacred monu- 
ments occasion ; a contingency by no means to be thought chi- 
merical in an age which has witnessed the resuscitation of Sen- 
nacherib's signet, of his drinking cup, and of his wife's portrait. 

AHsyrian Seal. 

SigDecof Senaacheriti : Amazon-atoue. 

Assyriau Seal. 

The consideration of the Babyloniiui cylinders natiu-ally 
introduces the subject o( the Sassanian seals, t>r stamps, still 

138 AKT, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

foimd in large numbers about Bassura and Bagdad, which 
gradually superseded that most ancient form of the 
Oriental signet. They are termed Sassanian, from the cir- 
cumstance of their having come into general use under the 
revived dpiasty of the ancient Achsemenian race, commencing 
with Ardeschir in the 8rd, and closmg with Yezdigerd III. 
in the 7th century of our era sovereigns styled Sassanidse, 
from Saasaan, the Roman mode of spelling Shaahshaan, 
" King of Kings," the title in all times assumed by the 
Persian monarchs, and not, as is absiu'dly repeated, a family 
name derived from an imaginary ancestor Sasan. 

These seals are conical blocks of the same kinds of stone 
as those the cylinders are made of, Calcedony and Agate being 
by far the most usual material, having a hole drilled through 
the apex for the purpose of suspension round the neck or 
wrist. Sometimes they are of a spherical shape, often with 
flattened sides, and perforated through the diameter; with 
about a third of the circumference ground down so as to pre- 
sent a flattened tablet for the reception of the intaglio. It 
will be noticed, on examination of a collection of these stamps, 
that the earliest among them, on which the designs are often 
cut m a very neat but very stiff and archaic style, are generally 
in the form of cones with angular sides. These are assigned 
to the date of the Assyrian and first Persian monarchy, before 
the conquest of Alexander. A fanciful antiquary may be 
inclined to suggest that the form of the cone was adopted as 
being the universally received symbol of the solar ray. Thus 
we find the conical stone of Emesa, of which Heliogabalus was 
the priest, occurring on the coins of that emperor, with the 
legend " Sacerdos dei Solis Elagabalus ; " and the Egyptian 
obelisk has always been interpreted as a representation of 
the rays of that luminary. The splierical stamps, on the 
contrary, are exclusively of Sassanian date, and many of 


them doubtless belong to the centuries immediately preceding 
the Mohammedan conquest of Persia. The most interesting 
of the early conical seals that I have ever seen bears a figure 
of Mercury, identified by his caduceus and talaria, but closely 
draped, and wearing a Phrygian bonnet, a singular Oriental 
rendering of the representation of a Hellenic deity. The 
stone is a very fine Sapphirine Calcedony, and the form of the 
cone itself octangular. But the great majority of the intagli 
seen upon the tablets or bases of these cones and spheres are 
of an utterly rude character, and evidently cut by means of a 
very coarse wheel, all the lines being thick, and the design 
entirely executed by tiieir repetition, assisted occasionally by 
a blunt-pointed drill. No traces are visible of the use of the 
diamond-point, or of that high polish which is so marked a 
peculiarity of the Greek and Koman intaglio. I subjoin a 
list of the most usual types occurring upon them, first pro- 
mising that the whole-length figures or busts of royal 
personages form a large proportion of the designs to be seen 
upon the bases of these stamps. A priest praying before an 
altar ; a priest sacrificing at a fire-altar ; a winged figure 
walking, and holding a plant in his hand ; a winged qua- 
druped, with human head, a plant in front, a star above ; 
a bird, with human head and scorpion's tail ; a lion, with 
scorpion's nippers and a serpent's tail, behind him a tree, 
above, Capricorn and a star ; a gazelle, surroimded by a 
legend ; bust of a horned animal supported on two large 
wings ; a priest in front of an altar, behind liim an inscrip- 
tion on one side of the cone are engraved two figures, one 
of them with a bull's head, engaged in combat. The fantastic 
animals which will be ft)und represented on more than half 
the number of these seals, are executed, for the most part, in 
a truly Chinese stylo of drawing. And there is a most 
wonderful simihuity between the mode of the design of some 



8ect. II. 

of these delineations of various beasts, and those of the same 
subjects upon the Gallic and British coins. For instance, a 
Carnelian stamp, engraved with a horse, a wild boar in the 
field beneath (in the collection of Mr. Litchfield of Cam- 
bridge), from its exact identity with the well-known potin 
coins of the Channel Islands, caused me for a long time to 
flatter myself with having made the discovery of a unique 
intaglio, the work of a Gallic gem-engraver as yet unin- 
fluenced by Eoman instruction in his art. 

Persian Seal with Pheuician legend. Calcedouy. 

We however frequently meet with Sassanian gems, cut 
in the form of ring-stones, and these sometimes of very good 
workmanship. They appear to be, invariably, portraits of 
the reigning prince, or of members of his family, and occur 
in considerable numbers ; often on the Garnet, and of very 
fair execution, especially if we consider the lateness of their 
date, yet still, in most instances, do they betray traces of the 
heavy and coarse hand of the workman, which so strongly 
mark this class of intagli. Although gems of the Sassanian 
dynasty are plentiful enough, yet works that can be certainly 
ascribed to the times of the Arsacidae, their immediate pre- 
decessors, are extremely rare ; still more so are such as 
belong to the first race of Persian kings, who ruled over all 
Asia prior to the Macedcmian conquest : and the small 
number of examples of these liighly interesting classes that 

Skct. ir. SASSANIAN SEALS. 141 

have come under my own notice shall be described farther 
on. A few indeed among the indisputable Sassanian por- 
traits are of such good and careful execution, that, in spite of 
the Pehlevi legends they bear, and which authenticate their 
date, we have some difficulty in regarding them as the pro- 
ductions of that late epoch, the 3rd century, when that race 
regained the throne of Persia ; so great is their superiority 
to any works executed by contemporary gem-engravers of 
the Roman school. But it is true, that with the restoration 
of the ancient religion and dynasty under Ardeschir the 
Blacksmith, a.d. 226, all the arts appear to have simultane- 
ously revived in Persia ; the coinage of this patriot prince 
and that of his next successors, being vastly superior in all 
respects, as regards both design and execution, to that of the 
last Parthian sovereigns. 

These ring-stones are usually gems with a very convex 
surface, probably the reason of the so frequent choice of tlie 
carbuncle for this purpose. Even when Sards and Nicoli 
have been employed, they are generally cut into a pointed 
shape, with a small flat surface left to receive the intaglio 
and the inscription. These legends are always in the Pehlevi 
character, which only appears after the restoration of the 
ancient Persian monarchy at the period just mentioned ; the 
ArsacidfB or Parthian kings having invariably employed, on 
their monuments, the Greek language, and probably Greek 
artists, as is shown by the legends and style of their medals ; 
probably from a M'ish to be regarded as the legitimate suc- 
cessors of the IMacedonian line. The early Pehlevi is nearly 
identical with the rabbinical Hebrew clinraeter, of which it 
was, to all appearance, the parent ; but upon the coins of the 
later kings it assumes the form of the Pehlevi used in the 
religious writings of the modem Parsees. Some of the 
legends on this class of coins, like one set of the trilingual 



Sect. II. 

inscriptions on the rock-sculptures at Xakschi-Roustam, are 
written in the Persepolitan alphabet ; but all the gems that 
I have examined present the same shaped letters as those 
used upon the medals of the commencement of the series ; 
and particularly agreeing in form with the characters of the 
inscriptions at Kirmanshah in commemoration of Sapor I. 
and Bahran, given by De Sacy in his 'Antiquites de la 
Perse.' This eminent Orientalist, who was the first to de- 
cipher this previously inexplicable alphabet, confesses tliat, 
as regards our gems, though the letters on them bear a strik- 
ing analogy with those of the medals and of the inscriptions, 
he had been able to make out but one of them, which he 
attributes to the language in which they are couched being 
the Pehlevi dialect, and not the Zend. This single one he 
reads : " Artaschetran-Eami-Minochetri-Rami,-" " Son of Arta- 
xerxes, of the divine race." The medals of Sapor, for in- 
stance, read thus : " Mazdiesii beh Shapouhr malcan malca 
Iran IMinochetri." "The servant of Ormuzd, the excellent 
Sapor, king of kings of Iran, of the divine race." And this 
style will serve as a guide in the attempt to elucidate the 
titles figuring around the gem-portraits. 

I'irouzi Sbahpouhri (Sapor U.)- 

Vamues. Nicoio, perforated. 

The numerous variations in the forms of the same letter 
appear to arise merely from the carelessness of the die-sinker 
in not expressing their angular parts, but turning them off 


into a curve in order to save trouble, exactly as one would 
do for expedition's sake in writing them Avitli a pen. Simi- 
larly, in the gems, some of the inscriptions are cut in the 
neatest and clearest character that could be produced by the 
tool, and such will usually be found on the Garnets and 
other precious stones, in which a superior artist of tlie times 
has displayed his skill, whilst, on the coarse Calcedony seals, 
the signets of the lower sort, the same letters offer a series of 
seemingly arbitrary curves, with hardly any distinction of 
shape between them. It seems, however, to me, that, on a 
careful comparison of the inscriptions, even of those most 
carefully finished, a marked difference will be observed be- 
tween them, whether due, as in those of Nakschi-Roustam, 
to their being expressed in two different dialects, or from 
the introduction of combined letters or " nexus " into some, 
and not into others.* I shall now particularise the most 
important gems of this interesting class that I myself have 
had an opportunity of examining; and the inscriptions on 
which I have, in some instances, been able to decipher in a 
satisfactory manner. The list must be headed by the magni- 
ficent Amethyst, one of the chief treasures of the Devonshire 
Collection ; a profile portrait wearing the tiara, a work of 
extraordinary boldness, though of little finish ; the head of 
Sapor T., surrounded by an inscription, in two lines, of large 
and well-formed Pehlevi letters. This stone now forms the 
centre ornament of the comb, in the parure of antique gems, 
lat(?ly coml)inod and set with such exquisite taste by jMr. 
Hancock, the Duke's jeweller. A Xicolo, now in the Fould 

* Tliis serits closes witli the rude stone. I liaveaNicolo of this class, 

iiitu;j;li, of exticinc nirity, witli a enm-avc<l witli two figures joininjr 

(lesi;:;;!! similar to some of tliose hands, two stars between them ; 

above enumerated in the field, and and the British Museum Collection 

an ill-cut Cupliic legend runnin;^ has a curious Calcedony, hereafter 

around the slopiui^ sides of the noticed. 

144 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Collection, engraved with the bust of a queen, executed in the 
manner of the best Roman portraits, and surrounded by a 
legend in very delicately-formed and minute letters. Amongst 
the Mertens-Schaafhausen Persian stones, No. 52 is a well- 
executed bust of Sapor II. on Sard, with the legend " Pirouzi 
. . . Shapouhri," " the Victorious Sapor." But a still more 
interesting portrait of the same king, though of inferior 
workmanship, is that on a Carbuncle in my own collection, 
where his bust is supported on four wings, the usual Oriental 
symbol of divinity, and between the sun and moon ; at once 
recalling to our recollection the arrogant style assumed by 
this same prince in his Epistle to Constantius, given by 
Ammian (xvii. 5), "Rex regum Sapor, particeps siderum, 
frater Solis et Lunae, Constantio Caesari, fratri meo, salutem 
plurimam dico." The inscription, very neatly cut, reads 
distinctly " Pirouz Shahpouhri ; " an interesting corrobora- 
tion of a circumstance noted by Ammian in his most graphic 
account of the siege of Amida, conducted by Sapor in person, 
that the Persian host, investing that city, chaunted through- 
out the night the name of Sapor, with the titles of "Pyroses " 
and " Saansaan," that is to say, " Victor," and " King of 
Kings." A beautiful Guarnaccino, in the Pulsky Collection, 
has the legend unfortunately defective, but apparently read- 
ing " Narsehi Sha ; " the portrait is much like that of the 
king of that name, and of very fine work. It is not wonderful 
that both the medals and gems of the second Sapor should so 
abound, for the duration of his reign and life were commen- 
surate, extending to seventy -two years. Although the portraits 
on the medals are invariably depicted with the tiara, a balloon- 
shaped turban rising out of a mural crown, from which depend 
long and streaming ribbons, yet on the gems they usually 
appear bare-headed. I have met with but two instances on 
which the tiara occurs : the famous Devonshire Amethyst, and 

Sect. TI. 



a front face, apparently of Chosroes, of late work, on Calcedony. 
The gem figured by De Sacy has also the tiara. It is singular 
that these princes should appear so often on the gems without 
this distinctive badge of sovereignty, especially as the en- 
gravers always seem to have had much difficulty in rendering 
the curly locks, the cherished distinction of the Achtemenian 
race, which they for the most part attempt to represent by a 
series of drill-holes set close together. 

I have dwelt at some length upon this part of my subject, 
as being one, so far as my researches extend, hitherto un- 
touched ; and yet containing a most valuable series of por- 
traits, authenticated by their inscriptions, of those very 
princes who make so prominent a figure in the history of 
the later llomau empire. In the point of view of art they 
have an additional value from the fact, that they supply the 
only intagli, with the rarest exceptions, capable of serving as 
historical evidences, that are to be met with subsequent to the 
affd of Constantine. 

Assyrian and rereian Seals in Afiate and Calcedony 


Two indubitable intagli of the date of the early Persian 
monarcliy liav(; been examined by me with the greatest 
interest. One, on striated Onyx, represented a Persian king 
seated on a tlirone supported by sphinxes, and engraved in 
a good but very archaic style. This most valuable gem had 
been nearly ruined by the folly of the owner in having its 
surface polish(Ml down in order to remove a sujx^rficial frac- 


146 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

ture, thereby destroying the original outline of the figure ; 
othermse, this intaglio would have ranked amongst the most 
interesting known. The other was the bust of a Persian, 
upon a Sard, of ordinary work similar to the better-executed 
Sassanian gems, but in the field of the design was engraved 
a ram's head and a doubled cross, precisely as on the coins 
of Salamis in Cyprus, thus indubitably marking the portrait 
as that of a Persian satrap of that island, at some period 
before the age of Alexander, after whose time the Persian 
dominion over the Greek islands had entirely ceased. I 
have also seen a Eoman imperial portrait, a laureated bust, 
somewhat resembling Caracalla, engraved on Nicolo, accom- 
panied by a Pehlevi legend ; a unique instance and very 
difficult of explanation. It will be observed on the examina- 
tion of many of these Oriental portraits, that a larger pro- 
portion, especially of the best executed, are found on Garnet 
and Guarnacino than is the case with the intagli of the 
Roman school, in which good work occurring upon a Garnet 
is quite the exception to the general rule. In fact, as long 
as the palmy days of the art lasted, the Sard was preferred 
to all other stones by both Greek and Italian engravers ; 
the first employing by choice the bright yellow variety, the 
inhabitants of Magna Grecia and the Etruscans usually 
contenting themselves with the common European Carnelian, 
whilst the Romans were supplied by their Indian commerce 
with the various splendid coloured sorts of the stone, some 
emulating the Carbuncle, others the deep orange of the 
Jacinth. A full-length portrait of a Parthian king,'* on a 
large Oriental Onyx of the finest quality, the three strata 
of the stone being 2)erfect in colour and distinctness, brings 
to our mind an interesting letter of Pliny the Yoimger when 

* Now in tlie possession of Mr. Uzielli, 


Governor of Bithynia, addressed to the Emperor Trajan, in 
which he mentions a similar intaglio. " Apuleius, the 
officer stationed at Nicomedia, has written to me that a 
person named Callidromiis having been forcibly detained by 
the bakers Maximus and Dionysius, to whom he had hired 
himself, had fled for refuge to your statue ; and when 
brought before the magistrates made the follo^ving declara- 
tion : That he had been slave formerly to Laberius Maximus, 
and been taken prisoner by Susagus in Moesia, and thence 
sent as a present by Decebalus to Pacorus, king of Parthia, 
in whose service he had remained many years, but after- 
wards had made his escape and got to Nicomedia. He was 
brought before me, and, persisting in the same story, I 
judged that he ought to be sent to you for examination. 
This I have been somewliat delayed in doing in conse- 
quence of having instituted a search for a gem engraved 
with the portrait of Pacorus and the ensigns of royalty which 
he was accustomed to wear, which gem he had informed me 
liad been stolen from him. For I was anxious to send it to 
you, if it could possibly be found, at the same time wdth 
the man himself, as I have actually done with this piece of 
ore which he asserts that he brought with him from a 
Partliian mine. It is scaled with my own signet, the impres- 
sion of which is a foiu*-horse car." 

This letter appears to give a satisfactory explanation of 
the great number of Persian seals occurring engraved with 
royal portraits, and often of such rude work and coarse 
materials tluit they could only have belonged to the nu- 
nu'rous officials and menials of the royal household. Thus 
an almost equally numerous class, engraved with figures of 
priests and fn-e-altars, were probably the private signets of 
the jMugi, a powerful and extensive body which floiu*ished 
down to the fall of the monarchy in the 7th century. It 

L 2 

148 ART, STYLES OF. Sect, II. 

is a curious fact, that but a few years before the utter ruin 
of their empire and religion, and at the time when Mahomet 
delivered his famous prophecy of their coming fall in the 
chapter of the Koran entitled " The Persians," wliich begins 
thus: "The Persians have conquered the Greeks in the 
uttermost parts of the earth ; but before seven years," &c., 
at this very time Chosroes had restored the ancient limits 
of the Persian rule under Xerxes, and was master of all 
Egypt, Asia, and the north of Africa. Similarly, under 
Theodosius the Great, the Koman Empire had attained its 
extreme extent, only to crumble into fragments in the feeble 
hands of his sons. For after their reign the Western Em- 
perors were but the puppets of the Frank or Herulian 
general, who was only deterred by the shame of his bar- 
barian origin from mounting the imperial tlirone. One point 
more in this letter may be observed : " the piece of ore " 
thought worthy of being forwarded for Trajan's inspection. 
This was probably a specimen from a silver mine, of which 
metal the Persians must have possessed an abimdance. Vast 
quantities are still supplied by Thibet, then tributary to 
them. Both the Parthian and Sassanian currency consisted 
exclusively of silver; coins of gold or copper of either 
dynasty are almost unknown. Procopius, with the laugh- 
able vanity of a Byzantine historian, asserts that the Sassa- 
nian kings did not dare to coin gold, that being the exclusive 
privilege of the Eoman emperors ; a somewhat unsatisfactory 
solution of the difficulty when we consider the supreme con- 
tempt justly entertained by Chosroes for Justinian, his super- 
stition, and his power." In all times, however, the Orient-als 

" He subjoins, however, the true meaning thereby that the Roman 

reason, " that even if the Persian gold was the universal currency of 

kings coined gold, none of the na- the world, which is perfectly cor- 

tions with whom they had com- rcct. 
mercial intercourse would take it :" 


have preferred silver for a circulating medium ; all gold coin 
that gets into their hands being immediately melted for con- 
version into ornaments, or else into ingots for the purpose of 

Satrap of tJalaiuis, 3:ird. 


It is universally acknowledged that the inhabitants of the 
Indian Peninsula derived the use of coined money from the 
Greek sovereigns of Bactria, and that the types of the 
earliest Hindoo pieces show evident traces of being imita- 
tions of increasing rudeness, as more remote in date of 
the Graeco-13actrian currency. And this is equally true of 
those few engraved gems, the tj'pes on which prove to a 
certainty tlieir Indian origin, sometimes found, but only in 
small numbers, deposited, together with other jewels and 
gold coin, in the Buddhist topes or relic-shrines of Cabul. 
It is certiiinly to be reckoned among the nmnerous unac- 
countable inconsistencies of the Hindoo race, that, although 
the earliest of mankind to attain mechanical perfection and 
facility in the sculptiu*e of the hardest stones, as Granite, 
Jad(>, Agates, &c., into ornamental vessels and other repre- 
sentations, and also in the shaping and jxdishing of all gems 
(exc(^pt tlie Diamond), with which they supplied the ancient 
world to an extent of wliich a very limited conception can 
now be formed, yet that despite all these inducements of 
ability and of abundance of materials, they seem never 

150 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. IT. 

to have attempted until a very late period, and then but 
rarely, to imitate their Persian neighbours in embodying on 
the precious stone the miniature forms of those numerous 
and often graceful deities whose larger statues they daily 
reproduced in innumerable multitudes. Assuredly it was not 
the practical difficulties of this art that deterred them, for 
they executed with facility many operations which would tax 
the skill of the most expert lapidary of the present day, such 
as drilling fine holes with the greatest accuracy, not merely 
through beads of Onyx, but even of Sapphire and of Euby ; 
and this is a part of the work in hard stones much more 
difficult, and requiring greater precision and care, than the 
processes required in sinking an intaglio, at least in its 
simplest forms, or in cutting a figure in relief upon the sur- 
face. Their extraordinary skill in working one of the hardest 
substances known. Jade, is beautifully shown in the large 
tortoise found on the banks of the river Jumna near Alla- 
habad, and now in the British Museum, which for fidelity 
to nature and exquisite finish is worthy to be the work of a 
Grecian artist. Small figures of the Sacred Bull ' couchant,' 
perforated through their length for the purpose of beads, are 
often found in company with the other relics here described. 
Miniature idols, also of Indian work, and formed in the 
hardest stones, are not uncommon. The most extraordinary 
production of the kind that over came in my way was a 
figure of Buddha seated in his shrine, surrounded by various 
accessories, the whole cut with marvellous skill out of a 
huge Agate of red and white strata, a most valuable speci- 
men of the stone for brightness of colour and for magnitude, 
being six inches in height and width and of nearly the same 

Although one powerful motive for the engraving of intagli 
was wanting amongst them, hinted at in the words of Pliny, 


"Non signat adhuc Oriens literis contenta solis," the non- 
employment of the signet, but merely of the writer's sub- 
scription to authenticate documents, yet still we should 
have ex]3ected that, as soon as acquainted with this art from 
intercourse with their neighbours (and, to some extent, 
masters) the Persians, whose universal use of engraved gems 
is noticed by Herodotus, they would have attempted to 
enhance the native beauty of their gems, though intended 
merely as personal ornaments, by adorning their surface with 
figiu*es either in intaglio, or, as was the first step in the 
Egyptian branch of this art, with sculptiu-es in relief. For 
it is sufficiently plain that with the latter people the scarab 
was worn as an ornament or amulet on the necklace long 
before its base \^as engraved upon for the purpose of impress- 
ing the seal ; and the same observation holds good for their 
pupils the Etruscans. Be this is it may, it is certain that no 
gems have yet appeared engraved with purely Hindoo types, 
or as having been discovered in provinces of India lying 
beyond the sphere of the influence of the Greco-Bactriac 

Wilson figures in his * Antiquities of Afghanistan' a small 
number of intagli found in the deposits already mentioned. 
Of these, one is evidently a portrait belonging to the Greek 
period, two are common Boman gems, as was to be expected 
in sites where so many aurei of the Lower Empire are 
constantly discovered, whilst the rest are certainly works of 
the natives of the country where they were brought to light. 
The most interesting of these is a Sard engraved with tlie 
bust of a female, holding a flower, prettily executed, with a 
legend underneath in Sanscrit letters of the 7th century, 
giving the ownc^r's name, " Kusuma Dasasya," " The Slave 
of the Flow(r." Another is the portrait of a prince with a 
pendant of four large pearls in his ear, and wearing a neck- 

152 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

lace, inscribed " Ajita Varmma," " Varma the Victorious," in 
Sanscrit letters of the 9th century. This was the name of 
a king of Cashmere of that period. Another Sard found at 
Hidda bears a regal head in the same style, but without a 
legend. The same tope also furnished two gold rings set 
with Carnelians, one a head in relief, apparently that of 
Buddha, the other an intaglio bust. A large Carnelian 
intaglio gives two seated figures in Hindoo dresses playing 
musical instruments, supposed by Wilson to be intended for 
Krishna and Eadama.'' As far as a judgment can be formed 
from the plate, the execution of this group is extremely neat 
and careful, although rather stiff. Under the head of 
" Barbarian Camei " a notice will be found of some Indian 
works of the kind that have been brought under my own 
examination. Although the Greek colonists of Bactria 
formed a powerful and extensive state that flourished for 
more than three centuries, and which also possessed great 
wealth, as may be inferred from the large quantities of the 
currency of their princes still in existence, it is very singular 
that they should have left behind them so few engraved 
gems, considering the universal use of them in their parent 
country during the same space of time. We should have 
expected to meet with here a numerous class of gems 
engraved with figures of Indian deities, but assimilated to 
the Greek treatment of such subjects, exactly after the 
manner of the same figures upon the reverses of their coins. 
That the artistic skill to produce gems worthy of their 
mother-country was not wanting, amongst the Indo-Macedo- 
nians of at least the first century of the kingdom, plainly 
appears from the excellence of the execution of the portraits 

^ More pvobabh' the Sign Gemini, so represented by the Hindoo 

Sect, II. 



on the coins issued during that period by the monarchs 
bearing purely Greek names. 

Persian. Serpen tme. 


Before we quit the subject of Oriental intagli, the Maho- 
metan, or ]Media3val and Modem, deserve a slight notice, for 
two reasons : as being the immediate successors of the class 
just described, and as articles the use of which kept alive 
the processes of the art of gem-engraving in the East during 
those centuries in which it had been entirely forgotten in 

Tlic earliest Cuphic stones are an extremely interesting 
class. The gems themselves are still of the ancient shape, 
being, no doubt, importations from India ready prepared for 
engraving as in Eoman times. The legends upon them, in 
the elegant vertical Cuphic letter, are so arranged as to form 
certain figures, as a cross or a T- The letters are very fine, 
often apparently executed with tlic diamond-point, such is 
their precision and accuracy, and entirely dissimilar to the 
rude wheel-cut legends of the Sassanians. They consist of 
long legends in the Cuphic, or square Arabic character, in 
the earliest class, and in the flowing and elegant Persian 
on those of more recent execution. The Cupliic went out of 

154 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

fashion in the 13th century, and thus the form of the letters 
gives us a clue to the age of the signets themselves. The 
mechanical execution of most of these legends is of the most 
perfect description; nothing can exceed the freedom and 
elegance of the curves and the depth and boldness of the 
engraving, frequently also occurring on the hardest gems, 
for I have seen admirable instances upon the Euby and the 

Pliny remarks, " Non signat adhuc Oriens, literis contenta 
solis ;" " Eastern nations make no use of seals, being satisfied 
with the mere subscription of the name." This fact struck 
him with peculiar force, seeing the universal use of seals in 
his time throughout the whole civilized world as the sole 
mode of authenticating a document. But the Oriental prac- 
tice still continues unchanged, for the stone or metal signet 
inscribed with the owner's name and titles, is not impressed 
upon wax, but inked over, and thus applied to the paper 
after the manner of a copper-plate. By the term " Oriens " 
in this passage India alone is signified, for the use of seals 
intended to leave their prints on a soft substance, clay or 
wax, originated with the early civilization of the Assyrian 

^ These legends, beautiful as they are to the eye of the 
unlearned, are the very plague of all Oriental scholars, who 
are often pestered by their acquaintances to decipher for 
them some " engraving of a signet " which, when the words 
are extricated from the calligi'aphic flourishes in wliich they 
are entwined, contain some such profound idea as this: 
" What is destined will surely come to pass ;" or a religious 
axiom, as, " Ali is the purest of Men ;" or perhaps the name 
and titles of some Captain Smith, a revenue-collector in some 
Indian province. Gems also are to be seen with legends 
in the Ilabbinical Hebrew character, some of considerable 


antiquity ; they usually contain nothing but the name and 
father's name of the owner. 

A most curious if not unique example of this very rare 
class is a Jacinth, en cabochon, now in the hands of Mr. East- 
wood, the device on which appears intended for a vine-leaf, 
and a modius with three wheat-ears, surrounded by the 
legend in distinct Hebrew letters, "Helulu Bar Coasah," 
" Helel, son of Coasah." This stone was found deposited with 
other engraved gems of Sassanian date, and the style of the 
work upon it is certainly of that period the 5th or 6th 
century and therefore furnishes one of the very earliest 
instances known of the use of the modem Hebrew character. 
Another, but much more recent stone, an octagonal Car- 
nelian, set in a very singularly-formed Oriental silver ring, 

Hebrew Jacinth of the Sassanian period. 

bore in Rabbinical characters the legend "Issachar Ha 
Cohen," "Issachar the Priest." Huge gold rings, adorned 
with filigTee work and surmounted by a small temple, with 
Hebrew inscriptions on the interior of the shank, sometimes 
are seen in collections, and puzzle the beholders as to their 
use, being much too large for the finger. They were made 
for the use of the Synagogue, where they serve in the cele- 
bration of the marriage ceremony, being placed on the finger 
of the couple at a certain portion of tlie rites. As may be 
supposed, they are often most exquisite specimens of the 
skill of the jeweller. 

156 AKT, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Proteiis ; Etruscan. Sard Archaic Greek. Calcedony 


Although it is impossible to lay down any exact rules for 
distinguishing the works of the Grreek and Roman period 
from each other without any exception, yet there are certain 
general principles which will be found to obtain universally, 
and which, with a little practical experience, will enable us 
to separate the productions of either school. 

By the term Greek intagli we mean those engraved before 
the time of the Eoman Empire, even though the best of 
those of a later date were the work of Greek artists, as we 
still see by their names added to the finest existing engrav- 
ings ; yet the imperial epoch has a peculiar style of its 
own, tlie nature of which we shall hereafter endeavour to 

The earliest Greek intagli are undoubtedly those of very 
low relief but of the most minute finish, and principally 
executed with the diamond-point, whilst the design is usually 
enclosed within the so-called Etruscan border. On account 
of this border, these intagli were formerly all assigned to the 
Etruscan school, an opinion at present quite abandoned. 
The subjects which they present are single figures of deities 
or heroes, animals (which are of very frequent occurrence), 
and groups illustrative of events taken from Homer and the 
Tragedians, amongst which, for some unknown reason, the 


story of I'hiloctetes seems to have been a very favourite one 
with the artists of the period.^ One Sard, of the Herz 
Collection, of the most exquisite finish, represents the hero 
in the act of removing the bow and arrows of Hercules from 
beneath the altar where they had been concealed ; whilst a 
huge serpent twining round it, is about to sting him in the 
foot. Another, of still finer work, represents him reposing 
under a rock, and with a wing driving away the flies from 
his mortifying foot ; Ulysses is stealing up in the background 
to purloin the bow and quiver suspended over his head. 
Both these designs are enclosed within very elaborate en- 
grailed borders. Of Homeric subjects the best I have met 
with is one representing Priam offering to Achilles the ran- 
som for Hector's corpse, also from the same collection. This 
design is executed in delicate lines upon the surface of the 
gem, scarcely any portion of it being composed of sunken 
surfaces ; in fact, the figures may be said rather to be etched 
upon than engraved in the Sard. Yet they have a degree 
offeree and expression, although of minute size, hardly to 
be equalled by any work of this description. This style of 
intaglio is extremely rare : I only remember one otlier 
instance of it, a laureated bust, probably of a poet, in the 
Florentine Cabinet. Another excellent gem that has come 
in my way with a Homeric subject is a group of the four 
liorses of Achilles lamenting over the corpse of Patroclus 
stretclicd out naked upon a bier in the foreground. This 
group also is in extremely flat relief. One of the hindmost 
horses is expressed by the most delicate shadowing, so as to 
b(^ hardly visible at the first glance ; but the whole com- 

If a conjecture may l)o allowed, pent when taking; up the Ixiw and 

this story may have been selected quiver of Ilorculcs from their hidinji- 

as illustrative of the divine vcn- ]ilace, which he had sworn to his 

iicauce on a violated promise : for dyin;:; lord never to reveal to tlie 

Piiiloctetes was stuns; hv the ser- Greeks. 

158 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

position is full of life and vigour, and the drawing and 
outlines of all the figures are perfection itself. In the 
Pulsky Collection is a Neptune throwing his trident, exactly- 
like the type of the broad didrachm of Metapontum, engraved 
on a large and brilliant Sard: this intaglio also is marked 
by the same flatness of relief,^ while the extremities of the 
hands and feet are indicated by drill-holes, their rudeness 
forming a curious contrast with the careful finish of the body 
and limbs. Though all intagli of this early class much 
resemble the best Etruscan, yet, if we take the most perfect 
of the latter, whose origin is authenticated by the inscrip- 
tions in the Etruscan character, usually occurring upon 
them to express the name of the personage represented, we 
shall find that these are always more stiff and exaggerated 
in their action than the early Greek designs. The Etruscan 
gradually merge into the Eoman, many of the latter re- 
taining traces of the frequent employment of the drill for 
the execution of all the sunken parts and of the extremities : 
they also retain the engrailed border down to a late period 
of the Republic. It will be observed that many of these 
Archaic Greek intagli are cut upon Sards of a bright pale- 
yellow colour, very like the European Topaz, wliile the 
Etruscans and early Italians employed the common Car- 
nelian of their own river-beds. The Etruscan intagli will 
also be found either cut on the base of scarabs, or else on 
stones bearing traces of having been sawn off them at a 
later period for the purpose of being converted into ring- 
stones. The Greeks seem never to have used the form of 
the scarabeus, and all their intagli were from the -first 
intended to be set as signet-stones in finger-rings. Some 

5 This lowness of relief and care- Greek intagli and those executed 
ful finisli of all parts is in truth the by their successors of the Eoman 
grand distinction between the true period. 


soarabei, indeed, are said to have been found in Corfu ; but 
if so, were probably importations of Etruscan traders or 
pirates whose ships once scoured the Mediterranean. 

AVhen we arrive at the most flourishing period of the 
glyptic art under the successors of Alexander, we have no 
longer any difficulty in recognising the works of the most 
perfect natural taste, arrived by this time at its full ma- 
turity. In the Archaic period no portraits occur; here, on 
the contrary, we meet with many heads of deities and 
princes full of life and character, as well as whole-length 
figures, universally nude, the symbolic expression of the 
divinity of the personage in the perfected Grecian art. 
These intagli are still in flat relief, compared with those of 
the Eoman school, but yet they are sunk deeper into the 
stone than the class lately considered. There is a vigour and 
a life in the expression of these works which stamps their 
origin at once, and a softness in the treatment of the flesh 
never to be found in works of a later period. The finest 
of this class that have come under my own observation 
are the Ariadne (a Sicilian gem), and the Demetrius 
Poliorcetes of the Pulsky Cabinet, and recently a youthful 
portrait of Demetrius II. Soter, once the property of Horace 

Youthful Hercules: Greek Sard. 

The sole technical peculiarity that has struck me in the 
\vurk of thes(^ gems is the treatment of the liair. It is 

160 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

represented by a vast number of fine lines, all distinct from 
each other and never crossing, but every one perfectly well 
defined. Any ornaments that may be introduced, such as the 
wreaths on the heads of the deities, the diadems of the 
princes, the ear-rings, necklaces, hair-cauls, or fillets, of the 
female busts, are always rendered with the most scrupulous 
fidelity. In fact, the artist appears to have been in love 
with his work, and to have, as it were, kept it in hand as 
long as possible, nor to have relinquished it before every 
portion of the accessories had received the last degree of 
finish. These intagli will also be found to be generally 
engraved upon the fine yellow kind of Sard ; yet I have in 
my own collection an exquisite head of Proserpine upon one 
of a ruby-colour ; and a magnificent head of a Syrian king, 
on Amethyst, is one of the glories of the Pulsky Cabinet. 
Of this period also we find excellent works on Jacinth, a 
stone recommended to the Greek engraver, in spite of the 
extreme difficulty of working it, by its extraordinary lustre 
when worn on the finger. 

Much of the Greek style survives in the intagli of the 
time of Augustus, some of whose portraits are executed 
altogether in that manner, as is especially observable in the 
treatment of the hair. This peculiarity also shows itself in 
his coinage, in which the greatest diversity exists, some 
being as rude as the old consular pieces, others, on the 
contrary, quite of the Grecian type. However, the Roman 
manner soon became fixed, and exhibits the following cha- 
racteristics. There is a great aiming at effect and a neglect 
of details ; the intaglio is sunk as deep as possible, and relief 
of colour is sought for by cutting through the various layers 
of the Sardonyx and the Nicolo ; the hair is expressed by 
broad strokes, in masses, and undefined as in painting; 
everything, in short, is sacrificed to the face, which, though 

Skct. II. greek and ROMAN GLYPTIC ART. 161 

usually effective, has a kind of stiffness of expression never 
to be observed in good Greek portraits. In the female 
heads, more care is bestowed upon the execution of the hair 
and its arrangement according to the distinctive fashion of 
the day ; but the work falls very far short of the careful 
finish of the same part of the design in the preceding period 
of art The portraits appear now as busts with a portion 
of drapery on the shoulders, while the Greek present nothing 
but the head and neck. The figures are more or less draped, 
while those of the emperors are represented in full armour. 
The compositions seldom exceed two figures; they usually 
represent some action of ordinary life war, hunting, agri- 
culture, or some well-known event of mythology, or some 
religious ceremony. We no longer find designs taken from 
the Tragedians or Epic Poets, as in the earlier Greek gems ; 
and so invariable is tliis rule, that all historical or poetical 
events represented on Roman intagli afford in themselves 
grounds for ascribing the work to some artist of the Revival ; 
a judgment which will generally be verified and confirmed 
by a minute examination of the stone. The stone often has 
been hollowed out to a great depth by the drill ; and the 
necessary finish of detail, such as the features, the hair, and 
the drapery, put in afterwards with the diamond-point. 
IMuch of the latest work, however, appears to have been 
entirely executed by means of the wheel, an instrument 
which, as before observed, there is reason to believe came 
into use at Homo about the time of Domitian: certain it is, 
that the rude intagli of the Lower Empire show no traces 
of the other instruments which so strongly mark the flou- 
risliing epoch of the art. The better class of Roman intagli 
display an extreme degree of polish in the interior of the 
work, and we have already noticed the theory of the expe- 
rienced Tiippert, tliat the tool used by the ancients polished 


162 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

as well as cut the intaglio by one and the same operation, 
thus accounting for the perfect internal lustre of many gems 
of rude unfinished work. In modern times this polish is 
the effect of a tedious operation, by rubbing diamond-powder 
with a lead point into the interior of the engraving, and 
therefore is only to be seen in works of the best artists, 
executed in imitation of the antique. For this very reason, 
the constant appearance of this high polish on every variety 
of Roman work, up to a certain period, is a most singular 
fact, and must have been in some manner the result of the 
peculiar tool employed in cutting the intaglio, for it entirely 
vanishes in the rude talismanic engravings of the Lower 
Empire, which are evidently wheel-cut, as well as in the 
Sassanian gems engraved by the same means. In many 
heads, again, the hair, when intended to be represented as 
short and curly, is rendered by holes drilled close together, 
a mode of treatment common enough in Eoman heads of 
Hercules. In Greek gems, on the contrary, every separate 
curl would have been minutely finished, and the hair com- 
posing each faithfully rendered by lines cut with the diamond- 
point. The same peculiarity is to be observed in busts in 
marble of the Roman school, in which, towards the end of 
the 2nd century, the hair and beard are simply represented 
in the same manner by holes drilled into the stone. This 
method of representing the hair is often found ujDon the 
later camei. Another great distinction between the Etruscan 
intagli and those of Archaic Greek work is the circumstance 
that the former represent most of the deities as winged, a 
manner borrowed from the Egyptians, but never found in the 
works of Grecian artists. 

Certain portraits of Roman times occur very abundantly 
on gems of Augustus and of Nero more especially ; heads 
of the Flavian family are also frequent, as well as of M. Aure- 


lius and L. Verus, altliougli the modern copies of the two last 
are still more plentiful. Of a later date they are very rare, 
with the exception of Caracalla, of whom I have seen many 
rude portraits, probably worn by the military, whose favour 
he courted by all possible means, in pursuance of the last 
injunctions of his father. After this date they almost alto- 
gether disappear, their place being taken by gold coins of the 
reigning emperor, which it had become the fasliion to wear in 
rings. I have, however, met with a good though stiff portrait 
of Aurclian ; and some of Probus are mentioned as known. 
Strange to say, no more than one is described as now existing 
of Constantino, in spite of his long reign, and great popularity 
in the following centuries ; but Lippert mentions a well-exe- 
cuted one of his eldest son, of the same name. In Stosch's 
Catalogue appears tliis diademed head of Constantino, upon 
Amethyst the sole Roman figured on a gem with such 
an ornament. The ]\[ertens-Schaafliausen Collection pos- 
sesses a supposed bust of Julian on Carnelian,'" and a most 
interesting one (if genuine) of Mauricius, front-faced, and 
crowned, holding the orb, and inscribed dnmavritivs.p.p.a. 
It is a large Calccdony, 2x1;^ inches in size, and said to 
I lave been dug up at Grafin, but the form of the letters in 
the legend make me suspect it to be a work of the IGtli cen- 
tury. Under the head " Cross of Lotharius " will be found a 
detailed account of the signet of that Carlovingian emperor, 
the latest engraving on a gem of which I have been able to 

'" Tliis portrait is very uncertain ; lioads of Gallicnus and Salonina, 

it (.loos not wear the diadem, tlie facing each other, and with three 

invariable decoration of the iniiK-rial wlieat-ears over each. IVtween tlie 

hnsts of that date. ]5nt among tlie busts is an altar su])|)orting an 

portraits called "mdcnown," in the eagle with spread wings, holding a 

catalogue of the same collection, is wreath in his lx\ak. 

most interesting intaglio : the 

M 2 



Sect. II. 

meet with any trace, and, indeed, one executed long after 
the date usually assigned for the utter extinction of the art in 
Europe. But still, as before remarked, portraits of even the 
3rd century are of extreme rarity : the heterogeneous Herz 
Collection, the sole design of which was to get together the 
greatest possible variety of subjects, contained no portraits 
posterior to the times of Severus. 

Calitliula and his Sisters. Sard. 

Cameo. Emerald. 

After the revival of the art in Italy the works of the 
Cinque-Cento engravers are, as might be expected, close copies 
of tlie Roman style, but they are marked by a curious exag- 
geration, to be observed in all the productions of that age, as 
their bronzes, carvings, and majolica-painting. The intagli 
of the very earliest artists of this date (those who first appear 
as flourishing under the patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici) 
are easy to be recognised by their extreme stiffness and 
thoroughly mediaeval character, exactly agreeing in their 
treatment Avith the contemporary portraits of tlie persons 
they represent. All that I have seen are, in fact, portraits 
worked out in very flat relief, and apparently with the dia- 
mond-point, in the antique manner, and on stones of consi- 
derable size. The head-dress and costume of the period is 
most scrujHilously rendered, just as in a miniature by a 
painter of the Quattro-Cento. In sliort, nothing can be more 


dissimilar to the flowing, exaggerated, and forcible style cha- 
racterising the intagli of fifty years later, when endless prac- 
tice and the study of the antique had freed the engraver's 
eye and hand from the trammels of Gothic conventionalism. 
These works of the second dawn of the art are excessively 
rare. Subjects from Koman history and from Ovid are very 
great favourites with this succeeding school : few intagli were 
however produced by them, compared with the abundance of 
camei, M'hich, issuing from their ateliers, have flooded the 
cabinets of the world of amateurs. In the last century the 
taste for intagli revived, and many were executed equal to 
the best productions of ancient art ; however, there is usually 
an undefinable expression of the period about them (in the 
treatment of the tlrapery more especially) which guides the 
experienced eye in distinguishing them from the antique. 
Besides this, such great artists as Natter and Pikler did not 
profess to be mere copiers of antiquity : they always signed 
their own works after they had acquired celebrity, and the 
hitter had a peculiar style, differing widely from the antique, 
although of equal merit. Some, however, of the latest 
lloman engravers have taken the Greek school for their 
model ; and I have seen works by Cerbara for instance, a 
lion on Emerald in the Pulsky Cabinet ; a head of Proserpine 
and a Diomede with the Palladium, camei by Girometti ; 
surjiassing, to my taste, any production of the artists of anti- 
(piity in tliis department. 

Ihiiosoilier m.'iiitatiuj upon tlie Immortality S.vlor of Dh-M-s o|wi,in4 tJie Fa^ of Wiiidii: 

.>f t e t^oul : Grc-k Afa:- I-:i-i-caii. Sari 

166 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

I shall conclude with a few general observations upon the 
mechanical execution, the art, and the subjects, of the classes 
of gems treated of in the preceding chapter. A very marked 
distinction of Archaic Greek and Greco-Italian intaglio work 
is the constant use of the meplat, to use the French technical 
term, only to be expressed in English by a long periphrasis. 
It may be described as the sinking of the whole design into 
the gem, with all its various portions, in flat planes, diifering 
but slightly in depth from each other, upon which the muscles 
of the body, the folds of the drapery, and the other accessories, 
were afterwards traced by the diamond-point. The impres- 
sion from such an intaglio has its outline nearly as much ele- 
vated as its highest projections, yet without sacrificing any of 
its effectiveness ; a peculiarity observable also in the coinage 
of the same epoch and regions. This flatness of the internal 
surfaces within the intaglio itself may be held as the surest 
mark of its genuine antiquity, being the necessary result of 
the instrument employed by the ancient engraver, by which, 
acting as a scraper, he could produce a flat surface to the 
bottom of the cavity he was sinking in the gem with less 
difficulty than a curved one. In the modern process, on the 
contrary, where the wheel is the sole means used, this is 
almost impossible, and semi-cylindrical or grooved hollows 
mark all the productions of this tool, even in gems intended 
to pass for antiques of the earliest times. 

In these early gems it will be also observed that the design 
is invariably so arranged as to fill up the entire field of the 
surface, whether of the scarab or of the ring-stone. Hence 
the forced attitudes and violent exertions expressed by the 
figures of men or of beasts, which were purposely chosen by 
the artist in order to accommodate the flexure of the bodies 
to the elliptical form of the surface upon which he was en- 
gaged. But, in fact, in all antique works, one point, carefully 


kept in view, was to leave unemployed as little as possible 
of the surface exhibiting the design of the artist. It may 
be laid down as a rule that, in all intagli of good times, 
and more especially in camei, the subject, be it a head, a 
single figure, or a gi'oup, is always so carried out as to en- 
gross, as nearly as possible, the whole surface of the stone, 
leaving but a narrow field or background, often little more 
than what was absolutely required for the hold of its metal 
setting. On the contrary, modern camei, the works of artists 
accustomed to admire and copy prints on paper, where a 
large field and background form an important portion of 
the whole, usually show a considerable space suiTounding the 
design, the dimensions of which are, as it were, gathered up, 
and not extended and flattened out, as in the true antique. 
The same rule holds good likewise for their intagli. But 
whenever the ancient gem-engraver wished to display the 
full beauty of the material, as in the case of the Oriental 
Onyx or the Nicolo, he bevelled off the surface, so as to ex- 
hibit the brilliant contrast of the concentric layers, and thus 
contracted the field to the smallest limits capable of enclosing 
his intended composition. This is the reason why imperial 
portrait camei, especially when of large dimensions, are so 
generally surrounded by a wreath of oak or laurel boughs, 
between which and the head a very contracted field is left ; 
the object evidently being to bring into play the various 
colours of the stone on as many points as possible. To the 
same purpose serves the line left to surround the design in 
the smaller camei. But to return to the works of the archaic 
school. Those intagli for camei they never attempted or 
at least the greater part of them, whether cut upon scarabs 
or on ring-stones, are inclosed within the border already 
noticed under "Etruscan Searabei." These borders are 
milled, or formed of small strokes set close together; or 

1G8 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. U. 

granulated, i. e. resembling a string of beads, whence the idea 
was taken ; or the guilloehe ; the last only occurring upon the 
most highly-finished works on account of the extreme diffi- 
culty of its execution. The milled border, however, occa- 
sionally re-appears on Eoman intagli of very late times, where 
it may readily be distinguished by its carelessness and irregu- 
larity, having been introduced as a mere unmeaning finish, 
whereas we can clearly perceive, from its mathematical accu- 
racy in good Etruscan gems, that it was then regarded by 
the artist as an essential portion of his work. The most im- 
portant of the Greco-Italian works will be found to occur 
upon a tricoloured Agate, i. e., a stone having a white and 
transparent between two dark and opaque stripes crossing its 
surface ; or the converse. The regularity and evenness of 
these bands constituted the value of the stone in the eyes of 
the ancient lapidary. From its various shades it does not 
display the work upon it so effectively as either a perfectly 
transparent or perfectly opaque stone ; yet the fact is indis- 
putable that it was at that time accounted the gem par emi- 
nence for signets of tlie highest merit ; an employment con- 
firmatory of the remark of Theophrastus already quoted as to 
tlie beauty and value of the Agate in his days. 

The legends seen upon these archaic intagli, even when 
the characters are purely Greek, always give the names of 
the heroes they represent in a most barbarous and contracted 
form, as TVTE for Tydeus, AXVE for Achilles, &c. It may 
be confidently affirmed that no intaglio appears with a pure 
Greek inscription upon it until after the age of Alexander, 
when the first few letters of the owner's name are introduced, 
the earliest instance of which, to my knowledge, is an exqui- 
sitely finished and minute lion's head, on Sard, with E 
below, the signet of some Theodorus. 

The Etruscans and the contemporary Greco-Italians appear 


never to have attempted heads, even of divmities, much less 
portraits of individuals, upon their signets. Such, indeed, 
are not met with upon gems before the ages when Greek art 
had attained to its full maturity. The most ancient intaglio 
head that has come under my notice is one of a nymph 
crowned with myrtle on a Jacinth, among the Mertens-Schaaf- 
hausen gems, and there styled a Sappho ; a work much in the 
Egyptian manner, and resembling the types of the earher coins 
of the Egean islands. And there is nothing surprising in this, 
for, agreeably to the analogy of all other branches of pictorial 
art, the earliest gem-engravers, Greek or Greco-Italian, 
begmi with representations of the various beasts to which, 
in those times of primitive nature, their thoughts were con- 
stantly directed, either as objects of utility, of amusement, or 
of terror. Thus, the ox, the stag, and the lion so abundant 
ujjon these gems may be safely accounted among the first 
productions of the newly-discovered art ; a conclusion also to 
bo deduced from their extreme stiffness, yet careful finish. 
For rudeness and slovenliness of execution, except where 
owing to imperfect instnunents as in the purely Etruscan 
scarabs marks the decline of a long practised art, where 
great demand has occasioned cheap and hurried production, 
not the cautious and laboured efforts of the first inventors of 
tlic j)rocess. This observation equally applies to the cognate 
art of coining ; the types of the earliest currency being inva- 
riably animals. It needs only to mention the tortoise of the 
drachms of Phidon and the lion and bull opposed of the staters 
of Crrosus. 

The next stop was the human figure at full length, repre- 
senting mortals employed in the pursuits most immediately 
intorosting the owner of the goni agi'iculture, war, the chase. 
In the next stage came the heroes of former ages, but all de- 
picted with the literal accuracy of daily life ; and, lastly, the 

170 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

gods themselves, now represented and worshipped in the 
human form ; for the most ancient Hellenic, or rather Pe- 
lasgic, deities were but symbols rivers, trees, or stones. 
Such continued for centuries the rule for the productions of 
the glyptic art, long after it had reached a point of mecha- 
nical perfection never subsequently surpassed ; for what later 
works, either in gems or medals, come up, in precision and 
delicacy of finish, to the better sort of Greco-Italian scarabs, 
or to the thin incuse didrachms of the same style and times ? 
During this long period, and amongst the innumerable intagli 
it has bequeathed us, we never find an attempt made to 
engrave on a stone a bust or head, even of a deity, though 
statues had then become universal,' much less any portraits 
of individuals. It is only when all traces of the archaic 
manner have disappeared that the gems give us, first heads 
in profile of heroes, nymphs, and gods, and the art having 
now attained to full perfection regal portraits ; the latter 
certainly not before the age of Alexander. Engraving such 
portraits upon gems, it may be confidently afiirmed, was 
never thought of before the Macedonian princes set the ex- 
ample of putting their own heads upon their coinage instead 
of that of the tutelary god, the former universal rule. Even 
at this stage of the art portraits of private persons are utterly 
unknown. In fact, they do not appear, as far as my expe- 
rience extends, before the later days of the Roman Republic. 
Heads given in full face begin with the latest Greek period, 
are by no means rare of Roman date, and gradually be- 
come the favourite style for what were intended as the most 
elaborate works of the Dechne. 

In their treatment of imperial portraits the Roman en- 

* Two thousand bronze stahies, sinii, towards the close of the Etnis- 
or rather statuettes, are recorded as can power, 
forming part of the phmder of "Vol- 


gravers displayed every variety of style, and evidently taxed 
their invention for novel modes of reproducing subjects which 
they were called upon to repeat so frequently for their pa- 
trons among the courtiers.^ Hence we have such portraits 
sometimes in low relief after the best Greek style, and often 
upon gems of great volume like the Julia of Evodus, on an 
immense Beryl ; an Augustus with the star, on an extraordi- 
nary Nicolo (Fould) ; and other well-known ornaments of 
the gem-cabinets of Europe. Or, again, they resorted, for 
the sake of exhibiting their marvellous skill, to the opposite 
extreme, engraving portraits of perfect accuracy and the 
highest finish on gems of almost microscopic size, such as 
a bust of Titus on a Prase ^ inch high by ^^ wide ; and 
another on red Jasper but slightly larger ; both among the 
Mertens-Schaafliausen gems. Of these, the former is probably 
without an equal for spirit, fidelity, and minuteness. Again, 
we find intaglio heads of extreme depth of cutting given in 
full face, a style adopted by the artists in many of their most 
famous works, of which the lo, the Muse, and the Julius Caesar, 
of Dioscorides may be quoted as unparalleled examples. From 
the extreme care bestowed upon the execution of these por- 
traits in front face, and the larger dimensions of the gems 
besides their choicer quality on which they are engraved, a 
proof of their superior importance, it may be conjectured 

2 A favourite mode of representing of his ix)pularity, the three first years 

tlic bust of the youtliful C;esai', or of his reign, when a new goklcn age 

heir-apparent, was in the character was confidently expected from the 

of Mercury, witli wings on the head, sway of tlie ]nipil of Seneca. They 

and tlie caduceus on the shouhk-r. nuist all have been engraved before 

Thus appear frequently Caligula, his 20th year, when, on the occasion 

Nero, M. Aurelius, and Caracidla. of his first cutting off his beard, he 

The numerous portraits of Nero establislied the festival Juvenalia. 

show, by the nascent beard apiwar- Of his jwrtraits in more advanced 

ing on almost all of them, that they life, but one (with the nulia ted crown) 

were executed during the first bloom has ever come in my way. 

172 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

that such was generally the form adopted for the heads on 
official signets ; a theory supported by the almost exclusive 
employment of this style in the portraits cut on the precious 
stones of the Lower Empire. The large front -faced busts of 
the Provinces in extremely bold, though radish, Eoman work ^ 
of the later period, were also designed for official signets, 
probably for the use of the Proconsul of the province,* since 
it is difficult to imagine that any private person should have 
arrogated to himself so important a device for his private seal 
without risking ruin from the suspicious jealousy of the em- 
peror. Can it be that these heads, whether of Emperors or 
of Provinces, when given in front face, have been all official 
signets, but those in profile worn by their subjects through 
friendship or adulation ? The words of Pliny, assigning the 
entree at the court of Claudius exclusively to persons privi- 
leged by the gift of a gold ring engraved with the emperor's 
portrait, go to establish the official use of such ornaments 
under the empire, jjrems engraved with the features of an 
unpopular prince or favourite were doubtless broken to pieces 
upon his death or downfall ; the gem-portraits sharing the 
fate of their colossal brethren in bronze and marble, " descen- 
dunt statuse restimque sequuntur." I have met with numer- 
ous instances of this "execution in effigy" done upon fine 
gems, as a Commodus an important intaglio in red Jasper 
surrounded by his titles, which has evidently been muti- 
lated purposely ; a Caligula, also with a legend ; and the 
Caracalla of the British Museum Collection. In conclusion, 
to return to certain points slightly alluded to above, though 
of considerable importance in the distinguishing antique gems 
from modern imitations. Firstly, it is an invariable rule that 

^ Of Africa I have seen two ad- * When Clodius Macer revolted 
mil-able examples, and both appa- against Nero he struck denarii at 
rently from the same hand. Carthage with the head of Africa. 


all truly antique designs are marked by their extreme sim- 
plicity. Karely does the composition include more than two 
figures, or, if others are introduced, they are treated as mere 
accessories, and only indicated by an outline. To this branch 
of art Horace's maxim can be strictly applied with but slight 


" Nee quarta loqui persona laboret." 

Except in the archaic works of the Greeks and Greco- 
Italians, who, as we have seen, preferred the representations 
of violent action and muscular exertions, Repose is the cha- 
racteristic of the productions of matured Hellenic and Italiote 
taste. Hence the best works of the most illustrious gem- 
artists are invariably single figures or heads, as will appear 
on the examination of the list of artists' names and works 
still extant. As a necessary consequence of this restriction 
nothing of the nature of a picture with perspective, back- 
ground, and carefully-finished details of unimportant objects, 
is ever observed in truly antique gems, whether camei or in- 
tagli. Such a treatment of ^he design stamps the work at 
once, however ancient its aspect, as a production at best of 
the Eenaissance, the artists of which had not emancipated 
themselves from the mediaeval rules of art where all objects 
in the picture are considered of the same importance and 
made equally prominent. 

Again, there is a marked soberness in the invention of the 
subjects themselves, or, rather, there is no invention at all in 
them. They are always literal transcripts of some event in 
mythology bearing a serious or mystical interpretation ; some 
fact of Heroic history, that is, the religious history of their 
ancestors ; or some business or diversion of everyday life. 
All these are rendered upon the stone according to certain 
strict and definite rules, and nothing fancifid is ever allowed 
to intrude. Tlio whole design is carried out with the rigid 

174 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

simplicity of the old tragedians, where one or two actors do 
and say everything for themselves. Such is the treatment of 
the events of the Epic Cycle, the favourite themes of the 
early Grecian and Italiote engravers : with the Koman 
period art, though in its fullest perfection, becomes altogether 
prosaic in the choice of its subjects. For gem-engraving, 
" Scalptura," being from the first ancillary to Sculpture, and 
ever taking its larger productions for its models the Etrus- 
can his terra-cotta gods and masks, the Greek liis bronze or 
marble statues the gem-artist never attempted anything in 
miniature the example of which had not previously been 
placed before his eyes on a larger scale. Another reason 
this for the simplicity of their compositions. Neither the 
one nor the other ever thought of representing events of 
contemporary or of actual history ; an observation which 
applies invariably to Greek, and, with the rarest exceptions, 
to Eoman works. Even in the latter the event was given in 
the most simple manner, as in Sylla's signet, " The Surrender 
of Jugurtha," and precisely as depicted on the reverses of 
the coinage of the times. Such scenes as the Battle of Issus, 
the Suicide of Lucretia, Scaevola before King Porsenna, the 
Death of Cajsar, &c,, compositions crowded with figures, 
grouped as in a modern painting, all in violent action, all 
which we so often see upon the large intagli and camei of the 
Cinque-Cento and later schools, nothing whatever of this 
nature is ever met with on a really antique gem. Neither 
do we find scenes from Virgil or the " Metamorphoses," the 
favourite subjects of Italian artists in every department since 
the revival of art. All truly antique themes are ideas- hal- 
lowed by long use and reverence, or, so to speak, the " scrip- 
tural subjects " of the age that embodied them upon the gem. 
No antique gems ever represent licentious scenes or attitudes. 
Even in the undraped figures the sex is slightly indicated 


and nothing more. Such designs, on the contrary, are suffi- 
ciently plentiful on modern gems, and the great skill and 
labour which have been lavished by the best hands of the 
time upon such unworthy subjects prove the favour with 
which they were received. The number of antique intagli 
still preserved the greater portion dating from the times of 
the Eoman Empire is perfectly incredible until a little 
reflection upon the causes of this abundance supplies a satis- 
factory explanation. For the space of three centuries they 
were being produced in countless thousands over the whole 
civilized world as articles, not merely of ornament, but sub- 
servient to the most important uses, authenticating all the 
transactions of commerce, and serving as a substitute for 
keys in daily life, when the locksmith's art was yet imper- 
fect. Their material, utterly indestructible, sets at defiance 
time and the action of the elements ; even fire can only dis- 
colour it. The stone whose beauty and art charmed the eye 
of Mithridates, of Caesar, or of Maecenas, preserves all its 
charms unimpaired for the gaze of the man of taste of this 
day. The barbarian or new convert who melted down the 
precious ring, bracelet, or vase, for the sake of its metal, cast 
away as worthless or as idolatrous the Sard or Onyx with 
wliicli it was inlaid ; the priceless work of art fell into the 
earth and securely slumbered within its protecting bosom 
until reviving civilization enabled the world again to appre- 
ciate its value. Amidst this profusion of ancient treasures 
the beginner must ever bear in mind one remark that in 
the antique world, as in all times, mediocrity was the rule, 
first class works the exception ; hence the vast majority of 
gems, wliether Greek or Roman, though of the greatest his- 
torical importance, fall very sliort of perfection as works of 
art. 1'hey Avere an article produced by a trade, and, in most 
cases, with as much rapidity as possible, and made to sell. 

176 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Still, even in these, one cannot but admire the effect pro- 
duced by a few bold and rapid touches of the master's hand. 
Hence a gem of very perfect work and good execution re- 
quires to be scrutinized with the utmost caution before its 
genuineness be pronounced indisputable, for the best en- 
gravers of the last three centuries naturally copied such 
antique models, and followed them with the utmost fidelity, 
that being the sole means by which they could obtain an 
adequate recompense for their labours from the high price 
commanded by the originals or the copies passing as such. 
Mediocre gems, being plentiful in the market and to be pro- 
cured for a trifle, were thus left beyond the danger of 

Caligula as Mercury. Sard. 


Rings cut out of the solid stone were in common use 
among the Romans of antiquity, just as Carnelian rings arc 
among their female descendants of the present day, who 
wear them now as a species of amulet to keep off sickness 
a notion derived from the mediaeval idea of the protective 
virtue of the Sard. These ancient rings were formed out 
of various substances, but most frequently of Calcedony, a 
tough and firm material. It is most probable that the first 
idea of these stone-rings was borrowed by the Romans from 

Sect. II. STONE-RINGS. 177 

tli6 Persian conical and hemispherical seals in the same 
material. Some of these latter have their sides flattened 
and ornamented with divers patterns, and thus assume the 
form of a signet-ring, with an enormously massy shank, and 
very small opening, sufficient, however, to admit the little 
finger. And this theory of their origin is corroborated by 
the circumstance that all these Eoman examples belong to 
the times of the Lower Empire, none being ever met with of 
an early date. Of these most collectors must have seen 
examples. Two very interesting ones, procured in France, 
came under my notice last summer (1858). Both were of 
precisely the same form, much resembling the Calcedony 
ring figured in Dr. Walsh's Gnostic gems, the shank being 
very stout and three-sided, and the head a long oval. One 
of them bore intaglio portraits of a man and woman facing 
each other, with letters and numerals ; the other a bust of 
the bearded Bacchus, of excellent Roman work ; and both 
intagli apparently from the same hand. An acquaintance of 
mine possessed another, found at Aries, made of Crystal, with 
a very tliick cable-formed shank, and a small opening, evi- 
dently only meant for suspension, like the Sassanian stamps. 
It was engraved with the favourite type of a youth drinking 
from a bowl after the exercises of the gymnasium. In the 
Horz Collection was a very massy one in Calcedony, covered 
on all sides with Gnostic legends. I have also seen lately 
another, still more bulky, of green Jasper, but A\ith a round 
shank, the head oval and engraved with a serpent twisted 
round a wand, sm-rounded by the usual K-gend. The head of 
a third, belonging to the same class, in mottled Jasper, once 
in my possession, represented Osiris in the sacred boat, above 
him the sun and moon, and the inscription iaw underneath. 
Under tlie liead of "Pastes" we have already noticed the 
numerous rings of coloured glass in imitation of Agate. But 


178 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. IT. 

the most curious thing of the kind that has ever come in my 
way was a ring of a material like red Amber, only elastic, so 
that when the sliank, which had been divided, was pulled 
open, it immediately resumed its shape. This elasticity was 
no doubt due to the mode in which the substance, whatever 
it was, had been prepared. The ring was said to have been 
brought from Egypt, and certainly was the same in form as 
some Carnelian rings found on the fingers of mummies. But, 
even allowing it to be a modern forgery, the elasticity of the 
Amber remains a most curious fact. A large Amber cup, 
holding half a pint, has lately been discovered, deposited in a 
tumulus in Ireland, and from its size could hardly have been 
cut out of a single block of that substance. It has been 
ascertained by experiment that bits of Amber boiled in tur- 
pentine can be reduced to a paste, united, and moulded into 
any form desired ; and this is supposed to have been the 
manner in which the vessel in question was manufactured. 
This fact may throw some light upon the strange story about 
malleable glass told by Petronius in his account of Trimal- 
chio's Feast, and thus alluded to by Pliny : " It is said that 
in the reign of Tiberius the art of tempering glass was disco- 
vered so as to malve it flexible, but that the entire establish- 
ment of the workmen was exterminated (abolitam), lest the 
value of bronze, silver, and gold, sliould suffer diminution in 
consequence." It must be remembered that Pliny was born 
in the reign of Tiberius, and would hardly have thought this 
story worth inserting in his ' Natural History ' had not its 
truth been very generally believed. 

Oriental rings, exactly like the ancient in shape, and 
made of Carnelian, Calcedony, and Agate, with legends in 
x\rabic upon the face, for the use of signets, are by no means 
uncommon in collections. They are of large size, being 
designed to be worn on the tliumb of the right liand, in 


order to be used in drawing the bowstring, which the 
Orientals pull with the bent thumb, catching it against the 
shank of the ring, and not with the two first fingers, as is the 
practice of English archers. I have seen finger-rings of 
ivory, even of the Egyptian period, their heads engraved 
with sphinxes, and figures of eyes, cut in low relief, as camei, 
and originally coloured. Of the Roman times they are quite 
common ; tlie Mertens-Schaafhausen Collection alone con- 
tains the following, the description of which I extract from 
the Catalogue, as illustrative of the style of work, and the 
devices, to be found in reliques of this class : 

A ring with an aged head in high relief. 
Do. with a Siren in high relief, with a human head covered 
with a helmet ; armed with a lance and a buckler oma- 
mented with a Medusa's head. (This is the Stympha- 
lian Bird, the device of the Valeria family). Foimd near 
Castell in 1854. 
A ring with CAi-:s in relief. 
Do. with AM in relief: found at Aries in 1853. 
Do. with two interlaced triangles. 
A laigO ring engraved with the monogram of Christ between 
A and ii, with the legend abpacaz, also found at Aries. 


J give Trimalcliio's account of tlie invention of Flexible 
Class at length; his apjn-eciation and knowledge of art so 
forcibly reminds one of many a rich collector of the present 
day : 

" While Agamemnon was attentively examining this dish 
of Corinthian broTize, Tramalchio says, 'I am the only person 
in the world who poss(!ss the real Corinthian.' I was ex- 
pecting that, with his usual absurdity, he wtis going to say, 
that lu' had his vessels importe<l direct fnmi Corinth; but he 

N 2 

180 AKT, STYLES OP. Sect. II. 

did still better. ' Perhaps you ask why I alone have Corin- 
thian bronzes ? Because the brazier's name of whom I buy 
them is Corinthus ; now, pray, what else is Corinthian, but 
what Corinthus keeps. But, that you may not take me for 
a know-nothing, I understand quite well how Corinthian 
bronzes first came about. At the sack of Troy, Hannibal, a 
cunning fellow and a great rogue, heaped up all the gold, 
silver, and bronze statues into one great pile, and set fire to 
it. The metals mixed, and all ran together. From this mass 
the workmen took and made pots, dishes, and statues. So 
arose the Corinthian metal one thing out of several, but 
neither this nor that. You will pardon what I am going to 
say. I prefer glass ; others do not. If glasses were not so 
brittle, I would rather them than gold ; as it is, they are 
of little value. Yet there was once an artist who made a 
glass bowl that would not break. He was admitted before 
the Emperor with his present : he then made Caesar give it 
him back, and dashed it down on the pavement. The Em- 
peror could not help being frightened almost out of his wits ; 
but my man picks up the bowl from the ground, and lo ! it 
was only bruised, just as a brass one would have been. He 
takes out a little hammer, and leisurely makes all right 
again. Having done this, he thought himself already in 
heaven, especially when the Emperor said to him, "Does 
any one else know of this mode of tempering glass ? " Now 
see as soon as he replied " No," the Emperor ordered him 
to be beheaded ; for if the invention had become public, we 
should look upon gold like so much clay. In plate I am 
quite a connoisseur : I have bowls that will hold some eiglit 
gallons, more or less. How Cassandra Ivills her cliildren, 
and the boys lie there dead, that you would think it real ! I 
have a flagon which Eomulus bequeathed my late patron, on 
which is Da)dalus shutting up Niobe inside the Trojan horse. 

Sect, II. 



I have, too, the battles of Hermeros and Petrax (Hector and 
Patroclus) on a tankard, all massy plate ; for I would take 
no money for my knowledge.' " 


The name Cameo has been derived by some from the 
Arabic Camaa, an amulet, for which purpose engraved gems 
were universally used in the jMidtUe Ages. Camillo Leonardo, 
writing in 1502, speaks of "gemma) chamainaB"* in the 
sense of camei, or gems engraved with figures in relief: this 
is the earliest instance of the use of the term that I have 
met with. He also mentions a stone called Kaman and 
Kakaman, a name which he derives from the Greek Kay/xa, 
" heat," as being found in hot and sulphureous places. It was 
wliito, striped with various colours, and often mixed with the 
Onyx, and derives all its virtue from the nature of the figures 
engraved upon it a description which seems to support the 

* Were not x"M"'' ^'^^^ Attic a 
word to have been Tisetl in the com- 
mon parlance of the times of the 
(ireek Exarclis, wlicn tlie s^wkcn 
I^atin became naturally much inter- 
mixed witli the lan<^na^e of their 
ollicials, one mii^lit Ix; tempted to 

Suess that chamaina meant nothing 
but a gem discovered in the ground 
of a garden, &c., by accident the 
only mode by which the jcwellera 
of that degenerate ci)Och could have 
Ix'cn supi)lied. 

182 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

derivation from the Arabic just mentioned. Among the 
numerous attempts to trace the etymology of this word, it is 
surprising that no one should have deduced it from Ohama, 
the shell sometimes used for this kmd of work ; a theory 
which would have been favoured by the origin of the term 
porcelain, which comes, by a similar process of transition, 
from the porcellana shell formerly used in the manufacture 
of the Italian Faenza ware. But if we consider the circum- 
stance that as early as the time of Cellini the rustics aromid 
Rome called the Onyx stones that they used to pick up in 
their gromids by the name of camei, and that this word 
appears only to denote a colour, at least in its primary sense, 
as, for mstance, paintings in cameo or camaieu grey figures 
upon a white ground we are probably justified in seeking 
an Italian origin for the term. The only light that I have 
been able to extract from Lessing's lengthy dissertation on 
the word, though he seems to consider it a corruption of 
" gemma onychina," is that " cameo " was considered by 
some writers to be the equivalent of the German " Speck- 
stein," or bacon-stone, which homely substance, to the vulgar 
eye, the red layers of the Sardonyx greatly resemble. Hence, 
after all, as no better etymology has been suggested, the 
Gothic word " ham," in its baconian sense, may have acquired 
this more euphonious form in the Italian mouth, a trans- 
formation not so strange as that of our " hopper " into 

The term applies only to minute bas-reliefs cut on a hard 

* After all, the Italian word may and grigio, &c. Bede, speaking of 

only be the rnstic pronunciation of Jet, describes it as nigro-gemmeiis ; 

gc7nmeus, for it is often fonnd in old and Valerian uses the term anniilus 

writers spelt (jamnhu. The modern bigemmeus : hence we may con- 

Eomans continually interchange the jecture that imago, gemmea would 

g and c : thus cancer becomes gran- in Low Latin gradually assume this 

cio ; cammarus, ganibro ; chryso- form, 
prasus, griso])raso; chryscus, griseo 


stone or gem, or on an imitation of the same ; for the largest 
bas-reliefs upon a slab of Sardonyx would stiU be named a 
cameo, while the smallest on marble or alabaster still remains 
a bas-relief. The small heads, and even busts, in full relief, 
made out of gems, are not, properly speaking, camei, though 
often so called, but are rather portions of statuettes, the 
rest of the figure having been intended to be completed in 
the precious metals. The earliest mention of a ring-stone in 
relief occm's in Seneca, who, in a curious anecdote which he 
tells {De Benefidis, ui. 26) concerning the informer Maro and 
a certain Paulus, speaks of the latter as having had on his 
finger on that occasion a portrait of Tiberius in relief upon a 
projecting gem, " Tiberii Caesaris imaginem ectypam atque 
emuionte gemma." This periphrasis would seem to prove 
that such a representation was not very common at the time, 
t)r else a technical term would have been used to express 
that particular kind of gem-engraving. Pliny also mentions 
a stone called Morio, probably from its mulberry colour, used 
for engravings in relief, " ad ectypas sculpturas faciendas ; " 
perhai)S the dark Jacinth or the Guarnaccino, in which so 
many camei still remain. From a careful mspection of the 
most famous cabinets of France and Italy I have come to 
the conclusion that truly antique camei were usually of 
larger dimensions than are suited for ring-stones, and were 
almost exclusively designed to ornament armour dresses or 
l)liite. For if we examme attentively those early collections 
which were formed before tlie art of cameo-cutting had 
revived (which was not mucli before the middle of the 16th 
century), such as that of Flor(>nce, which contams many 
camei obtamed by liorenzo dei Medici himself and marked 
with his nanu>, we sliall find tliem to bo all of large size and 
of a bold but rude style of work. The same remark also 
holds good for the oldest portion of the Paris Collection. 

184 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

This rude but bold style is also invariably foimd in the 
camei enchased in mediaeval jeweller}'^ and ecclesiastical 
plate, in which so many precious relics of this art have been 
preserved thanks to the imeducated piety of their Gothic 
makers such as that perfect mine of antique gems the 
silver-gilt shrine of the Three Kings of Cologne, which is 
known to be a work of the 11th century. The great rarity 
of small antique camei is also proved by the fact that they 
are seldom or never found, even those of the coarsest qua- 
lity, in the miscellaneous jumble of stones of all kinds col- 
lected by the Koman peasants in turning over their vineyards 
a remark to which there are fewer exceptions than even in 
the case of antique pastes already commented upon. Again, 
not even does the largest cabinet possess an antique ring set 
with ?ijme cameo, though, were they as abundant in ancient 
times as the present number of professed antiques would 
lead us to suppose, antique rings would present us with as 
many instances of set camei as they do of set intagli. But 
so far is this from being the case that the Florentine Cabinet, 
amongst its innmnerable gems of all ages, only possesses one 
antique gold ring set with a cameo of even fair execution, 
and that so singular in its nature as to merit a detailed 
description. It has been evidently the ornament of some 
Roman sporting gentleman, who, as the poet smgs, held his 
wife "a little higher than his horse," for it is set with a 
cameo head of a lady, of tolerable work, in Garnet ; and on 
the shoulders of the ring are intaglio busts of his two 
favourite steeds, also in Garnet, with their names cut in the 
gold on each side amor and ospis. On the outside of the 
shank is the legend pomphinica, " Success to thee, Pom- 
phius ! " very neatly engraved on the gold. In all my o\\ti 
experience I have met with only two camei in antique rings, 
and, singularly enougli, both represented birds one a parrot, 

Sect. II. 



very rudely cut upon an Onyx of many colours, the other a 
pigeon, tolerably executed, on the same kind of stone, per- 
haps of early Cliristian times : these were set in hollow gold 
rings, the genuine antiquity of which was beyond suspicion."' 

Greek Carneu, found in Cabul. Sardonyx. 

The rarity of camei of the size of ring-stones in ancient 
times will appear less extraordinary Avhen we reflect that 
tlie primary use of rings was for the purpose of signets, not 
of mere personal ornaments, and that very few even of the 
precious stones are left to us which have not had their value 
enhanced, to the eye of taste, by the engraving upon them. 
The artists of antiquity do not seem to have been able to 
execute small works of suflicicnt iuiish to have become 
favourite or fashionable decorations of the fingers. And this 
leads to the consideration of the mechanical means employed 

7 In the Mertcns-Schaafhauseii 
Collection is a Jacinth cameo, an 
i]nix3rial bust, which was in a silver 
settinj;, ai)parently a circular brooch, 
at the time of its discovery on 
the breast of a skeleton in a tomb 
at Marsl'ekl near Maycnce. The 
owner had imibably been a German 
chiel", for three large double-spiral 
ornaments of bronze wire covered 
his chest, having once been sewn 
on his tunic for ornament and 

defence at the same time ; and his 
arms were incased from wrist to 
elbow in spiral bracelets of the 
same material. It may here be 
noticed that the barbarian so often 
transfixed by the cmiK-ror, on the 
latest Koman coins, is usually re- 
presented with his arms covered by 
a series of parallel rings, probably 
this identical form of bracelet, which 
served the purpose of a gauntlet. 

186 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

by the ancient cameo-cutters in the execution of their works. 
On minutely examining a really antique cameo the design 
will appear to have been cut out of the coloured layer by 
the repeated strokes of a tool of the nature of a chisel, 
which left a series of uneven surfaces, to be polished down 
more or less by a subsequent operation. The outlme of the 
figure always fades away into the field of the stone, which 
often shows minute traces of the upper layer not comj^letely 
cleared away from it ; and the design is never midercut, as 
it often is in modern camei for the purpose of throwing it 
out more from the field. The ground itself is often left 
uneven and not completely cleared of the upper layer, having 
evidently been scraped down by means of a narrow cutting 
instrument, which could not be made to bear upon a large 
surface at one and the same operation. Hence these works, 
though extremely effective at a distance the purpose for 
which they were intended by the engraver apj)ear rough, 
and, as it were, lumpy, on too close an inspection. This im- 
evenness of the ground of the design has been pomted out by 
some writers as the unvarying test of antiquity in a cameo, but 
this is not exactly correct, as the same peculiarity is equally 
manifest in the works of the earliest artists of the Revival. 

It may be observed that many antique camei are per- 
forated through their diameter to admit a thread for the 
purpose of fastening them to the dress f and some arc en- 
closed in a massy iron setting, evidently intended as orna- 
ments for armour. This was the case with the finest cameo 
that ever came under my inspection, at Rome : a head of 
Jupiter Dodonaeus, about six inches in circumference.^ 

^ But in most cases this perfora- engraver to the form most suitable 

tion merely attests the Indian origin to bring out the layers of the stone 

of the Sardonyx stones (Pliny), im- required by his design, 
ported into Europe in the form of ^ The owner demanded 2000 scudi, 

large beads, and subsequently flat- about 400?., for this fine gem. 
toned by the Greek or Eoman gem- 


Another rule given for the distinguishing of antique camel, 
" that they were invariably worked out of the stone by means 
of the diamond point," is certainly true in itself; but yet all 
gems cut in this manner are not necessarily antique, as pre- 
cisely the same mode of operation was followed by the early 
artists of the Italian school. Witness the large portrait of 
Queen Elizabeth cut upon a green and white Onyx, and 
now in the Kensington Museum ; and a much earlier, and 
more admirable example, the oval cameo with the busts of 
Henry VIII. and his three children, now set in the Devon- 
shire parure, a work of microscopic perfection and delicacy 
of touch. These later stones have usually a rim of the 
coloured layer, out of which the design is cut, left all 
round the edge of the cameo as a kind of border to the 
composition : an ornament not to be found in true antique 
works, except in those of the period of the Roman empire. 
The later Cinque-Cento camei are easily recognised by their 
extremely high relief, which gives the figures a very bossy 
appearance ; they are also very much undercut, sometimes 
almost detached in portions from the field, which is now re- 
duced to an extremely neat and even surface, whilst a re- 
markable polish and rotundity is given to all the projecting 
parts of the figures ; so that they often look as if modelled 
out of wax, and then aflSxed to the surface of the stone. 
This glassy semi-transparent body of the raised parts is a 
sure test of the recent origin of tlie work on which it appears, 
for the same portions of the strata in an antique Onyx are 
usually converted into a dead and often chalky wliiteness, 
by the action of the earth and of time upon them, diu-ing the 
ages through which they have been subjected to these power- 
ful agents. Besides they never present that exact resem- 
blance to designs in thick and opaque coloured enamels, so 
striking a jjcculiarity ol' the best antique perfonnances. 

188 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

But the most reliable test of antiquity in this class of work, 
is the similarity of the execution of the design, of the por- 
traits for instance, with those on the coins of the same date ; 
as it is very likely that a good cameo portrait on a larger 
scale served as the model to the ancient die-sinker, who was 
also by profession an engraver on gems. 

Although the smooth and unworn surface of a cameo tells 
almost decidedly against its genuineness, as its exposed sur- 
face renders the work so much more liable to the injuries of 
wear and of time : yet one with a rough surface is by no 
means on that score alone to be pronounced unquestionably 
antique, on account of the common trick of dealers, before 
noticed, of cramming turkeys with newly-made gems, and 
thus in a few days anticipating the effect of centuries upon 
their polish. The style of work is by itself alone a very in- 
sufficient guide in determining the antiquity of a gem ; for 
although the quaint exaggerated drawing of the artists of the 
Revival '" is easy to be recognised after a little practice, yet 
later engravers, like Pistrucci and Girometti, from the con- 
stant study of antique models, have produced works which 
would do honour to the greatest names of antiquity ; and the 
head of Proserpine, by the latter, far surpassed any ancient 
work of the kind that I ever beheld whilst the Flora of the 
former passed unquestioned for years as the chief ornament 
of Payne Knight's Collection. In such cases, therefore, the 
sole guide is the appearance which the Onyx always assumes 
from age, and which can only be learnt from long obser- 

'" It is said that the antique Satyr's are represented Satyrs, or Fauns, or 
head was the type kept in view by Bacchanalia, may be on that account 
M. Angelo in all his works. This is alone shrewdly suspected of belong- 
certainly true of the cameo-cutters ing to this school, and require very 
of his age, for more than half their careful examination before their 
designs will be found to include or claims to an antique origin are 
consist entirely of this grotesque allowed, 
subject : hence all camel on which 


vation. Of this, the most obvious peculiarity is the opacity 
and extreme deadness acquired by the originally semitrans- 
parent strata of the stone. They actually are not to be dis- 
tinguished from layers of enamel fused upon the ground of 
the work, and this effect is heightened by the excessive soft- 
ness of manner and flat relief characterising many of the best 
antique camei ; qualities which, as we have seen, the earliest 
artists of the Revival succeeded to some degree in imitating. 
Indeed many of the smaller antique camei, from their wonder- 
ful smoothness, flatness of relief, and depth of colour, can 
only be compared to certain of the best Limoges enamels on 

Ever since the revival of the art, gem engravers especi- 
ally those of the first two centuries since that epoch (the 
fifteenth towards its close) have executed infinitely more 
camei than intagli, for the work of the former is easier 
by far than that of sinking the intaglio into the stone, as 
well as much more rapid, now that the operation is entirely 
effected by the wheel ; so that no very great skill or practice 
is required to enable the engraver to produce a creditable 
performance ; ^ and the ornamental appearance of such works 
caused them to be much sought after in those ages of show 
and external magnificence. The fashion, too, was very 
general of wearing camei set as pendants to chains ; and in 
the liats, in place of the gold or metal medallions of the 
preceding century : and hence we have such a number 
of tlie portrait camei of the Cinque-Cento still preserved 
to us in tlie elegant enamelled settings of the time, the 
ibrins of which still shew the purpose they were designed to 

' I was informed by a ^vorhing executed for them the very neatly 

canioo-cutter at Home that the finished cameo portraits on Onyx of 

dealers in articles of virtii in that poets and philosophers, so exten- 

city only paid six pauls, or thixHJ sively purchased by dilettanti to l)e 

sliiHin;4S, apiece to the artists who set in studs, rings, &c. 

190 AKT, STYLES OF. Sect. H. 

serve.^ From the infinite abundance of such works produced by 
artists of every degree of merit, during a space of nearly three 
centuries, it will easily be discerned how small is the chance 
of meeting with a really antique cameo among the numbers 
in existence. And this opinion is verified by experience, for 
in the numerous collections sold in London during the last 
ten years, and which I have examined, scarcely one stone in 
twenty presents all the required proofs of indubitable an- 
tiquity ; however much collectors, and still more dealers, may 
be disposed to dispute the truth of this most uncomfortable 
doctrine. Many antique camei are cut on Sardonyx slabs 
of extraordinary dimensions, instances of which are exhibited 
in all celebrated collections ; amongst these the pre-eminence 
in point of magnitude must be given to the famous Onyx of 
the Sainte-Chapelle, brought by King Baldwin from Con- 
stantinople, when that city belonged to the Franks in the 
13th century. Some also exhibit an extraordinary variety 
of coloured strata ; for instance, a large cameo representing 
a quadriga in the Paris Cabinet, where each of the four 
horses is cut out in a layer of the Onyx of a different 
colour ; and portraits are often to be seen in which the hair, 
the flesh, and the laurel-wreath around the head are all 
represented in distinct shades. The works of the artists of 
the Eenaissance are usually cut upon an inferior sort of 
stone, consisting of merely an opaque white layer upon a 
semi-transparent brownish ground, probably another reason 
for their working so frequently on the reverses of antique 
Sardonyxes, of a quality then unattaioable at any cost ; they 

2 The artists of this age were fond spirit of emulation we owe many a 

of exhibiting their own skill in com- convenient means of comparing the 

petition with that of the ancients, styles of the two periods where 

hence we so frequently meet with a also the superiority must often be 

Cinque-Cento cameo cut on the re- adjudged to the more recent hand, 
verse of an antique one : to which 


were also frequently engraved upon stones of but one colour, 
as Carnelians, Lapis-lazuli, and Garnets, where most of the 
effect of the design is lost from the absence of contrast 
between the ground and the design. Portraits of this date 
sometimes occur on Kubies and other hard gems, which have 
little to recommend them besides the difficulty of execution, 
a point utterly disregarded by a correct taste. In the same 
century also, the scarcity^ of materials affording layers of 
distinct colours led to the extensive employment of shells in 
which the natural strata exactly imitate the colours of the 
best pieces of the Sardonyx, an art which the modern Eomans 
have carried to an astonishing degree of perfection. At pre- 
sent the Indian conchs are used for this purpose, affording a 
choice of the most beautiful strata : but the artists of the Re- 
naissance were forced to content themselves with the shells of 
the Mediterranean, and works of extraordinary labour and 
taste for instance, a battle scene, with an infinity of figures 
will be often seen thrown away upon these coarse and perish- 
able materials. In the Kensington Museum are some ad- 
mirable busts of the Caesars, on shell, by an artist of the 
curly Renaissance school. This use of shells for the making 
of camoi is said to have been practised by the ancients, and 
specimens of such works have occasionally been brought 
before me, as for instance, a head of a nymph in the Herz 
Collection, said to have been found in a vase at Vulci, and 
wliicli certainly bore every appearance of true antique work. 
Other examples too I have seen,'' but with very great doubts 
of their authenticity, as it seems impossible that so fragile a 
substance could remain unchanged for so many ages, wlien 

3 For the same reason we often backs, may owe this rare decoration 

find camel of tliis date cut upon the to some artist of this i^riod. 

reverses of really anticjue gems, both For example, a very spirited 

camel and iiita;^!!. Some of the f)ortrait of (ialba, to all apix^rance 

scarabci, presenting masks on their an antique work. 

192 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. U. 

buried in the earth. The same observation equally applies 
to the camei in Turquois so frequent in collections, a stone 
which loses its colour so speedily wlien exposed to damp. 
Heads in full relief, in Amethyst, Jacinth, and Sard, are 
often met with, but the same small proportion of true antiques 
occurs amongst these as amongst the other classes of camei 
already noticed : a fact easily accounted for when we con- 
sider the facility of the execution of these works by the 
modern process, and the large reward that stimulated the 
artist's ingenuity to aim at a successful imitation of antique 

That indeed both busts and statuettes cut out of solid erems 
were known to the Eomans, appears from the numerous au- 
thentic portraits of imperial times in this style still preserved 
to us : one of the most famous of wliich is the bust of Tiberius 
in a stone like the Turquois, now in the Florence Collection. 
Pliny states that when the Topazion, or Peridot, was first 
introduced into Egypt, it became at once a favorite gem ; 
and a statue of Queen Arsinoe, 4 cubits high, was made out 
of it (of several pieces united, no doubt), and dedicated by her 
daughter Berenice Mdtliin the so-called Golden Temj)le erected 
to her memory. For this Juba was his authority, but he had 
himself seen a figure of Nero in armour, 15 inches in height, 
cut out of a block of Jasper ; and also statues of Augustus, 
in Obsidian, an equally hard material. 

I have seen a figure of Osiris in half relief, on a true lluby, 
about half an inch long, incontestably antique, and of good 
Roman work. But most of the " Ruby " camei portraits of 
modern times are cut in rose Garnets, and foiled up to the 
proper colom\ Some heads also occur cut in relief on Eme- 
ralds of such great intrinsic value, that it is almost impossible 
that any artist, exce2:)t in the times of imperial magnificence, 
Avould have been allowed to use so extravagant a medium 


for the exhibition of his skill. There is, however, no class of 
antiques on the authenticity of which it is harder to decide, 
than upon these works in relief upon the harder gems. 

The Odescalchi cameo now in the Vatican Cabinet, for- 
merly supposed to represent Alexander and Olympia, but 
according to Visconti, Ptolemy Euergetes and Berenice, is 
a precious monument both for the beauty of the work and 
for the great volume of the stone ; but the most singular 
peculiarity of this cameo is that the slab of Sardonyx upon 
which it is cut is comj30sed of several pieces united together 
for the purpose, and that in order to conceal the joinings the 
artist has introduced necklaces upon the necks of the two 

In the chapter on Pastes, mention has been made of the 
large cameo of Bonus Eventus, formed of an excellent 
imitation of Lapis-lazuli. Caylus, II. lxxxi., gives a drawing 
of an admirable head of Medusa, 4 by 3|^ inches in size, and 
made of a paste subsequently worked over with the diamond 
point in the same way ; and on the same plate he gives a bust 
of Victory, set in a large antique ring of bronze, which he 
describes as a perfect imitation of an Onyx of three strata. 

Vases also were in use among the Eomans, which may be 
regarded as huge camei, being entirely covered with subjects 
in relief, such as the famous Agate Carcliesium of St. Denys, 
and others still in existence formed of similar materials- 
^Iheso also were imitated in paste, as the elegant vase of the 
]\Iuseo Borbonico shews, which is entirely covered with a 
troll is-work of vines, cut out of a delicate white layer, fused 
upon a dark blue ground ; precisely in the same manner as 
the famous I'ortland vase was supposed by Wedgwood to 
have been manufactured. The mention of the latter recals 
to my mind an idea that struck me in reading the minute 
account of the coffer of Cypselus, given by Pausanias : in 


194 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

which one of the compartments " represents Peleus approach- 
ing Thetis, from whose hand a serpent rushes at him ; " a 
description which seems to me to explain the meaning of 
one of the much disputed groups upon this vase, in which a 
youth is approaching a female seated on the ground, who 
pushes him away with one hand, while a huge crested serpent 
rises open-mouthed against him from the other. Fragments of 
vases of this kind are not very rare, and all that I have seen 
are executed with great taste and delicacy of finish. 

A very siagular kind of antique paste, something between 
a mosaic and a cameo, is presented in the small pieces of the 
size of ring stones, themselves imitating Lapis-lazuli, and 
inlaid with a pattern of variously coloured pastes, arranged 
in the form of different objects. Two in the Herz Collection 
one a vine leaf, the other a parrot brought the high price 
of 10 apiece, being considered unique ; one of these (the 
vine leaf) or an exactly similar one, is figured by Caylus. 
Here too we may appropriately notice the glass discs stuck 
into the mortar when still moist, which closes up the tombs 
in the Eoman catacombs. These are usually called the 
bottoms of drinking-glasses, but all that I have seen appear 
perfect in themselves, and never to have formed a portion of 
any other vessel. They contain within their substance rude 
designs, often portraits of the latest emperors, surrounded by 
inscriptions, the whole worked out of a stout leaf of gold laid 
between two pieces of glass afterwards fused together, and 
thus incorporated within their substance. It seems most 
probable that they were manufactured expressly for the pur- 
pose to which we find them applied, and for that alone, 
namely, to serve as imperishable memorials of the date : in 
the same manner as the coins deposited along with the ashes 
of the deceased in earlier times. 

The consideration of this, the latest era of Eoman art. 


introduces the subject of a very numerous class of camei, 
apparently belonging to the same period. These are inscrip- 
tions cut in reKef, in Onyx or burnt Camelian, and mostly 
enclosed within a rim of the same layer that the letters are 
formed of, which last are usually engraved with extreme 
neatness, and of a shape greatly resembling those of the 
legends on the coins of the successors of Constantino, when 
a peculiarly neat compact character replaced the sprawling 
open types of the previous century. Hence they may be 
justly assigned to the 4th century, a date with which the 
purpose of the legends is in strict accordance. Nothing 
but inscriptions are to be found in this style of engravings in 
relief; with one exception, an unique cameo in my posses- 
sion, representing Anubis bearing the caduceus and tlie palm, 
the well-known Gnostic device, executed in the precise 
manner of these inscriptions upon a green and white Onyx, 
the figure being inclosed within a border left of the upper 
layer of the stone. The spelling of these legends (usually 
containing nothing but a name and a good wish, as egna- 
TiNiCA " Success to thee, Egnatius ! ") offers some curious 
anomalies to the student of the transitional state of the Latin 
language. The Greek and Latin cliaracters are used in- 
differently ; and the b replaces the v wherever the harder 
sound of the letter is required, the v being at that time 
always sounded as oiu- w : thus we have vibas lvxvri homo 
BONE " Long life to thee, Luxurius, thou good man ! " The 
Greek legends offer perpetually instances of the so-called 
Romaic pronunciation of the vowels, as xepete instead of 
Xaigere, " Hail " ; and are often extremely hard to make out, 
from this interchange of letters, their similarity of form, and 
the manner in which they are run into each other. This 
gave rise to a most absurd mis-translation of one in the Herz 
Collection, reading stpatonikhyfiaine, which last word 

o 2 

196 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

being read miainoysa, was interpreted to convey a very in- 
sulting address to the lady instead of a good wish, its actual 
meaning. Others of these inscriptions only give the name 
and office of the owners as epmaaicoN kaicapoc ; and others 
present maxims, one of which is of frequent occurrence, and 
of which Caylus remarks that it should be taken as the motto 
of every philosopher : 


A most interesting stone of this class, the only one I have 
seen in its original gold ring, and that of the smallest size, 
evidently only intended for the top joint of the little finger, 
bears the legend evcebi'^ ^^^ *^^^ -"^^^ have been a present 
to the famous chamberlain of Constantius, the persecutor at 
once of the Caesar Julian and of the patriarch Athanasius. 

The Byzantine period presents us with many camei, often 
cut on pieces of Sardonyx of uncommon size, and of the 
most beautiful colours. But as might have been expected 
from the lateness of the date, the execution of the subjects 
is very far from corresponding with the perfection of the 
material, being rude and clumsy in the extreme, the figures 
seeming to have been hewn out of the upper stratum of the 
Onyx by some rude instrument ; it is possible they may have 
been scraped out of the stone with a piece of emery, like the 
coarser scarabs of the Etruscan period : at least, the peculiar 
roughness of finish of both these classes is difficult to explain 
in any other manner. The subjects are taken from scripture, 
the Angelical Salutation is a very favourite one, a circum- 
stance affording some clue to the time of their execution, 
since the portraits of the Virgin do not appear upon the 
bezants before the reign of John Zimisces, at the close of the 
10th century. Had these camei been the productions of an 

Mavest thou pr(is])cr, Eiisebius ! 


earlier age, they would have borne heads of Christ, or else 
nothing but Christian symbols such as vines, doves or 
lambs. I have actually met with a plasma, on which was 
cut a bust of Christ, in mezzo-relievo, inscribed ic xc of very 
neat work, and resembling much the portraits on the early 
Byzantine aurei, beginning in the reign of Justinian Ehinot- 
metus, A.D. 685, the execution of which is still careful and 
by no means despicable in point of art. These huge camei 
often bear long legends in ill-shaped barbarous characters, 
the orthography of which is precisely that of an uneducated 
Greek of the present day, such is the confusion of the vowels 
and diphthongs of similar sound. Thus on one splendid Sar- 
donyx of large size, we find Xsps Kai y^afiroix^M-n instead of 
XaigE x5^agjTa;/(x,vr5, each mode of spelling having exactly the 
same pronunciation at that time as at present in the spoken 

Agate vases, or as they may be called cameo vases, being 
of such great rarity, it may be allowed me here to return to 
the subject in order to mention one described by Caylus ; II., 
Lxxxvi. This was a vase cut out of an Agate of three strata, 
3 inches high by 2 inches wide, in form much like the Portland, 
but tapering more towards the bottom. The subjects upon it 
were Apollo and Diana, Cupid and Psyche, and a group of 
small cupids, some chasing butterflies, others riding tlu-ough 
the air in cars drawn by them. This beautiful example of the 
art had b(;en sold shortly before (1754) for a small price, at 
an auction of the refuse of the Koyal Garde Mobile. Wlien 
described by Peiresc, a century before, it was mounted in an 
elaborate Cinque-Cento setting of gold, enriched with precious 
stones, shewing the high estimation in which it had been 
held by its first possessor at that period, probably Franqois I. 
The want of taste, or the avarice of the age of Louis XV., 
hud stripped off the precious easing, but sold the far more 

198 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. 11. 

valuable Agate as a piece of rubbish. Besides vases and 
bas-reliefs in ivory of the earliest date, we have also many 
true camei in this substance, or small medallions bearing 
heads in low relief on one side, and on the other numerals 
or letters : these were tickets for admission to places of 
amusement, or to entitle the bearer to certain largesses given 
by the emperor on days of rejoicing, as Martial : 

" Nunc dat spectatas tessara longa feras." 

And others may have been tessarse hospitales, or equivalents 
to letters of introduction for the use of travellers. As might 
be expected, these small relics are much decayed by time 
and are liable to fall to pieces when dried after their dis- 
covery : it has, however, been found that they may be pre- 
served from this danger by saturating them for some time 
in a hot solution of glue, and thus restoring to the pores of 
the ivory the due proportion of gelatine extracted from them 
by time. 

Camei of barbarian origin are, as might be expected, very 
rare. I have, however, met with a few of apparently indu- 
bitable antiquity. One was a finely-executed Brahminee 
bull on Onyx, the figure white upon a transparent ground. 
The work was evidently Greek, not Hindoo, and therefore 
must have belonged to the period of the Macedonian kings 
of Bactria, on whose copper coinage this type sometimes 
appears. This cameo had been brought from India, but I 
could not ascertain the name of the locality where dis- 
covered. Another Indian cameo of antique workmanship 
was a front face of Buddha, of rude, bold work, on a brown 
and white Sardonyx of considerable size. But the most 
curious of all the examples of this style was a crouching 
lion, of early Persian work, extremely stiff and archaic in 
execution, as if the engraver had possessed but little power 


to carry out his conception upon the hard gem, a large 
Oriental Onyx of three strata and of the finest quality. 

Amongst the Pulsky camei is a fragment of a large one 
representing a king, in the costume of the Sassanian monarchs, 
engaged in combat with an animal, the figure of which has 
been broken ofi". The king's head is encircled by the dia- 
dem, terminating in broad flowing ribands so conspicuous 
in the rock-sculptures commemorative of Sapor I. The work 
of this cameo is truly excellent and equal to that of the 
best imperial times of Rome, and far superior to the con- 
temporary Roman engravings ; indeed, were it not for the 
costume of the principal figure, one would be disposed to 
refer it to a much earlier date. It, however, affords another 
proof of the statement, before advanced, of the wonderful 
revival of the arts under the restored Persian dynasty, and 
was doubtless the cJief-d'ceuvre of some Asiatic Greek patron- 
ized by Sapor. This composition, agi-eeably to the Roman 
style of late times, is inclosed within a border left from the 
upper layer of the stone, a fine Oriental Onyx. 

Together with the two Indian gems above described, and 
said to have come also from Cabul, was a cameo on Sardonyx, 
Victory in a car, bold and vigorous in treatment, though by no 
means minutely finished, and showing every mark of an early 
Greek origin a singular testimony to the diffusion of Hellenic 
art throughout the northern districts of India. The projecting 
portions of the design were much worn down and flattened 
by friction, perhaps among the gravel in the bed of some 
watercourse whence it had been rescued by the recent dis- 
coverer. TJie composition of the design bore a striking 
resemblance to the reverses of the Sicilian tetradrachms. 

But the most interesting Oriental Cameo, though of a 
much later date, that has ever fallen under my notice was 
one in the Webb Collection sold by Christie and Manson 



Sect. II. 

(1854). It was not, indeed, of ancient times, for the subject 
was Shah Jehan slaying a tiger that had killed one of his 
attendants, whose corpse lay upon the ground ; the history 
of the event, in Persian characters, occupied the field of 
the cameo. The style of the engraving was purely Oriental, 
although one would rather have expected such a work to 
have displayed something of the Italian taste, in consequence 
of the constant patronage shown by the IVIogul's court to 
the jewellers and lapidaries of that nation. The stone a 
splendid Onyx of the clearest colours was also of great 
size, about three inches in diameter, through which it had 
been pierced with a fine hole for the purpose of sewing it 
upon the dress, after the manner used by the Romans. 

Ceies, with name of artist Aulus. Sard. 

Cicero ; contc-mpojary poitrait. Antique Fasto. 


In all the collections of Europe taken together, there are 
certainly not a hundred gems inscribed with the genuine 

* Koehlcr boldly asserts that there 
exist but four gems bearing the in- 
dubitable signature of the engravers ; 
but his distinctions are so arbitrary 
that his dictum may be regarded 
as a mere German paradox. An 
archseologist, however, of the great- 
est experience, and who has paid 
especial attention to this particular 
question, by the collection of the 

casts and the study of the originals 
of all the known signed gems, is of 
opinion that the number may be 
extended to sixty. The rules which 
he had laid down to himself for 
establishing the reality of these sig- 
natures, to my great satisfaction, 
exactly coincided with those already 
v/ritten by me in the following 




name of the artist who engraved them. And these authentic 
signatures are usually distinguished by this peculiarity, that 
they are placed at the side of the design, and engraved in 
minute but elegant Greek characters. Many antique stones 
also occur in which these names have been added by a 
modem hand in order to augment the value of the gem ; 
but these forged names can generally be detected by their 
gi-eat inferiority in neatness of execution to the genuine. 
The ancient artist evidently attempted to distinguish his 
own signatm-e, both by its position and by the miniature size 
of the letters, from the common inscriptions so abundant 
upon intagli, especially those of Koman times, which consist of 
the initials or the name of the owner, and sometimes that of 
the town of his domicile ; or, still more frequently, invoca- 
tions to the deities whose figures are represented upon the 

S;gnet of Kuflna. Ked Jaspi.-r. 

Gryllus: signet of Tilinius. Obsidii 

The legends occasionally seen on Etruscan intagli, and 
which add considerably to their value, are the names of the 
gods or heroes engraved upon them, according to the usual 
practice of that people in their other works of art, as on 
painted vases and the backs of their metallic mirroi-s. The 
Cirreeks, on the contrary, with their usual good taste, never 
impaired the effect of the design by an explanatory inscrip- 
tion: all tliat they allowed themselves, and that but very 
lait'ly, was to hand down the artist's name in the most 
modest and unpretending manner possible. 



Sect. II. 

The subject of artists' names on gems unavoidably recals 
to one's mind the Poniatowsky Collection, where each stone 
bears engraved upon it the name of some celebrated artist 
of antiquity Pyrgoteles, Dioscorides, Cronius, Solon, Aulus, 
Admon, Gains, &c. These gems are of large dimensions, often 
of fine quality, and engraved mth mythological subjects, for 
the most part executed with much taste, but frequently also 
displaying a good deal of the flighty Beminesque manner of the 

Neptune : Poni; 

sky gem. Amethyst. 

Inscribed Etruscan Gem 

last century in the attitudes of the figm-es and in the treatment 
of the drapery. The heads and the single figures are by far the 
most pleasing in the series, and approach the nearest to the true 
antique. These gems were all executed for Prince Poniatowsky 
(d. at Florence, 1833) by the best Eoman artists of the past 
age, Cerbara, Girometti, Piehler, &c., and the inscriptions, 
which are masterpieces in this very diflicult branch of the 
art, are from the hand of Dies, who took upon himself this 
department alone. Had these clever engravers put -their 
own names upon their productions, instead of forging those 
of ancient artists, these masterpieces of their skill would have 
increased in value with every passing century: whereas at 
present, they are looked upon as worthless, are sold for 


merely the value of their gold mountings to those persons 
who understand gems, and fill the show-cases of every curi- 
osity dealer in London, who often succeed in passing them 
off upon " country collectors " as the genuine works of the 
artists whose names they bear. As a proof of the little 
value in which they are now held, I may state that, at the 
sale of Lord Monson's Collection, consisting of 154 of the 
best of these gems, they went at prices ranging from 25. 
to 308. each, though many of them were cut on the finest 
Amethysts and Sards and mounted in elaborate gold frames 
of very elegant designs. Knowing all this, we cannot but 
be amused at the blind faith of the person who last year 
(1858) took the trouble to publish an elaborate and expen- 
sive account of these all but wortliless forgeries, illustrated 
with admirably-executed photographs of the most curious, 
and this evidently under the full conviction, as appears from 
his preface, that they are all the genuine productions of 
those celebrated ancients whose names appear so conspicu- 
ously upon them. How the Prince himself could have con- 
ceived so absurd an idea as the formation of tliis series, and 
have wasted so large a sum in the carrying out of his ridi- 
culous project, is very difficult to imagine, since he had inhe- 
rited from his uncle, the last king of Poland, Stanislaus, a 
splendid cabinet of true antique gems, the possession of 
which ought to have inspired him with better taste.'" 

^ The (/cm of the original col- the Due de Blacas. The stone, a 
lection was the famous Ilelmot, Sardonyx of considerable size, |J by 
which merits a detailed descrii)tion, I inch, is of most singular quality : 
l)oth on account of its extraordinary tlie upfK^r layer iK'ing an opaque 
beauty, and from its having fetched retl Jasj^r; the under, a transparent 
at its last sale, February, IH^'J, the greenish Calcedony or Plasma. The 
largest sum (8U/.) ever obtained for intaglio, deeply cut, is a Greek hel- 
an intaglio at a London auction, met, with flowing crest of horse- 
though it is said that Ilcrz had hair; but the crown is unusually 
refused an ofler lor it of 150/. from spherical. This is ornamented with 

204 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

This original cabinet numbered, when catalogued by Vis- 
conti, no more than 154 gems, including a few splendid 
camei. The intagli were all of the finest character. Amongst 
them was the masterpiece of Dioscorides, the bust of lo, a 
three-quarter face, with small budding horns on the temples, 
and very deeply cut in a most splendid Sard; the eagle's 
head, inscribed Mie, and hence ascribed to the collection of 
King Mithridates ; the antique paste, a portrait of Nico- 
medes IV., with the name of the artist Pergamus ; and the 
famous helmet described below in detail. This last, I am 
informed, is of larger dimensions than that of Stosch on the 
same peculiar Jasper-plasma, now in the Berlin Cabinet, as 
well as somewhat more elaborate in the ornamentation. It 
was the Prince, the last possessor, who, by adding to these 
genuine treasures so many absurd forgeries, brought it up to 
the vast number of 3000 in all ; and thereby so discredited 
the whole cabinet that, when it was brought to the hammer 
in London, about thirty years ago, even the established repu- 
tation of the lo was not proof against the suspicion excited 
by the bad company amongst which she appeared, so that 
this matchless gem was actually knocked down for 111., 

the figure of Bellerophon on Pegasus, presentations, for the Herz Collec- 
attended by his dog, and spearing tion also boasted another gem of the 
the Chimera represented on the same curious material, but engraved 
cheek-piece beneath : all, though on with a tall Corinthian crater ; its 
so minute a scale, miracles of art, surface decorated with Bacchic sub- 
both in design and execution. The jects, almost equal in finish and 
flowing crest of horse-hair is care- delicacy to the work of this helmet, 
fully and naturally rendered by Curiously enough Winckelman re- 
means of the diamond-point alone, marks that the helmets and vases 
Winckelman describes one of Stosch's of this description, executed in imi- 
gems, almost identical with this, tation of Corinthian bronze-work, 
both as to the nature of the stone occumng in the Stosch Collection, 
and of the subject engraved on it. are all very highly and carefully 
This peculiar variety of Sardonyx finished, and to be numbered amongst 
seems to have been a favourite of the choicest treasures therein pre- 
the ancient engravers for such re- served. 


although in the previous century it would have commanded, 
if sold singly, fully 1000?., a sum paid for other works made 
valuable by the artists' names, yet falling far short of this 
both in artistic and historical value. 

The only gem-engravers mentioned by name in Pliny's 
account of the art are Pyrgoteles, Apollonides, Cronius, and 
Dioscorides : nor doa ny others, to my knowledge, occur in any 
ancient author. But their own works have preserved to us a 
somewhat copious list of names, which, together with the sub- 
jects they accompany, will be found annexed to this article. 

An early and therefore interesting notice of the first 
artists of the Renaissance is given by Camillo Leonardo, in 
the year 1502, and therefore but a short time after the art 
had been revived in Italy. Nevertheless, he speaks of their 
works as already diffused over the whole of that country, 
and not to be distinguished from the antique ; and affirms 
that the following gem-engravers, his contemporaries, were 
equal in merit to any of ancient times : in Rome, Giovanni 
Maria da Mantova; at Venice, Francesco Nichini da Fer- 
rara ; at Geneva, Jacopo Tagliacame ; at jMilan, Leonardo 
da ]\rilano ; " Wlio sink figures in gems with such accuracy 
and neatness that nothing can be added or taken away 
therefrom." He adds that an art then flourished, altogether 
unknown to the ancients, that of Niello in silver, in which 
he praises as a most distinguished worker Giovanni, sur- 
named Frazza, of Bologna. Vasari, writing in 1550, himself 
the contemporary of all the best artists of the Cinque-Cento 
l)eriod, names with commendation Giovanni del Castel Bolog- 
nesc, who cut intagli in rock-crystal, esi)ecially a Tityus and 
a Ganymede, for the Cardinal Ippolito dei Medici. Valerio 
Belli, II Vicentino, was a famous engraver, as was also his 
daughter: he died in 154G, and therefore could not have 
executed tlio jiortraits of Queen Elizabeth (1558) so often 

206 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

ascribed to him.^ Luigi Anichini of Ferrara was distin- 
guished for the fine engraving and exquisite finish of his 
intagli. Alessandro Cesati, II Greco, " surpassed all his age 
in the drawing, gracefulness, and excellence of his works, 
and left behind him camei and intagli of the greatest merit 
and^ diversity." In the Pulsky Collection is a spirited por- 
trait of Pope Paul III., ascribed to this artist, and cut on a 
large and beautiful Sapphire, a most admirable specimen of 
his skill. It has been asserted with some plausibility that 
certain supposed antiques, inscribed kointos aaesa, are in 
reality works of this artist. 

Hercules and Antaeus: Cinque-Cento Sard, 


That the dies for the coinage of the Greeks and Komans were 
cut by the artists who also engraved the gems of the same 
period is evident from the identity of treatment of the heads 
and subjects occurring in each of these classes. Some sin- 
gular instances in confirmation of this opinion have come 
under my notice. Thus, a Sard surrounded with an Etruscan 
border, bears engraved upon it a cow looking backwards, 
precisely similar to the curious representation of the same 

These are usually the works of Coldore, the protege of Henri IV. 

Sect. II. COIN-DIES. 207 

animal on the silver of Sybaris, which might well be mis- 
taken for an antelope. Another Sard with a figure of 
Abundantia was the exact counterpart in its minutest details 
of the reverse of a denarius of Hadrian in my possession.^ If 
we compare the numerous intagii of Minerva, so abundant 
in all collections formed in Italy, we shall be struck by the 
similarity of their execution, in numerous instances, to the 
reverses of the coinage of Domitian, who regarded this god- 
dess as his patroness, a circumstance which, no doubt, made 
her the fashionable subject for signets during all the space 
of his long reign. On many Greek coins, especially those of 
Sicily and Magna Grecia, names are found engraved in a 
small character on the accessaries of the subject, such as the 
fillet or the helmet of the head of the deity on the obverse, 
and occasionally on a small tablet, as sometimes on gems. 
These are supposed, with considerable certainty, to be the 
names of the engravers of the dies, a theory strongly sup- 
ported by the inscription in full neyantosehoiei on the 
medals of Cydonia in Crete. Nothing of this kind is met 
with in the Itoman series, when such a liberty would not 
have been allowed to the engravers, who were then the slaves 
attached to the Quaistor or Triumviri Monetales; but I 
fancy I have discovered an ingenious device employed by 
them for recording their names in the symbols so often seen 
in the field of the consular denarii. It will be found on 
examination that the symbol on the reverse has always a 
certain connexion with that on the obverse of the coin : thus, 
on a denarius of the family Papia, one is the petasus, the 
other the harpe of l*erseus ; on another the obverse gives 
two horns conjoined in the form of a crescent, the reverse 

' A head of C'ommodus, on a gem the same engraver who cut the die 
in (he ^lortens-Schaafliauson CoUoc- for a denarius of that prince, in my 
tion, is also evidently tlie work of Collection. 

208 ART, STYLES OF Sect. IT. 

bearing a myrtle wreath, both common Bacchic emblems ; 
from which one might hazard a conjecture that the engraver 
of the first die was named Perseus, of the second Dionysius 
for it must be remembered that at Home all artists were 
Greeks or of Greek extraction, slaves or freedmen. We 
have a corroboration of this theory in the case named 
by Pliny, of Sauros and Batrachos introducing the rehus of 
their names, the " lizard " and the " frog," in the capitals of 
the pillars sculptured by them in the reign of Augustus, im- 
mediately after the cessation of the issue of the consular 
mintage. On the denarii of certain families, as the Papia 
and Eoscia, these twin-symbols are extremely numerous, 
indicating, like the numerals which take their place on the 
mintage of other families (as the Bfebia), the enormous 
number of dies used up in the issue of the silver currency 
while the Quaestor of that particular name was in office as 
Master of the JVIint. 

How the ancient coin-dies were supplied in sufficient num- 
bers to meet the requirements of an extensive commerce, 
which employed an exclusively metallic currency, is a point 
the explanation of which is a problem still unsolved. The 
difficulty is increased when w^e consider the high relief of the 
types on the larger coins, such as the didrachms and tetra- 
drachms of the Greek series.'" And it should be remembered 
that, in the present day, the making the die for a crown-piece 
(no larger than the latter) is the work of six months. Some 
suppose that the plan was adopted of cutting a punch in 
relief, and with tliis stamping dies in bronze in any number 
required (the modern practice) ; but a fatal objectioli to 
this explanation is, that then, as now, every issue of coins 
would have produced every piece absolutely identical with 

^" Besides still larger pieces, as the and the gold octodrachms of the 
Syracusian Medallion, a decadrachm, Ptolemies. 

Sect. IT. COIN-DIES. 209 

the rest, whereas, no two ancient coins, though of the same 
year, are ever found exactly alike thus proving the enormous 
quantities of dies employed at every mintage. Pistrucci 
believed that he had found out the secret by obtaining cast- 
iron dies directly from his models : and certainly there is a 
soft and flowing outline to the types of the large Greek 
pieces, scarcely to be attributed to the impression of a cut 
metal stamp. Again, to have engraved by hand dies suffi- 
cient for the coinage of such cities as Athens, Corinth, or 
Velia, which still exist in endless quantities not to speak 
of that of Philip, and still more of Alexander, which supplied 
the currency of the whole civilised world, and when we 
consider the constant breakage of the dies so tedious a 
mode of multiplying the stamps must have required such an 
army of die-sinkers, and such an amount of artistic skill 
amongst them, as it is scarcely credible could have been 
furnished even in the most flourishing times of Greece and 
Asia. The dies made of mixed metal, occasionally discovered, 
certainly corroborate the theory of Pistrucci: these might 
have been easily cast upon a proper sand-mould and com- 
pleted by the graver in a very short space of time. In the 
IMeyer Collection is a die of mixed metal for the reverse of the 
gold octadrachm of Berenice (if genuine) : it is well preserved, 
and still shows traces of the hammer upon its back. Caylus 
figures a similar die for the obverse of a medal of Augustus, 
found at Aries. How dies in this soft composition were 
able to resist the blows of the hammer required to bring up 
the impression upon these large pieces of metal is quite a 
mystery. Some suppose that the blanks were struck wlien 
red-hot, but in this case tlie heat must soon have softened 
the fusible metal of the dies themselves, and have speedily 
destroyed them. The true solution of the difficulty seems to 
be that the blanks of pure metal cast in a spherical form 




Sect. II. 

to assist tlie receiving tlio typo were struck when cold ; the 
gold and silver being without alloy would yield to the die 
almost as readily as pewter, and the minters did not care 
for the destruction of the dies, which they had some method 
of reproducing without great delay or expense a sufficient 
explanation of the vast number of dies which, we have 
already observed, can be proved to have been used in one 
and the same issue of denarii. It is, however, strange that, 
if the dies were commonly made of an indestructible metal 
like the composition described, so few of them should have 
come down to our times : perhaps they were always care- 
fully destroyed when Avorn out, to prevent their being used 
by forgers. Of the Eoman period a few iron dies have been 
preserved, but no one has ever disputed their employment 
at that late period, and the infinite numbers of them used in 
tlio comage of the Empire would, in a few years, be converted 
into undistinguishable masses of rust. But even then a more 
expeditious mode of producing the species of currency most 
in demand was resorted to ; for the great proportion of the 
base silver of the ]Middlo Empire was all cast in clay moulds, 
quantities of wiiich have been discovered in the mins of a 
lioman mint at Lyons, as well as in different localities in 
this country and in France, some of which are described by 
Caylus, These, therefore, could not have been, as at fu'st 
supposed, the unauthorised implements of native forgers, but 
an expeditious mode made use of by the mint itself to mul- 
tiply a debased currency. 

Di-dracbm of Caul 





Extracted chiefly from the 'Catalogue dcs Artistes do I'Antlqultd,' par le Comte de Clarac. 
]819. I'uris. With Remarks and Corroctions. 

Admox (aaMwN). Cameo profile of Augustus. Blacas Collection. 

Hercules drinking. Sard. Marlborough. 

Head of Hercules advanced in life. Smith. 

Hercules IMusagetes. Poniatowsky. 

ITcrcules seated, a cow by his side. Antique paste. Easpe. 

Vulcan forging armour for a youth seated bj' a veiled 
female ; probably a work of Natter's. 
Aelius (aeaios uikI AIA102). Head of Tiberius, front-face. Sard. 
Corsini Coll. 

Head of Homer. Nicolo. The Hague. 

Portrait unknown. Marlborough. 
Akcoliax (aepoaiani). -Head of M. Aurclius. Antique paste. 

Bacchante. Sard. Probably the owner's name. 
Aktion (aetIcoNOC). Head of Priam. Sard. Devonshire Coll. 

Bacchanalia; nine rustics SJicrificing. Probably by Domies. 

Mercury bearded. Sard. Petroo Coll. 

' All, not otliorwise S})ecifieil, are iutivgli. 

V 2 

212 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. 11. 

Agathanoklus. Head of Sextus Pompeius. Sard. Stosch. Spelt 

AFAeANrEAOY, but the gem is suspected. 
Agathkmerus. Head of Socrates. Sard. Blacas Coll. 
Agathox. Bacchus. Beryl. Algernon Percy. 
Agathopus. Head of Sextus Pompeius. Beryl. Florence. 
Elephant's Head. Stosch. 
Two hands joined. Stosch. Sard. 
Albius. Head of Caligula. Sard. Baibarini. 
Alexa. Bull. Sard. Berlin. 
Alexa, Aulus. Paste. Barbarini. 

Alexa, Quixtus. Cameo fragment. Legs of a warrior. Florence. 
N.B. All these are supposed to be works of Alessandro 
Cesati il G-reco. 
Alexaxder. Cameo. Cupid taming a lion. On one side Venus, 
on the other a Bacchante. Morpeth. 
Cameo. Head of Drusus. Also assigned to Alessandro Cesati. 
Alliox (aaaion and AAxWAN). Head of Apollo laureated. Sard. 
Cameo. Head of Apollo. Easpe. 
Bacchante seated on the lap of a faun sacrificing to Priapus, 

a satyr plays the flute. Calcedony. Besborough. 
Unknown Eoman bust. Easpe. 
Muse. Sard. Strozzi. 

Some assert this name to be the signature of Gio. Mar. 
da Pescia. 
Bull butting. Onyx. Thoms. 
Head of Ulysses, front-face. Sard. Hamilton. 
Venus Marina holding a sea-horse. Sard. Feriniani. 
Nessus and Deianira. Lippert. 
Alpheus and Arethox. Cameo. Head of the young Caligula. 
Cameo. Gennanicus and Agrippina. This used to be shown 
at the Abbey St. Germain des Pres as the betrothal ring of 
the Virgin Mary : it was stolen with the other treasures in 
1795 when the abbey was burnt down, and subsequently 
sold to the Russian General Hydrow. 
Alphkus alone. Ajax seated on a rock. Sard. 
Dying Warrior. Cameo. Herring. 


Barbarian king in a biga. Cameo. Albani. 
Venus and Cupid drawing a butterfly out of a well. Cameo. 
A.MMONius. Head of Laughing Faun. Jacinth. British Museum. 
Amphoterus. Head of youth with a fillet. Black Jasper. 

Blacas. Supposed to be the head of Rhetemalces II. 
Amaranthus. Hercules driving away the Stymphalian birds. 

Sard. Praun. (Not now in that Collection.) 
Antkuos. Hercules carrying a bull. Sard. Devonshire. 

A symbolic group. Sard. Lessing. (Merely the owner's 
Antiochus. Head of Pallas helmeted. Sard. Andreini. 

Cupid bending his boAv; in front a butterfly. Int. Sard. 

Bonus Eventus. Ked Jasper. M'Gowan. 
Ai'KLT.ES. Mask. Sard. Jablonowski. 
Atollodotus. Biist of Pallas anned. Sard. Barbarini. 

The Dying Oithryades, near him two warriors. Sard. 
Apollonidks. Cameo fi-agment of a cow lying down. Sold by 
Stosch to the Duke of Devonshire for 1000 guineas. 
Ox grazing. Amethyst. Easpe. 
Cow lying down, as in the cameo. Sard. Hague. 
]\Iask. Garnet. Berlin. 
Ai'Oi.i.ONius. Diana leaning against a pillar ; a rock in the back- 
ground. Amethyst. Kaples. 
Head of Maecenas. Jacinth. Rhodes. 
A(iUiLAs. Venus bathing, Cupid by her. Easpe. 
A horse. Stosch. The name spelt AKYIAOV. 
AucmoN. APXIONOC on the robe of Venus ]\Iarina carried by a 

Triton. Sard. Hague. 
AsPASius. Head of Indian Bacchus. Red Jasper. Worsley. (A 
copy is in the British Museum.) 
1 lead of Junius Brutus. Ea.spe. 

Head of Agrippina the Elder as Ceres, crowned with wheat 
ears. Beryl. Marlborough. Perhaps a work of Natter 
or Flavio Sirletti. 
Head of Jupiter fragment. Red Jasper. Florence. 

214 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Juno standing, at ter feet a peacock. 

Head of the City of Antiocb, Worsley. 

Head of Pallas, in a liiglily ornamented helmet. Eed 

Jasper. Vienna. Many copies of this by Natter are 

known with his signature upon them. 
AsPUS. Centaur carrying off a Bacchante. Amethyst. Thorns. 
Atheniox. Jupiter in his car throwing his bolts at two giants 

with serpent legs. Cameo. Kaples. Antique copy of 

this. Webb. 
Female head. Amethyst. Lippert. 
AuLUS. Cupid nailing a butterfly to the trunk of a tree. Said. 

Cupid in fetters leaning on a hoe. Cameo. Bareuth. 
Cupid chained before a trophy. Sard. Carlisle. 
Cupid holding a cornucopia. Calcedony. Easpe. 
Head of the young Augustus. Sard. Lippert. 
Horseman in armour. Sard. * Florence. 
Fore part of a horse. Garnet. Caylus. 
Diana or Amazoji. Sard. Buoncompagni. 
Esculapius bust : the name in a tablet. Sard. Strozzi. (His 

fi.nest work, of which innumerable copies, some antique, 

are extant. 
Head of Faun front face. Sard. Jenkins. 
Female pouring a libation. Stosch. 
Head of Hercules. Sard. Northumberland. 
Youthful head. Cameo. Collegio Eomano. 
Lion devouring a horse. Green Jasper. Meghan. 
Mercury holding a ram's head. Sard. Easpe. 
Head of Sextus Pompeius. 
Head of Ptolemy Philopator or of Abdolonymus in front a 

bull's head ; behind, an old man with a staff. Sard. 

Bibliotheque, Paris. 
Quadriga. Sard. Carlisle. 
Venus seated on a rock balancing a stick, at which a little 

Cupid catches. Agate. Vettori, afterwards Jenkins the 

banker. (This name has beyond all others been made use 

of by modern artists. Natter confesses that he put it upon 

a copy of the Venus Vettori, of which he made a Danae.) 

8kct. U. names of ancient GEM ENGUAVEKS. 215 

The following gems are also attributed to Aulus : 
Cupid holding a butterfly. Jacinth. The Hague. 
Head of Ceres. Sard. Marquis de Dree. 
Faun's head. Nicolo. Beck. 
Head of Laocoon. Bibliotheque Koyale. 
Lion seizing a stag. lied Jasper. Lord Meghan. 
Head of Maicenas. Sard. Lord Greville. 
Mercury carrying the infant Bacchus. Jacinth. 'I'hc 

Pan and Olympus. Sard of three layers. Beck. 
Sacrifice to Venus : three females, a man, and a satyr, pei'- 
haps of the IGth century. 
vVxEOCHUS. Faun playing the lyre, Cupid with a thyrsixs, be- 
tween them an altar on which is a crescent. Stosch. 
Head of youthful ITercides. Sard. Cheroffini. 
Perseus carrying the IMedusa's head, has on his buckler 

this name A3E0X Stosch. 
Bacchante. Paste. De Thoms. 

Hercules, Mercury, Vulcan. Sard. Count Wackerbarth. 
Bkisitalas. Cupid leaning on a spear, his legs crossed. Agate. 

Poirruus. Philoctetes reclining and driving ofi' the flics from 

his wounded foot with a wing. Cameo. Milliotti. 
Caksilax. ]\Iinerva seated. Sardonyx. (Nonstable. 
(^VIU.s or Gaius. Head of a dog, perhaps of Sirius, full face; 
very deeply cut in a Siriam Garnet. Marlborough. 
l\a.spe calls this a work of Natter's. 
Silcnus seated playing on the double flute. Jacinth. Baron 

Bust of a girl, her linger on her lips. Sard. Same collection. 
('allimoui'UUS. Thalia standing ; a mask in one hand, a thyrsus 

in the other. Sard. Florence. 
('aki'LS. Bacchus and Ariadne on a lioness bound with wreaths. 
Ped Jasper. Florence. 
Drunken fami dancing. Antique paste. Count de Thorns. 
Heads of llercides and lole. Calccdony. Florence, per- 

lia])s of the Itllli century. 
Berseiis holding the ^ledusaV head and the harpe. Pjispe. 

216 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. IT. 

Chaeeemon. Conqueror in the games. Burnt Sard. Of the 

Lower Empire. Kaspe. 
Classicus. Serapis seated. Sard. Crozat. 
Cleoit. Apollo Citharedus, behind him a tripod and altar, in 

front a helmet. Gori, once belonged to Andreini. 
Cneius or Gnaeus. Head of Antinous. Easpe. 

Victorious Athlete rubbing himself with oil, by his side a 
table, with a vase and palm branch. Beryl. Lord Dun- 
Same subject. Kicolo. Bibliotheque Koyale. 
Young Athlete holding a strigil. Sard. Kendorp. 
Head of Brutus. Sard. Cavaliere d'Azara. 
Diomed naked, armed with sword and shield, the Pal- 
ladium on a cippus by him : he is seated on the ground, 
his mantle thrown over his arm. Sard. Denham. 
Fragment of a horse the head only. 
Head of a goddess, sometimes called Sappho and Cleopatra. 

Sard. CoUegio Komano. 
Head of the young Hercules. Beryl. Strozzi. 
Head of Melpomene and a tragic mask. Turbie. 
Head of Mercury. Abbe Pullini. Torino. 
Head of Theseus, covered with a bull's hide. The name 
said to be added by Pichler. Eendorp, Amsterdam. 
CoENUs and QuiNTUs ; reading KOINOY and KOINTOY. 

Adonis nude, holding a javelin and leaning on a cippus ; 

a hound by him. Onyx. Prince Lichtenstein. 
Head of Augustus. Easpe. 

Faun celebrating the bacchanalia : vase in one hand, thyrsus 
in the other, leopard's skin on arm. Kicolo. Extremely 
delicate work ; letters very faint. L. Natter. 
Figure of Pythagoras. Sard. Salinis. 
Craterus. Diana of Ephesus. Sard. Stosch. 
Crescens (kphCKHC). Harp-player. Sard. Poniatowsky. , 
Cronius. Terpsichore doubtful. Andreini. Figure standing, 
holding a lyre, leaning against a square cippus on which 
is a statue of Hercules ; but the work appears too late foi 
the age of Cronius. 
Perseus. Sard. Devonshire. 


Daliox. Nymph seated on a sea-horse, with two dolphins. 
Amethyst, The Hague. This name is probably Allion 
Daron. A Janus. Sard. Crozat. 

Demetrius. Hercules strangling the Kemean lion. Sard. 
Marquis do Dr^e. 
A bull. Sard. Baron von Schellcrsheim. 
Deuton. Four cars racing. Ant. Paste. Stosch. 
DiocLES. Head of a young Faun. Jasper. Berlin. 
DiONYSius. Head of a Bacchante. De Murr. 
DioscouRiuES. Head of lo: three-quarter face, fillet round the 
hair, a necklace of two rows. Sard, deep intaglio. 
Mercury Criophorus : naked and wingless figure leaning 
against a column, and holding a ram's head in his hand. 
Sard. Devonshire. 
Mercury on a journey, with petasus, caducens and mantle. 

Sard. Lord Holdemess. 
Perseus resting his hand on a shield with a Medusa's head, 

and holding a sword. Sard. Naples. 
Diomede, Master of the Palladium. Sard, in flat relief. 

Diomede carrying oIF the Palladium. Sard cracked. The 

Head of Demosthenes, front face. Amethyst, deep intaglio. 

Head of Augustus ; a star in the field. Amethyst, perhaps 

by Sirletti. l^lacas. 
Bust of Augustus, with the Paludamentum. Amethyst. Thoms. 
Head of Mtecenas, formerly called that of Solon. Amethyst. 
Bibliotheque Koyalo. 
The following are also attributed to Dioscorides : 
Head of AugTistus laureated. Cameo. Hamilton. 
Bacchus tlrunken, riding on a panther, with canthanis and 
thyrsus. Cades. 

- I hivve seon a most admirable copy of this heail by Pichler, ouce 

l.cluau;!!!'' lo Beckl'ord. 

218 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. li. 

Head of Caligula. Cameo. Walmodeii. 

Muse. Sard. I'ulsky. 

Head of Julius Caesar, front face, and lituus. Sard. British 

Giant with serpent legs. Beryl. Blacas. 
Hercules chaining Cerberus. Cameo. Berlin. 
Hermaphroditus reclining ; a Cupid playing the lyi'e ; 

another the flute ; a thirtl holds a flambeau. Amethyst 

Head of a girl. Topaz. Marlborough. 
Bust of Serapis. Garnet. Caylus. 
Silenus and a young faun playing the double flute. Aery 

fine Sard. Naples. 
Thalia holding a mask. Sard. Blacas. 
Head of Sol radiated, front face ; presented to Colbert by 

the Chapter of Figeac. Sard " as large as a 30-sous 

Natter and Torricelli have copied all the best works of this 

artist, some of them repeatedly. 
Epitynchanus. Portrait of Germanicus or Marcellus. Sard. 

Triumph of Venus and Cupid. Easpe. 
Mercury seated on an eagle. Easpe. 
Bellerophon on Tegasus. Sard. Azara. 
Eropiiilus. Head of Augustus. Cameo, Green Jasper found at 

EuELi'isTUS. Chimera of two heads, and an elephant's tiunk 

holding a caduceus. 
Nemesis. Sard. Grivaud. 
EuTHUS. Silenus seated on the ground ; in front are two cupids, 

one playing the lyre, the other the syrinx. Cameo. 

EuTYCHES, son of Dioscourides written 


Bust of Pallas, front face, holding her robe on the breast, 
Palo Amethyst, deep intaglio. Marlborough or Scheller- 


riiochus in his car. Onyx. The Hague. 
Head of a young Roman. Calcedony. 

Minerva putting her vote in the urn at the trial of Orestes. 
EuiiEMERUS. Eoman emperor in a cuirass. Sard. Landgraf 

von Hesse. 
EvoDUS. Head of Julia Titi, with diadem, curled hair, necklace, 
earrings. Beryl or pale Sapphire, of extraordinary mag- 
nitude. Bibliotheque Eoyale. 
Horse's head. Sard. Baron Eoger. 

Bust of a Muse, the head bound with a fillot^half length. 
Felix, freedman of Calpumius Soveiiis. Diomede and Ulysses 
carrying off the Palladium. Sard. Marlborough. 
Centaur carrying two baskets. Sard. Odescalchi. 
Victory naked slaughtering a biill. Easpe. 
Head of Mercury. Eed Jasper. Bibliotheque Eoyale. 
Gam us. Hope. Emerald. Kestner. 

Gaurajius Axioetus. Combat between a dog and wild boai-. 

Bloodstone. St. Aignan. The name may be that of the dog. 

Geycox. Venus riding on a sea-bull, surrounded by cupids. 

Sard. Bibliotheque Eoyale. 
Heius. Diana the huntress, in a stiff archaic style, holding a 
stag by the horn, bow in left hand. Sard. Stosch.^ 
Dying Amazon. Sard. Easpo. 
Head of a j'outh, with curl}^ hair, and tied with a fillet. 

Sard. Lord Grovillo. 
Minerva with a diadem. !Nicolo. Easpe. 
Ulysses and Diomede killing Dolon. Blacas. 
Hei.eex. Bust of Antinous as Harpocrates, breast partly covered 
by the rube. Sard. Stosch. 
Comic mask. Blacas. 

Full face of young faun. EAAHNOV, doubtless name of owner. 

' This is suiniosed to he tlie most inscril)cd EAAHN in very minute 

iiiieicMit gem known, Ijcaring tlieart- characters. I'ale IJuby. L. Fould, 

ist's name. fonucrly noocke. 

' Head of a Baccliante, front-face, 

220 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Hkros. Shepherd leaning on his crook. Borgia. 
HoROS. Head of Tiberius. Abbe Pullini. 

Silenus. Gori. 
Hydrus. Paris. This name was assumed by Natter as the Greek 
form of his own German apellation, which means a water 
IIyllus. The Bacchic bull, girt with ivy, above him a thyrsus. 
Calcedony. Stosch. The work of the bull similar to 
that on the medals of Sybaris. 
Same bull. Sard. Lord Clanbrazil. 
Ditto. , The Hague and Bibliotheque Eoyale. 

Copies of this gem are very numerous ; and the same 
subject, though antique, often occurs with the name added 
in modern times. 
Head of a female, called that of Cleopatra. Sard. St. 

Youthful Hercules, Aventinus. Onyx. Stosch. 
Head of philosopher. Sard. Florence. 
Triton, Nereid, and two cupids. Sard. Marlborough. 
Head of a Muse, inscribed lavr med. Orleans Collection. 

Head of Paris. Modern. Algernon Percy. 
Pallas seated looking at the Medusa's head. Antique 

paste. The Hague. 

Mask of Silenus. Sard. General Rottier, This name has 

been more usurped by modern engravers than even that of 


Iadis. Diana walking and about to let fly an arrow. Beryl. Percy. 

Irenp:. Man holding a cup, surmounted by a bird. Sard. 

Cortona Museum.* 
Leucox, probably the correct reading of Deucon. 
LiPASius, probably for Aspasius. Head of Ehea. Worsley 

Leucios. Victory, in a biga. Sard. Walchenaer. 
Masque of a bearded Faun. Gori. 
Head of Poppeea. Sard. W'ackerbarth. 

Tliis is clearly the owner's name, not the artist's. 


Maxalus. Head laureated of Antoninus Pius. Cameo. Goii. 

The inscription suspicious. 
Mksa of Diodorus. Femarle head with diadem. Onyx. De 

Thorns. Most probably the name of the lady herself. 
MiDiAS. Griffin and serpent. Cameo. Caylus. 
MiLESius. Apollo seated before a tripod. Bracci. 
MiTH.* Head of a horse. Sard. Berlin. 

Head of an eagle. Sard. Poniatowsky. 
MoRSius. Hercules carr3ing a bull. Denham. 
Musicus. Harpocrates standing. Sard. The Hague. 
Mycox. Plead of an old man. Jasper. Stosch. 
Plead of Caligula. Jasper. Lippert. 

Cupid on a lion. Nicolo. Baron Magnancourf. t 

Myrox. Head of Muse. Sard. Berlin. 
Lion passant. Sard. Blacas. 
Ajax kneeling and falling on his sword. Berlin. 
Apollo pursuing Daphne. Probably modeni. 
Myrtox. Leda, the swan flying towards her, Blacas. 
Naius, probably for Gnaius. Bust of a Muse, in front a mask ; 

often called a Yirgil. Easpe. 
Neisus. Jupiter Anxur, beardless, holding the thunderbolt and 

iEgis. Sard. St. Petersburgh. 
N KPOs. Youth playing the lyre. Sard. Schellersheim. 
Nkstor. Bust of Cupid. Chrysolite. The Hague. 
NiCANDKK. Bust of Julia Titi, inscribed NIKANAFOC EnoiKl 

Amethyst. Marlborough. 
NiCKPHOHUS. Mercury carrying on his hand the eagle. Onyx. 
Hesse Cassel. 
Man seated forging a helmet. Sard. Florence. 
XicoMACiius or NicoNAs. Faun seated on the ground upon his 
spread leopard's skin ; two flutes before him. Black 
jasper. Marlborough. 
Head of youthful Hercules, Sard. Schellersheim. 
Venus Anadyomno. Splendid Sard. P'zielli. 'J'ho name 
apparently a modern addition. 

Gems witli those lottors are of Kin<x Mitliridates, hut on uo 8uffi- 
iisually assignc'il to the dactyliotlu'ca cient grounds. 

222 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

NiLus (neiaov). Head of Hadrian. Kaspe. 

Nympheros. Standing warrior, with one hand on a tree, the 
other on his helmet placed npon his shield, which is set 
on the ground. Sard. Florence. 
OxKSAS (ONHCAC EnoiEl). Muse holding a lyre, and lean- 
ing on a base supporting a Cupid. Antique paste. 
Head of Hercules, laureated. Sard. Blacas. 
Head of Apollo. Sard. Cheroffini. 
Drunken Bacchus. Lippert. 
Ulysses carrying his casque. Sard. Thorns. 
Onesimus. Jupiter Conservator. Van Hoom. 

Head of Minerva, like the Pallas of Velletri, said to liave 
been found at Forli ; but is modem. 
Osius. Head of Apollo. Beryl. Devonshire. 
OsiON. Head of Apollo crowned with wheat-ears ; behind it a 
lyre and star. Onyx. Ballazzi. 
Head of Agrippina. Kicolo. Easpe. 
Pamphilus. Achilles seated on a rock, playing the lyre. Ame- 
thyst. Bibliotheque Eoyale. 
Achilles bending backwards and playing the lyre. Sard. 

Theseus killing the Minotaur. 
Head of Junius Brutus. Stosch. 
Youthful Hercules. Sard, modern. Portalis. 
Cupid coming to the rescue of Psyche caught by tlie foot in 
a trap. Sard. British Museum. 
Panaeus. Pan assaulting Venus as she is leaving the batli. 
Sard, Caylus. nANAlOV A*poatth. (Probably implying 
that it was a copy of the picture by that painter.) 
Pazalias, the signature of Passaglia, an excellent Eoman artist 
of the last century, and a lieutenant in the Papal 
Pergamus. Faun dancing. Stosch. 
Hercules carrying a bull. Stosch. 
Head of Nicomedes IV. Paste. Poniatowsky. 
Heroic head. Stosch. 
Bearded head. Stosch. 


rKTROS. Head of Caracalla. Millin.'' 
rHARNACP:s. Seahorse. Sard. Naples. 
Capricorn. Amethyst. The Hague. 
Nemesis standing, holding a bridle. 
Boar crouching amidst rccds. 
Head of Mercury, lied Jasper, 
liion Passant. Sard. Lord Greville. 
PinLEMOX. Theseus regarding the Minotaur extended on the 
groiind, the club in his hand. Sard found at Rome. 
*IAHMQN i:noi. Head of a faun, crowned with ivy, the 

deerskin on his shovilders. Antique paste. Strozzi. 
Hercules chaining Cerberus. Onyx. Lippert. 
Hercules sti-angling the Nemcan lion, by Ant. Pichler. 

Onyx. Lord Clanbrazil. 
Head of a bull. Piracci. 
PiuMPi'Us. Head of Hercules laureated. Florence. 
PiULOCALUS. Head of youth, crowned with olive. 
Piiii.onKSPOTES. Tragic mask and two fishes. 
PniLor.OGUS. Two dolphins. Red Jasper. Seen at Pezcstein. 
PiiocAS. Athlete holding a palm. Jacinth. Caylus. 
Pnociox. The head beaiing this name with that of Pyrgoteles 

is known to be the work of Alessandro Cesati. 
PuoiT.AS. Bacchante. Said. Schelleisheim. 
PnuvGiLLUS. Cupid with largo wings creeping out of an egg, 
with a shell in his hand. One of the earliest inscribed 
intagli known. Sard. Blacas. 
I'liYLAX. Actor or philosopher. Sard. Gori, perhaps mis-read 

for Scylax. 
PoiAc LKii'us. Dioniede master of the Palladium, seated on a 
base, at his feet the slain priestess. Sard. Florence. 
Cupid on a lion. Cameo. Gori. 
roi,V(KATi:s (noAYKFATiis EnoiEi). Cupid and Psyche. Gar- 
net. IVIanpiis de (Jouvernet. 

'' 'I'hi.s name is clcarl}' duo to tlic tyrant for the traditional portrait of 

anuisint: error of sonic mcdia>val jtos- the fiery Ajtostle, whicli in truth it 

Kcssor, who lias mistaken the eurly- closely resembles, 
headed trueident visage of thelionian 

224 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. TI. 

PoTHUs. Three masks. MilHngen. 

PoTiOLOS. Four masks. Red Jasper. Stosch. 

Protarchus (nPOTAPXOS EHOIe). Cupid riding on a lion and 

playing the lyre.' Cameo. Florence. 
Plutarchus. Bust of Cleopatra. De Muit. 
Pygmon. Faun dancing and holding a crater. Antique paste. 

Pylades. Mount Argaeus, surmounted by an eagle holding a 

wreath. Eed Jasper. Palazzi. 
Pyrgoteles. Head of Alexander. A splendid work, but Clarac 
speaks hesitatingly of its authenticity. Blacas. 
Head of Medusa. Amethyst fragment. Blacas. 
Head of Alexander covered with the lion's skin. Cameo, 
but suspected. Mayence. This name has been placed on 
antique copies of his works, as on a Sard of indifferent 
execution found at Rome, 1788, representing Hercules 
with Tolas killing the Hydra. 
QuiNTiLLUS. Neptune in a car drawn by two sea horses, in 
one hand u dolphin, in the other his trident. Beryl. 
Mercury standing with his foot on the prow of a vessel. 
Sard. Poniatowsky. 
RuFUS. Head of Ptolemy Physcon. Sard. Raspe. 

Aurora guiding the Solar car. Cameo, inscribed POY*OC 
EnOEi. St. Petersburgh. 
Saturninus. Antonia the younger. Cameo. Seguin. 
ScoPAS. Apollo Citharedus, bust. Sellari. Cortona. 
(Edipus and the Sphinx. Stosch. 
Head of a Roman. Sard. Leipzig. 
Head of Epicurus. Sard. Count Butterlin. 
Young woman at her toilette. Caylus. 
ScYLAx. Eagle's head. Sard. Algernon Perc}-. 
Head of Pan, full face. Amethyst. Blacas. 
Hercules Citharedus. Sard. Baron Roger. 
Head of C. An tins Restio. Sard. Marlborough. 
Male portrait. Sard, Marlborough. 
Head of a bald man. Garnet. Baron Roger. 
Man standing holding a bow. Sard. Baron Roger. 


Mask of Satyr, front face. Sard. Baron Roger. These 
three last very doubtful. 

Combat between a giant and griffin. Sard. St. Petersburgh. 
ScYMNUS. Bacchus followed by a panther. 

Seleucds. Mask of Silenus, crowned with ivy. Sard. Cerre- 
tani at Florence. 

Herme of Friapus. Square Emerald. Thorns. 

Cupid and a wild boar. Amethyst. Wordlidge. 

Head of Hercules. Blacas. 

Unknown portrait. Fine work. Stosch. 
Severus. Hygea offering a bowl to a serpent. 

Plasma. Slade. Probably the o^vner's name. 
Slecas or Caecas (Cascae). Youthful warrior holding a sword ; 
perhaps Theseus contemplating the sword of his father. 
SocuATES. A comic actor. Onyx. Eoger. 

Fortuna Panthea. Black Jasper. Bono. 

Comic actor leaning on a crook. Cameo on Oriental Sar- 
donyx of three layers. Roger. 
Solon. Head of Medusa, eleven serpents in the hair. Calce- 
dony. Strozzi, now Blacas. Found in a vineyard on tlie 
IVlonte Celio, near S. Giovanni e Paolo. There exists a fine 
copy made by Costanzi for Cardinal Polignac, 1729. One 
by Madame Preissler, smaller size ; another by Jeuffro}', 
on Amethyst. 

Diomede, master of the Palladium. Sard. Blacas. 

Portrait of a bald man. Sard. Ludovici. 

Head of Maecenas. Topaz. Florence. 

Cupid standing : a mediocre gem. Sard. Roger. 

Bust of a Bacchante. Sard. Stosch. 

Emperor loaning on liis shield. Raspo. 

Head of a Faun. Calcedony : doubtful. 

1 lead of Hercules, laureatcd, front face. Stosch. 

Livia as Ceres, voikid bust. Sard. Gori. 

Victory Apteros sjicrificing a bull : fragment. Sard. Stosch. 
Sosi'HENES, formerly read Sosicles. Head of Medusa. Calce- 
dony. Carlisle. I'his was considered by Pichler as su- 
})cri()i- to that by Solon. 

'226 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Head of Junius Brutus. Sard. Ijord Aldborough. 

Head of Minerva.^ The Hague. Is a cop3^ by Natter, N 

under the head being his usual mark : for though he 

copied many of the finest antique gems, he always sold 

them as his own works, and his Minerva, and Hercules 

strangling the Xemean lion, can be compared with the 

best productions of the ancients. 
SosTRATUS. Bacchic Genius in a car drawn by two panthers girt 

with ivy-wreaths. Cameo on an Agate of two layers, half 

the stone lost. Devonshire. 
Victory sacrificing a bull. Sard. Devonshire. 

This Collection possesses almost all the known works 

of Sostratus. 
Victory in a biga. Cameo, once belonging to Lorenzo dei 

Medici ; now Naples. 
Bellcrophon watering Pegasus. Sard. Easpe. 
Meleager and Atalanta. Cameo. Devonshire. 
Nereid riding on a marine griffin. Sard. Lippert, who also 

ascribes to this artist an Europa and a Diana Taui-ica. 
Stephanus. Man in a biga. Sard. Dubois. 

Pegasus. Gori. 
Teucer. Head of Antinous. Easpe. 

Faun holding a wreath. Sard. Carlisle. 

Seated warrior, a helmet in one hand, a spear in tlie other. 

Hercules and Tole ; the hero nude, seated on a rock covered 

with the lion's skin, draws lole towards him. Amethyst. 


Copies of this by Brown, Burch, and Carpus, are known. 

It is also admirably copied in the Poniatowsky series, 

where it is signed EAnHNOPHC- 
Head of Minerva. Sard. Lippert. 
Head of an old man. Amethyst. The Hague. 
T'liACETAS. Hercules and Omphale. Easpe. 
Thamyrus. A winged Sphinx scratching her ear with her hind 

paw. Sard. Vienna. 

^ ProbaLlv Medusa. Sec Goethe's remarks on the crems of Ilcmsterhiiis. 



A similar Sphinx, but without name. La Turbie. 
Helmeted warrior standing at the side of his horse. Modern 

stone, whore the name is written THAMYRIS. Prince 

Child seated. Cameo, of which many repetitions are known, 

Thyosus. Altar and eagle. Paste. De Thoms. 
Tkyphon (tpy*QN EnoiEl). Mamago of Cupid and Psyche : 

infant forms, the latter holding a dove, conducted towards 

the nuptial couch by two Cupids and Hymen bearing a 

torch. Cameo, the figures flesh-colour, on a black ground 

of Sardonyx. Marlborough. 
The same subject, but of inferior work. Naples. 
Cupid riding a lion. Sard. The Hague. 
Triumphal procession. Jasper. Easpe. 
Combat of ^Eneas and Diomed. Sard. Caylus. 

Of these artists the most illustrious for their ancient 
reputation or for their works at present in existence are the 

















( 'arpus. 





































Q 2 

228 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. 11. 

Satyr surprising a Sleeping Xjmpti, Signet of Aspa&ius : Roman. Agate, 

In the above extract from Clarac's list I have omitted 
some few names which he describes as doubtful, and which 
appear to me rather to indicate the name of the owner of the 
signet than that of the engraver. And this is probably the 
case with many even of those here given, especially where 
the gem is an intaglio intended only for the sealing and 
authentication of documents. The only artists' signatures 
(first supposing the work of them antique), which can 
be certainly relied upon are such as are accompanied by the 
word EnoiEi ("fecit" in modern parlance), or are inscribed 
on a tablet in a significant manner, or else are engraved in 
such minute characters at the side of the composition as only 
to be recognised by a careful search, and which, purposely as 
it were, avoid all interference with the proper design of the 
stone. The letters Aieo following some of these names are 
usually read as an abbreviation of XiQoyXvTrrni, or gem-en- 
graver; but such an artist was always styled in liis own 
times la.KTvXioy'kvTrT'ns, as the first appellation would not liave 
been sufficiently definite, applying equally well to any 
sculptor or even stone-mason. Again, from the large size 
of the characters in such inscriptions it is plain that the 
name is merely that of the owner of the intaglio, and that 
Aieo stands for the "gem or signet of such a one," and 
properly serves to authenticate the impression on the wax, or 
clay. On camei on the contrary, such names being usually 
left in relief in the same layer of the stone out of which the 
figures themselves are cut, doubtless designate the artist 
himself, in accordance with the common practice of antiquity 


of inscribing bas-reliefs and statues with the names of their 
sculptors. I have myself examined the following intagli 
supposed to bear the names of their engravers, on which I 
shall make a few observations. 

1. A helmeted male portrait, aaayqn for Allion, reading y for i 

as the fourth letter, an error not likely to have been com- 
mitted by a modem engraver, who would necessarily be 
on his guai-d against any blunder. This gem was un- 
doubtedly antique. Sard. Pulsky. 

2. A minute dancing faun, ayAOY in very small letters. Sard. 

Bobcke. For this gem 100 had been refused by the 

3. A head of Ceres, AYAOY in microscopic letters. Once in the 

Webb Collection, but doubtful. Rhodes. 

4. A Satyr surprising a sleeping Nymph. On a black and 

white Onyx, extremely minute and delicate work, in the 
exergue ACIIACIOY apparently antiqtie ; but the im- 
portance given to the inscription by the large size of the 
letters proves it to be the name of the owner. Ehodes. 

5. Magnificent front-face of a Bacchante. On a large pale 

Kuby, inscribed eaahn in the finest possible characters 
at the side. Bdocke. 

6. Fine bust of a Bacchante. Large Amethyst, inscribed 

NEAPKOS," probably the owner's name. Pulsky. I possess 
an excellent intaglio of Apollo Delphicus, on which is 
scratched in antique but unfinished letters X. NEA, 
appai'ently the same name abbreviated. 

7. A head of Neptune, front-face, QAOO perhaps for iSoIon, but 

doubtful. Emerald or fine Beryl. Ilerz. 

8. Bust of a Muse, inscribed AI02K0YPIA0Y in somewhat laiger 

letters than appear on the other gems from liis hand. 
Sard. Pulsky. The intaglio is certainly not equal in 

' Or, i>orliaps, an addition of some name would be sjiclt Noarco), lias 
Italian falsifier, who, misled by the thus blundered the name Nearchus. 
usa^ic of his own tongue (where the 

230 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

merit to what we might have expected from so famous an 
artist ; but the name gave it so high a value that it was 
purchased by Count Wickzay for 800 gold ducats.'" 
9. Bust, nearly full-faced, of a Koman, probably Mascenas. An 
admirable intaglio, very deeply cut. AnOAAONIOY in 
small neat characters indubitably antique. Jacinth. 
10. Naked Faun carrying a large vase on his shoulder and 
ascending a hill. Of the finest and most minute execution, 
in the exergue KOINOY in letters almost microscopic. 
Sard. Ehodes. Clarac assigns a Faun on Nicolo, in- 
scribed with the same name, to Natter.' 

Faun with Urn. Finest Greek Style. Sard, 


Taken partly from Vlsconti, ' Opere Varie,' II. 115. 

A catalogue of ancient gem-engravers, arranged according 
to their several epochs, would certainly form an extremely 
instructive and curious part of any treatise on this study ; but 
the difficulty of drawing it up with any sure foundation, based 
upon actual documents, or even upon plausible conjectures, 
surpasses all imagination. This difficulty arises, first, from 
the deficiency of notices left to us by ancient writers in this 

'^ 350/. probably been added by a modern 

^ This sard, however, is, as far as hand ; such, at least, is the opinion 

concerns the intaglio, an indubitably of a most experienced connoisseur, 

antique work of the best Grecian to whom the matter was referred, 
time, although the inscription has 


branch of the history of art, and from the absence of all 
clironological indications in the greater portion of the gems 
marked with their authors' names ; secondly, from the ancient 
practice of placing the original artist's name even upon copies 
from his works ; and lastly, from the actual forgery of these 
names a thing not uncommon among the ancients them- 
selves, but of the utmost frequency amongst the moderns. 

The intrinsic difficulty of the task is augmented by another 
and extrinsic one : that is to say, the want of all critical 
knowledge in the two archa3ologists, Stosch and Bracci, who 
have undertaken to collect and elucidate all gems bearing 
the artists' names. Such blind guides easily lead astray 
all who follow them with any degree of reliance upon their 

Materials for a critical history being so scarce and so un- 
certain, it will be the best plan to make but one class of the 
artists before the age of Alexander. Amongst these, Adnion 
can have no place, his name being written with the W of the 
form not used till after that epoch. The stiff manner of the 
Diana of Heius would make us regard him as anterior to the 
times of Praxiteles ; but the name HE102 may be read as a 
trisyllable Ecus, for if we suppose the first letter to be merely 
an aspirate, then we should not find the final 2 used, according 
to the analogy of the Athenian inscriptions of that date, and 
of certain legends on the medals of Philip. 

The oidy other engravers who have a right to appear in 
this division are I\Inesarchus, named as the father of Pytlia- 
goras an liistorical notice which also incidentally proves the 
high antiquity of this art, as, even at that early period, fiir- 
nisliing a distinct profession ; Thamyrus and Phrygillus, who 
sliow by tlie stiffness of tlieir style that they must have flou- 
rished before the age of Alexander. The characters , C, 

232 ART, STYLES OF. Skct. II. 

and to, used in the names of Aetion and Agathemerus, by 
their recent shape cause us to refer these two artists to more 
modern periods ; and the gem by Philemon, in the Vienna 
Collection, besides exhibiting the lunar-shaped sigma, C, in 
the name, has nothing whatever of the Archaic manner in its 

In the next period, from Alexander to Augustus, Visconti 
suspects that all the works signed with the name of Alexander 
are to be assigned to Alessandro II Greco, because the compo- 
sition of the design shows a certain departure from the antique 
manner. For instance, amongst other details, the kind of 
fillet that appears on the back of his lion is never seen in 
truly ancient works, except upon victims, and such the lion 
was not ; again, the abbreviation aaesan.e. for AXs^av^pos 
siToisi is without any precedent, and even contrary to the 
usage of those times ; and lastly, Vasari expressly mentions, 
amongst the works of Alessandro Cesati, a cameo of a child 
and a lion. 

Pamphilus and Pharnaces are of quite uncertain date ; nor 
is it probable that Polycletus of Sicyon was the author of the 
gem inscribed with that name, for his style as the pupil of 
Agelades, though correct, would still be somewhat stiff and 
exaggerated from his early date, anterior to Praxiteles. As 
however Pamphilus and Polycletus Avere equally famous tlie 
one in painting, the other in statuary it may be plausibly 
conjectured that the intagli inscribed with these names were 
copies of famous works by these masters, either pictures or 
bronze figures. The gem signed Apelles (falsely read Apsa- 
lus), might likewise be adduced in support of this theory. 

Gems bearing the name of Pyrgoteles may similarly be all 
doubted with justice ; and here an instance of a stone may be 
quoted, of incontestable antiquity, both as to the intaglio and 


the name upon it. It is a Carnelian found near Rome in 
1788 ; its subject, Hercules and the Hydra. The work was 
only mediocre ; it was consequently judged by Visconti to be 
an ancient copy of a gem by Pyrgoteles. It passed into the 
Trivulzi Cabinet at Milan. 

The age of Tryphon is fixed by the epigram of Addeus, a 
court-poet of the Ptolemies, already quoted under the head of 
" Beryl." 

Of the Roman period, all the artists must be classed to- 
gether from the times of Augustus to the commencement of 
the decline of art under Septimius Severus ; for here, unless 
the date of the work is fixed by its presenting historical por- 
traits, or else by notices of the artist in ancient writers, we 
are completely at a loss for other guides during the whole of 
this period ; for if we take the mere excellence of the work 
itself, as the ground to form our judgment upon, the intaglio 
head of Antoninus Pius, in the Museum Capo di Monte, is by 
no means inferior to the most finished portraits of the first 

In this same category ought likewise to be classed all the 
engravers having Roman names, such as Gna3us, tEHus, and 
Felix. Whatever may have been their native country, the 
excellence of their works ranks them in the Greek school, 
and they themselves adopt it as their own by signing their 
names in Greek letters and after the Greek fashion, omitting 
however that of their family ; but for this there was a suffi- 
cient cause. These artists were doubtless Greeks, and the 
freedmen of great nobles and of the emperors, whose family 
name they assumed, according to the invariable rule, on their 
manumission ; and hence wo may conclude that Gna)us flou- 
risliod under Pompey, -ZElius in the roign of Hadrian, and 
simikirly for the others who sign their Roman gentile names 
in Greek characters. Probably no woik of Dioscorides equals 

234 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

in sublimity the youthful Hercules of Gnaeus in the Strozzi 
Cabinet ; and this engraver, together witli Aulus, Quintus, and 
Lucius, must be numbered amongst the Greek artists of the 
same period. An antique paste of the Barbarini Collection has 
the inscription ayaoc aaesaeiioiei ; and hence we may con- 
clude him to be the brother of Quintus, who upon another 
gem also styles himself, after the Greek fashion, " son of 
Alexander." This latter name of Quintus is probably the 
KOIMOC given by a mistake of the reading of the signatm-e by 
Stosch and Bracei. Agathangelus is a false name added by 
a modern hand to an antique intaglio, according to Vettori, 
in his ' Dissertatio Glyptographica.' Agathopus and Epi- 
tynchanus also belong this class. There can be little doubt 
that these are the two persons bearing the same names de- 
scribed as " aurifices," or jewellers, in the sepulchral inscrip- 
tions of the household of Livia. Their epoch too is fixed by 
the intaglio head of Pompey the younger, on a gem in the 
Florentine Collection, engraved by Epitynchanus, and a 
cameo of Germanicus by Agathopus, belonging to the Strozzi. 
Probably a magnificent sard, the combat of JBellerophon with 
the Chimera, in the Azara Cabinet, signed Eni, is a work of 
the former engraver. I have also seen an admirable head of 
Germanicus on a very fine ruby-coloured Sard, also signed 
Eni. This gem was once in the collection of Beckford, and 
had all the appearance of antiquity. 

Of altogether uncertain date are Allien and Amphoterus ; 
for as to the portrait of Rhetemalces, ascribed to the latter, it 
is extremely uncertain whom it really represents. The same 
may be said of Ammonius and Onesas. Concerning ApoUbnius 
and Athenion we have no sure data, yet as no characters of the 
more recent form, such as the U), appear in their signatures, 
this consideration, coupled with the superiority of their works, 
would induce us to place both in the first times of the 


Roman empire.^ Aspasius also may be ranked among those 
of an uncertain but yet early period. Although his name is 
not engraved in such elegant characters as those of the two 
just mentioned, yet the fact of each of his three known works 
being executed in red Jasper would lead me to the same 
judgment; for assuredly the luxury of the Roman times 
would not have allowed such an artist to work in so common 
a stone as it had then become. 

As for Auliis, the variety both of manner and of merit 
observable even in the indisputably antique gems, signed 
with this name, must be assigned either to forgery, or else 
the name, even when genuine and antique, may have been 
added to ancient copies of his actual works. The best and 
most authentic of all his productions is the Strozzi head of 
Esculapius, a profile of sublime beauty, where the name 
appears on a tablet. Whoever compares this head with the 
other works bearing the same signature will find it difficult to 
persuade himself that they are all originals from the same 

Acmon is known to us by a single cameo, a portrait of 
Augustus, a profile laureated head upon an onyx of two 
layers, Sard and Sapphirine, in the De la Turbie Cabinet. 
The work of this cameo is executed with infinite freedom and 
facility, so as to appear done entirely by the hand and not by 
the wlieel a peculiarity observable in many other antique 
camei. The name akmqn is engraved beneath the bust. 
From his style he may be concluded a pu})il of Dioscorides. 

Cronius was apparently anterior to the times of Augustus, 
for it is probable that Pliny followed the chronological order 
in placing his name between that of Pyrgoteles, the contempo- 

- 'J'hc a;:o uf Apolkmiiis is tixcd So conuuon a iianio a^ Aulus 
by liis simiaturc on tlic iK>rtrait of was donbtlcsH lioriu' by diflVront art- 
Miccouas. ists and at diflVroat dates. 

236 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

rary of Alexander, and that of Dioscorides, the contemporary 
of xiugustus. The name of Cronius appears at the side of a 
standing figure of Terpsichore, a design afterwards repeated 
by Onesas and Allion, whence we may conclude that these 
two latter came later than Cronius ; unless indeed, which is 
very probable, the intagli of all three are but copies of some 
famous statue. 

Dioscorides is the most famous of all the ancient engravers. 
There is however a great variety in the style and in the 
merit of the gems distinguished by his name. Comparing 
together the impressions of the two Mercuries by him, any 
experienced eye will detect at once that they certainly are 
not productions of the same hand. The most admirable of 
all his works is the Head of lo, which cannot be reproduced 
exactly in the plaster-cast on account of the under-cutting of 
the nose, the intaglio being a three-quarter face. It is far 
superior, both in delicacy and correctness, to the Demosthenes 
by the same artist in the Piombino Cabinet. This last is 
upon a splendid Amethyst, but shows somewhat of stiffness 
and hardness in its manner. Both these intagli are much 
more deeply cut than is usual with antique gems, and differ 
in this respect from his " Diomede, master of the Palladium," 
which is in flat relief. It is however very probable that the 
difference of style observable in his works may arise from 
the distant periods of his professional life at which they were 
respectively executed : thus his Demosthenes may be set 
down as one of his earliest productions, for certainly there is 
a perceptible increase in freedom of touch between his por- 
trait of Julius Ca3sar and that of Maecenas, in which the 
elderly look of the latter would indicate the lapse of many 
years between the execution of the two, even if we allow, 
what was most probably the case, that the head of Julius 
was engraved during the last years of the Dictator, and for 


his special use as a private signet. The native countiy of 
Dioscorides is known from the inscription on the Minerva of 
the Prince di Avella at Naples, which runs thus : " Eutyches, 
son of Dioscorides of Aege, made this." This Aege was pro- 
bably the town of that name in Aeolia of Asia Minor.* 

Hyllus, known to us by his grand Dionysiac Bull, treated 
in a style similar to the type of the autonomous coins of 
Sybaris, may for this very reason be placed among the artists 
anterior to the Koraan empire. 

Of Antiochus the date is quite unknown. The Head of 
Sabina, ascribed to him by Bracci, does in reality read 
Antiochis, the name of the lady it represents. To the age of 
Septimius Severus we may safely assign Gauranus, Carpus, 
and Apelles, absurdly read Apsalus by Stosch. 

Amongst those earlier than the reign of Augustus we may 
reckon ApoUodotus, for liis style, though not altogether accu- 
rate, is yet of considerable simplicity ; Plutarchus, on account 
of the beauty of the characters of his signature on his cameo 
at Florence, a design also treated with considerable talent ; 
and Teucer, on account of the purity of his style. Caecas is but 
the false reading of Cascae, the owner's name. Lucius, from 
Ills name, belongs to imperial times. 

To return to Roman artists belonging to the Greek school. 

' Tliis form of tlie artist's signa- bear in mind the versatility of ge- 
tiirc iiiiou a goni is quite without nius of the okl artists, as well as 
jirecedont. Visconti appears to en- rare occurrence of the name; the 
teitain no doubt of its authenticity, same jieculiarity of spelling occurs 
but it seems to mc to have been sug- in this also as u|)on tlie gems, where 
gested to some Italian gem-imi)rover we always find Dioscourides, not 
by the inscription on the splendid Dioscorides. As the early mosaics 
mosaic found at I'ompeii in 17t)4, were principally composed of tesserae 
rei)rcsenting a comic scene, ' Dios- of hard stones, and not exclusively 
coridcs of Samos made this.' This of glass, like those of Byzantine date, 
picture is the very perfection of the there is a kind of relationship he- 
art of the mosaic worker, and may tween mosaic and the art of gem- 
be assigned with some confidence to engraving, by which he subsequently 
the great engraver himself if wo Ix^came illustrious. 

238 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

such as Quintus, Aulus, and Gnseus. The finest works of the 
last are his young Hercules, his Cleopatra, one in the Strozzi, 
the other in the Kircherian Collection at Rome. Both are 
examples of most exquisite skill. His Juno Lanuvina, or 
Head of Hercules covered with the liide of the Bull of Mara- 
thon, is indeed an antique intaglio, but the name Gnaeus is 
a forgery of Ant. Pikler. 

Of the period of the Lower Empire, the famous Sapphire of 
Constantius, published by Ducange, is now in the Rinuccini 
Cabinet at Florence. To this epoch must be assigned Chaere- 
mon, Phocas, Nicephorus, and Zosimus, if indeed the works 
bearing these names are originals, and not copies of more 
ancient gems. As for the names themselves, they aiford no 
argument as to the date of the artists, having been borne in 
the early as well as in the later times of Greece. 

The large size and beauty of the pieces of Sardonyx used 
for the Byzantine camei representing Scriptural subjects, is a 
proof that the decay of the empire had not rendered these 
stones more rare or more difficult to procure a fact con- 
firming the opinion that the supply of this material came 
from India, with which a very active trade was kept up during 
the whole period of the Greek empire. 

The Julius of Dicscorides. Ssird. 


These hidden treasures of the great National Collection, a 
portion of its contents so highly interesting and yet so little 


known, may be briefly noticed in this place, inasmuch as 
amongst them will be found some gems inscribed with the 
signature of the artist, which may be ranked amongst the 
finest in existence. The collection is small in point of 
numbers, consisting of about 500 rings and unset stones; 
tlie former arranged in five cases and mounted in gold, with 
some few in silver settings. They come from the bequests 
of Townley, Payne Knight, and Cracherode ; the collection 
of the latter containing indeed no work of very great im- 
portance, but still characterised throughout by his usual 
excellent taste in the selection of nothing but what is to be 
admired either for the elegance of the subject or the beauty 
of its execution ; or lastly, for the fine quality of the stone 
itself. For example, to take a single instance in this casket, 
an Emerald, engraved with a Cupid teasing a goose with a 
bunch of grapes, is' in every respect the most charming 
intaglio that can bo possibly imagined, and equally graceful 
is the Cupid mounted on a dolphin, cut on a fine Aqua- 

l>ut the Townley gems 'number in their ranks some half 
dozen intagli not to be surpassed by any in the most famous 
cabinets of Europe. First among these is the Julius Caesar 
of Dioscorides, a front-face portrait on Sard, the brows 
encircled with a laurel wreath (its leaves of unusual size) the 
face full of life and energy, but hard-featured, haggard, and 
expressed with all the unflattering fidelity of a photograph ; 
and cvidciutly taken but shortly before the close of his life. 
The name of Dioscorides is engraved at the side in the most 
minute and elegant characters, indubitably of the same time 
as the intaglio itself. Far superior to this in beauty of 
subject, though yielding to it in historical importance, is tlie 
front-face bust of an empress, probably Livia in the character 
of Abundantia, with veiled head, and holding a cornucopia 

240 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

It bears the letters Em, and therefore is witli little doubt 
from the hand of Epitynchanus, the author of the famous 
head of Germanicus, in the Paris Cabinet. The stone is a 
fine dark Amethyst. Perseus standing and holding the harpe 
in one hand, in the other the Gorgon's head, upon a large 
Sard, is a figure of careful and minute finish. Of Aspasius we 
find here two works: the first, a full-face of the bearded 
Bacchus on red Jasper, very deeply cut, and of the most 
vigorous execution ; the name inscribed in small neat letters 
across the breast of the bust. The work is worthy of the age 
of Augustus ; still there is something in the aspect of the 
stone itself that appears to tell against its antiquity. The 
other intaglio by the same artist, representing an Athenian 
warrior supporting a dying Amazon, her shield and battle-axe 
cast on the ground, is an exquisite design of high finish, upon 
Amethyst. A full -face portrait of a young man (apparently 
one of the family of Augustus) by Aelius, upon a Sard, is an 
admirable work, both for expression and execution, and 
undoubtedly antique. Cupid advancing to the rescue of 
Psyche caught by the foot in a trap, engi-aved by Pamphilus 
on a most splendid ruby coloured Sard, is a lovely compo- 
sition, but is either the work of some eminent Italian artist 
of modern times, or else the stone has been re-polished ; for 
it certainly does not present an antique surface. There is 
also an intaglio by Ileius ; the work, though antique, is by no 
means of the archaic style characterising the famous Diana 
by the same artist, which Visconti considered to be the 
oldest gem in existence inscribed with the engraver's name. 
Heius however was a common name among the Sicilian 
Greeks, and may have been borne by more artists than one, 
and at different dates. A head of a laughing faun (strongly 
resembling the portrait of John Wilkes), a face beaming with 
mirth and mischief, by Ammonius, whose signature, cut in 


the finest characters and close to the edge of the gem, is 
almost imperceptible, closes this list of inscribed intagli. 
The Jacinth, on which beams forth this embodiment of fun 
and frolic, is the most splendid stone of the kind for colour 
and lustre that has ever come in my way. 

Many also of the uninscribed intagli are equal to any of 
the above in artistic merit. Worthy of special notice 
amongst these, is a sacred hawk, on Sard, in the Greco- 
Egyptian style, and though of smaller size, by no means 
inferior in execution to the famous gem of the same subject 
in the Berlin Cabinet, an intaglio always quoted as the 
masterpiece of that period of the art. Another, of the 
highest interest to numismatists, is a Sard engraved with the 
human-headed bull with the legend teaas in the field, done 
in a very ancient manner, and exactly resembling the type 
of the early coins of that city. A Medusa's head in profile is 
of uncommon merit. A female sacrificing to Priapus is 
equally remarkable for the beauty of the execution, and for 
the singularity of the design. This part of the collection 
also boasts of many fragments of gems of extraordinary 
dimensions, and still preserving portions of engi-avings whose 
wonderful beauty only serves to make us the more feel the 
irreparable loss of the entire work. I may single out for 
particular mention a large brown Sardonyx, bearing the 
lower portion of an exquisite female profile, backed by a head 
of Ammon, which has apparently formed the neck-piece of 
the helmet originally covering the head of the goddess ; a 
work in very flat relief, and of the best Greek period. 
Anotlier preserves a portion of the portrait of Caracalla, of 
the size of his largest medallions, and most characteristic and 
life-like in the expression of his truculent physiognomy. 

The collection is also peculiarly rich in Gnostic gems, most 
of the finest examples that have been published at various 
times (many of them of a degree of excellence in point of art 




Skct. II. 

far beyond any that 1 had met with elsewhere), liaving 
gradually found their way from different cabinets into this 
haven of unbroken rest. Of these, as Avell as of that rarest 
class of them all, the intagli of orthodox Christian origin, 
a detailed notice will be made under the proper heads. 

The scarabei lilvcwise are of especial interest, both for sub- 
jects and materials ; as regards the latter point, may be noticed 
one quite unique, being formed out of a Carbuncle of the 
most perfect quality, and hardly to be distinguished from the 
finest Euby. 

Hydraulis. Plasma. 

As for gems still retaining their antique settings this 
collection cannot be matched by any in ]^]urope : it certainly 
surpasses in this department those of the Ufifizi and of the 
Museo Borbonico. Here too, in accordance with the general 
rule, the artistic merit of the gem is, in most instances, in the 
inverse ratio to the value and singularity of the mounting. 
One remarkable exception however must here be noted, a 
magnificent intaglio of Hercules slaying the Hydra, very 
deeply cut on a rich Sard, and set in a massy gold ring, of 
the form fasliionable during the Lower Empire. Another 
intaglio of very line work is to be seen set in a broad 
bordered oval brooch, the surface of which is ornamented 
with filigree arabesques in the most elegant Greek taste. 
This unique example of the employment of an intaglio as the 
decoration of a fibula was discovered in Sicily ; and both the 
intaglio and its setting are evidently coeval, and date from 
the most flourishing times of Syracusan art. The wonderful 
lion-ring of tlie Princess di Canino, tlio masterpiece of the 


Etruscan goldsmith, has lately been added to the list of these 
treasures. I observed also a large and massy gold signet 
with the device cut upon the metal, an imdoubtedly authentic 
instance of this much-forged class of antiques. Here also 
is preserved one of the most tasteful adaptations of an 
antique gem to mediaeval usages that has ever come under 
my notice : a pretty bust on Sard, set in a gracefully shaped 
ring of the fourteenth century, as appears from the Lombardic 
legend surrounding the bizzel and covering the shank. Some 
astrological emblems introduced upon the shoulders of the 
ring plainly indicate its Italian origin. 

The Camei of this collection although presenting none 
of great importance for their volume, have yet several in 
their number that deserve notice on account of their beauty 
and their authenticity. Amongst these may be pointed out 
as worthy of special consideration a head of Serapis, a front- 
face, in half relief; profile portraits of Domitian and Julia 
side by side ; and a fragment of an Europa on the Bull. 
This last, together with the two horses, the remains of a 
victory in a biga, surpass in spirited design and delicate 
execution any antique works of this class that I have ever 
examined. Another, a lion passant cut in low relief out of 
the red layer of a Sardonyx, a highly finished work of the 
best period of the art, has its value still further enhanced by 
tlie letters lavr med. engraved upon the field; showing 
that it had once formed pai*t of the collection of Lorenzo dei 
IMedici. The stone, set in a ring, has its surface covered by a 
glass like that of a watch, to protect it from injury : a proof 
of the value set upon it by its first possessor. A gold snuff 
box, presented by Pius YII to Napoleon at Tolentino, has the 
lid set with an excellent antique cameo in flat relief on a 
beautiful Onyx of several layers ; the subject, a young faun 
ridhig on a goat, and expressed with much spirit and minute- 
ness. This precious antique was doubtless selected to adorn 

R 2 

244 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

the presentation box, as being held far superior in value to 
the diamonds usually employed to ornament gifts of this 
description. The number of loose scarabei of all varieties, 
which unfortunately my time did not allow of my examining, 
is very large, and is said to include many of the greatest 
interest both for subject and for workmanship. The Baby- 
lonian Cylinders, as might be expected in the Museum of the 
nation par-eminence of Oriental travellers, form the most 
complete and extensive collection as yet made of that class of 
engraved stones ; and the same may be said of the Indian and 
Persian stone seals lately displayed in the gallery containing 
the antique glass. I also looked with much interest mingled 
with amusement at the famous Flora, the Cameo which first 
brought Pistrucci into notice, having been palmed off upon 
Payne Knight and the first cognoscenti of his day as one of 
the finest productions of ancient G-reek art. It speaks little 
for the practical knowledge of these collectors that they 
should have been thus imposed on by this head ; for the very 
first view of it would now cause it to be referred at best to no 
earlier epoch than that of tlie Cinque-Cento school. The face, 
broken off at the neck ^ to augment the colom- of antiquity, 
is very much under-cut, so as to be in three-quarters relief, 
and the hair adorned with a garland of red roses, in execrable 
taste and clearly stamping the date of its execution. In 
other respects the work is fair enough, but certainly not 
superior to the ordinary run of the camei of the Italian 
Renaissance ; and infinitely below the expectations I had 
formed of so highly lauded a performance. 

It were much to be desired that at least the camei, together 
with the intagli on opaque stones accompanied by their casts 
in plaster of Paris might be exhibited in the public part of 

" On this section of the neck setting, so as to be able at pleasure 
Pistrucci is said to have engraved to claim the authorship of the 
his name, which is concealed by the work. 


the Museum, arranged under glass and close to its surface, as 
is done in the Bibliotheque Imperiale. The work on the 
transparent stones, it is true, cannot be well examined unless 
the light be suffered to pass tln-ough them by an arrangement 
for raising the cases in which they are fixed similar to that 
adopted in the Museum at Naples, where, by turning a screw, 
the trays can be raised or lowered so as to admit the light at 
any angle required for the examination of the cutting. If 
this, however, should be impracticable here from the want of 
side Avindows in the public galleries, all amateurs would be 
well content with the opportunity of inspecting these gems 
merely ranged horizontally beneath the eye, if at the same 
time provided with their impressions in plaster. 

Mention may here be made of the Townley Pastes, amongst 
which are some of the largest and most important examples 
known of pieces of this kind ; one quite unique, inscribed with 
the artist's name, and the Bonus Eventus already noticed, so 
remarkable for its dimensions and the excellence and pecu* 
liarity of its workmanship. These have lately been exposed 
to the public view amongst the other specimens of antique 
glass, and thus furnish an additional argument why their 
more important prototypes in real gems should be draAvn 
from the obscurity in which they have been so long buried 
that is to say, ever since the removal of the last portions of 
the former IMontague House, up to which time the cases 
might be seen under glass in the room at the top of the back 
stairs leading up to the old apartments of that mansion. 

Capid r.-K;.uo4 1 syclie : by i'ainpliilus Sard. 



Sect. II. 

Hermes making Lyr 


This Collection was formed by William the third Duke of 
Devonshire, during the first half of the last century; and, 
augmented in its descent to the present possessor, now num- 
bers upwards of five hundred gems, including some of the 
finest antiques, both in cameo and in intaglio, as yet known 
to the world. From this treasure, eighty-eight gems of the 
most beautiful in material and the most interesting in sub- 
ject, were selected by Mr. Hancock (whom I have to thank 
for the permission to make a careful examination of the 
suite), and mounted (with a delicacy of taste only surpassed 
by the skill of the workmanship) in a complete set of orna- 
ments, to be worn, for the first time, by the Countess of 
Granville, lady of the English ambassador, at the coronation 
of the present Emperor of llussia. This parure consists of 
seven ornaments ; a Comb, a Bandeau, a Stomacher, a 
Necklace, a Diadem, a Coronet, and a Bracelet. The 
setting is an admirable reproduction of the elaborately 
artistic style of the French Renaissance, most carefully 
enamelled, and enriched with brilliants. The " motive," to 
speak technically, of the whole design, was the original frame 
of the portrait of Queen Elizabeth, executed by her own 


jfiweller Hilliard, uow forrniuf^ the chief ornament (quite 
in its pristine state) of the Diadem, into which it has been 
introduced without the slightest alteration. The other stones, 
f am informed, were all loose when selected to be employed 
in carrying out this most fortunate idea. It was justly 
observed at the time, " that Moore's oft quoted line, 

' Rich and rare were the gems she wore,' 

never had a closer application than to the matchless parure 
worn by the lady of our ambassador at the recent coronation 
at Moscow. While others were vieing in the splendour of 
their jewels, in which the Russian imperial, princely, and 
noble families are very rich, none attracted so much atten- 
tion as the Countess of Granville, whose parure was the 
triumph of art over mere material wealth. Others displayed 
a perfect blaze of diamonds, but it was for the English lady 
to assert a higher splendour ; and if their jewels were the 
more costly, hers were positively priceless. For while lost 
diamonds may be rei)laced, each of these fine gems is unique, 
and so far has the gem-engraver's art been lost, that there 
exists no artist who could produce anything to compare with 
the choice works of the Cinque-Cento period, much less with 
the higher and more unattainable excellence of tlie best 
times of ancient Greek or Eoman art. It was a happy 
thought of the Duke to have had constructed, out of this rich 
store of art-treasures, a suite of personal decorations fit for 
the adornment of queen or empress. To any one who has 
not seen these exquisite ornaments, the impression likely to 
be conveyed by imagining a series of cameos combined in 
a necklace for instance is, that it would be somewhat mono- 
tonous and heavy. Nothing can be farther from tlie fact ; 
and we were especially gratified with three of its features, 
the admirable harmony with diversity of colour giving a 

248 Airr, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

peculiarly soft and mellow tone to the ensemble, the agree- 
able forms of contour selected, and the exceedingly light and 
elegant mountings, wholly free from heaviness or dullness of 

I shall now proceed to make a few remarks upon the most 
important of these gems, following the order in which they 
are numbered in the descriptive catalogue. 

The Comh. No. 2 is a small and delicately worked cameo, 
Head of Leander : an early work ; probably Greek. 

No. 4. A portrait of Charles I., interesting as a specimen 
of the decline of the newly revived art, and very rare. 

No. G. A large cameo ; bold antique work ; a Centaur 
bearing a Bacchante gn his back. 

No. 7. The principal ornament of this piece is the famous 
portrait intaglio of Sapor, on a beautiful Amethyst of un- 
common dimensions ; the finest relic in existence of later 
Persian art. The monarch appears with the usual stern 
expression of face seen in all the Persian regal portraits, his 
beard elaborately curled, liis hair falling in long ringlets, 
and his head covered with a tiara edged with pearls. Around 
run two lines of well cut Pehlevi letters. 

No. 8 is one of the finest camei of the collection : a Faun 
balancing liis youngster on his right foot. The attitudes of 
the pair most natural, and the anatomical forms rendered 
with the greatest knowledge and exactness. This is to all 
appearance a work of the Greek period. The design is cut 
in the white stratum upon a dark ground. 

The Bandeau. Of this the central ornament is the far- 
famed work of Dioscorides, known as " The Diomede, master 
of the Palladium." The hero appears seated, with one leg 
extended, and contemplating the statue placed on a cippus 
before him. The intaglio, on a large red Sard, is in some- 
what shallow relief, and ceiiainly not equal in merit to the 


portraits by the same engraver. The signature of the artist 
is, however, antique beyond all suspicion ; and for this 
historical recommendation (another instance of the value of 
a name), the stone was purchased, it is said, for 1000^. by 
the founder of the collection. The characters are extremely 
minute and well-formed, agreeing with those inscribed on 
his portraits of Julius Ca3sar and of Maecenas. Probably 
from the exaggerated idea one had conceived beforehand of 
the transcendent excellence of this artist from the siglit of 
his heads (in which doubtless his forte lay), the first view of 
this group is rather disappointing, although had it been 
nameless it would present much to admire. 

To keep fitting company with this most precious antique, 
the other stones mounted in the bandeau have been selected 
from those the most valuable in material of the whole 
number employed. They are Oriental precious stones of 
uncommon beauty, and are rather lessened than enhanced in 
value by the work upon them, which (in accordance with the 
usual rule) is always found the best on the cheapest stones, 
when these are truly of antique date. 

No. 8. A Sapphire of the most perfect quality, with a 
head of Augustus ; a very deep intaglio, and apparently good 
work of his period, certainly the finest stone of the kind I 
have ever seen engraved upon. 

And the same remark as to the quality of the stone will 
apply to No. 11, a superb Emerald of extraordinary magni- 
tude. It is cut into a full-faced Medusa's Head, in very high 
relief, and is probably of Homan work. Nothing is more 
difficult than to decide upon the antiquity of this class of 
caniei in the precious stones, the surfaces of which bid 
defiance to the clianges wrought by time in all the varieties 
of the quartz si)ecies : but in this instance, besides the 
extreme grandeur of the treatment and boldness of the lines, 

250 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

it is hardly probable that any artist of the Renaissance would 
have obtained from his patron an Emerald of such high in- 
trinsic value (incomparably higher then than now), merely as 
a material on which to display his skill, however great might 
have been his reputation at the court of the Pope or Medici 
of the period. 

Nos. 12 and 14 are two Plasmas or Prases of Roman work ; 
one an intaglio of Serapis, the other of Venus Victrix. They 
have probably been introduced for their colour's sake, being 
fine specimens of that gem, and little inferior to the Emerald. 

No. 15. A head of Silenus, full-face, on Jacinth, in very 
high relief ; a very spirited work, and the gem of the very 
finest quality for tint and brilliancy. 

No. 14. An intaglio, head of a youth, very deeply cut on 
a pale octagonal Sapphire, is apparently an interesting 
example of the style of the Lower Empire. 

But No. 17 may claim the reputation of being the most 
valuable intaglio, as far as its material is concerned, that 
graces any cabinet of gems. It is a perfect Ruby of the 
most delicious cerise colour, weighing, as nearly as can be 
judged by the eye, three carats, and consequently of enor- 
mous value as a precious stone. The Venus and Cupid 
engraved upon it are deeply cut in the usual style of middle 
Roman work, but the figures are of very mediocre execution, 
and by no means compensate for the damage done to the 
Ruby, in its character of an ornamental jewel, by the excision 
of so mucli of its beauteous surface. The corresponding 
stone. No. 9 (at the other extremity of the bandeau), is also 
a Ruby, but of very inferior quality, yet the intaglio it bears, 
a Faun's Head, is greatly superior to this in point of art, and 
of much earlier date. 

In the Stomacher the gems most deserving of attention 
(where all is good) are, 


No. 23. A cameo, white ou a dirk ground, a Eoman 
Emperor seated on a throne, by the side of a female com- 
pletely veiled, and presenting a sword to a warrior standing 
before liim. This group is usually explained as representing 
Tiberius and Drusus, which, however, does not account for 
the introduction of the veiled lady. A more probable con- 
jecture of its meaning is that the investiture of Tiberius 
with the tribunician power by his stepfather Augustus, in the 
presence of Livia (who always appears veiled in her portraits), 
is here expr(!ssed. iVs a work of art nothing can exceed this 
cameo in accurate drawing and delicate finish. The figures 
are kept in flat relief. 

No. 24. A profile of Alexander ; white, on a pmkish ground, 
in flat relief, and of a stylo nearly coeval with his times. 

No. 25. An Europa carried upon the Bull, preceded and 
followed by Tritons sounding their conchs ; at her feet are 
dolphins, and in the rear are two Cupids, one seated on a 
dolphin and carrying a crown ; in the background is a very 
elaborate landscape ; all the figures are a pure white on a dark 
ground. This cameo is a masterpiece of the Cinque-Cento 
school in its fullest perfection ; admirable in composition, 
and exquisitely finished in every part : it is, in fact, a pictiu*e 
worked out in an Onyx, and bears no resemblance in its 
treatment to the simplicity of antique works in the same 

No. 2() is a very large intaglio of JMars, in I.apis-lazuli of 
the finest colour, apparently a work of the Ixenaissance. 

No. 2i). Head of IMinerva, the helmet ornamented with 
the group of Leda and tlie Swan, of which the wings form 
the crest of the helmet. A work full of the grotesque vigour 
of the Florentine Cinque-Cento, and cut on a remarkably 
beautiful Onyx, the brown and white layers of which have 
Iteeu employed with the greatest skill, and produce a verv 

252 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

striking effect, so that this cameo arrests the eye before any 
of the other more important gems mounted in this ornament. 

No. 30. A seated figure of Clotho with her distaff; a 
cameo in high relief, and the body, completely nude, most 
exquisitely modelled in the white stratum upon the dark 
ground of an Onyx ; this is evidently an antique of the 
Grecian period. 

No. 31. A large Sard intaglio, Ganymede feeding the 
Eagle, is good Eoman work, on a splendid stone remarkable 
for its size and richness of colour. 

The NecMace is composed of twenty-one gems, set in 
separate collets, and suspended from a plaited gold-chain, in 
such a manner that a pair of intagli of a red colour (Sards 
or Garnets) hang between each cameo, so as to afford the 
required contrast of tints. Amongst these intagli I noticed 
some apparently of exquisite work, and fine Greek gems. 
The camei, more easily examined than these, of which the 
delicate mounting renders the taking impressions impossible, 
present the following interesting gems. 

No. 36. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth, white on a dark 
ground; the hair, edges of the ruff, and ornaments on the 
dress, are rendered in a brown layer. This is ascribed, with 
justice, to Coldore, and is quite in the style of the latest 
Cinque-Cento camei, the bust being in high relief, and the 
projections very much rounded off and polished. 

No. 39. A Venus and Satyr, of the Cinque-Cento, a very 
beautiful Onyx, the pinky layers of whicli have been used 
with great effect for the flesh of the figures. 

No. 41. A Venus Victrix ; a beautiful antique. 

No. 42. Portrait of Tiberius, forming the centre of the 
necklace. A fine Roman gem : the head is white on a dark 
ground ; the laurel wreath, and the border surrounding the 
cameo, are brown ; outside the border is an Arabic inscription, 


with the name of Alnaser Abu Saaclal Mahammed, a Mam- 
luk prince of Cairo about 1496. 

No. 48, a most interesting cameo, is a portrait of 
Edward VI., full face, in flat relief, white on a dark ground, 
the cap and dress brown. The work is very delicate, and 
the Sardonyx one of the finest quality. The reverse has the 
same portrait in intaglio. 

No. 51, another excellent Cinque-Cento work, is IMutius 
Scaevola brought before Porsenna. The group consists of 
the king, Scsevola, and two warriors, and is cleverly executed 
in white on a dark ground. 

Of the Diadem, also set with twenty-one stones, intagli and 
camei, the most attractive are, 

No. 57. A cameo bust, white on a dark ground, of Queen 
Elizabeth, still set in tlie original enamelled locket, and 
containing, at the back, two much faded miniatures, by 
Hilliard, of tlie queen and of the Earl of Leicester, There is 
little doubt that this ornament was worn by the queen her- 
self. The cameo is as usual ascribed to Valerie Belli, II 
Vicentino ; who, by the way, died in 1546, or twelve years 
before ]:]lizabeth's accession, and who besides never was in 
England. It is very likely to be a work of Coldore, who is 
known to have executed portraits of Elizabeth for his master 
Henry IV. ; for its treatment is altogether in the style of 
his period, not in the early and stiff manner of II Vicentino's 

No. 63, the principal or centre-piece of the diadem, may 
rank as one of the most beautiful antique camei in existence. 
The subject is a Victory in her car, and rarely has an Onyx 
of so fine a quality had all its ca])abilitios brouglit into 
employment with such exquisite skill. Victory herself is 
formed in the blue stratum, her drapery in the brown ; one 
of the horses is of a bluish tiuge, the other brown and white 

254 ART, STYLES OF. Rkct. II. 

with the mane blue. The work is in very flat relief, so as 
to take advantage of the extreme tenuity of the coloured 
strata of the stone ; and is, besides, of so smooth and polished 
a surface, as to produce the effect of enamels fused upon a 
dark ground, rather than that of a design worked out of so 
obdurate a substance. On the back of the Onyx a Cinque- 
Cento artist has engraved a Eiver god, the Arno ; a clever 
performance, and affording a usefid comparison, as regards 
its treatment and mechanical execution, with the matchless 
Greek work on the other foce of the stone. This gem also 
retains its enamelled Florentine setting. 

No. 66, admirable for its historic interest, rarity, and 
workmanship, represents busts of Henry VIII. and his three 
children ; worked out in the flat and minute manner of the 
early portrait camei already treated of. The king is re- 
presented in full face, a most characteristic likeness ; his 
children in profile. The figures are in white on a dark 
ground, the ornaments of the caps and dresses in brown, 
according to the usual practice of this early school. It would 
be highly interesting to ascertain if any Italian artist, capable 
of executing so excellent a performance, ever visited England 
in this reign ; or if these portraits were done after miniatures 
transmitted by Henry to Paris or to Florence.^ 

Of the intagli set in the diadem, three are heads of 
Socrates, one of Greek the others of Roman work, showing 
how plentiful were the portraits of this philosopher in every 
age of the ancient world. 

The Coronet is made up of smaller gems, principally intagli. 
The camei introduced are all Heads, generally finely finished 
and antique performances, of which the best is the bust of 

^ At present tlie l^oman cameo- for brooches, bracelets, &c., after plio- 
cutters, Saoliiii for example, produce tographic likenesses sent to tlicm as 
very faitliful portrait-camei in aliell models from distant countries. 


Clytie, No. 74, One intaglio deserves particular notice, a 
Head of Hercules on Lapis-lazuli, No. 79, a gem of the best 
Roman style, but which, at a later period, has been converted 
into an amulet, by engraving on the reverse a scarabeus and 
the sacred name abpa2A3, as was common in the fifth century. 
The front of the Bracelet is set with tliree red stones. Of 
these the centre one is a Carbuncle of extraordinary size, and 
of the richest coloiu*, but engraved, in the usual rude Roman 
manner of the work in this material, with a Muse tuning her 
lyre. At each side are Cinque-Cento busts in half relief on 
smaller stones, one a Carbuncle the other a Sard, selected 
for their beauty of colour, and which harmonise admirably 
with the magniticent centre gem. 

Roma holding ;i torqviea. Spotted Sard. 



]\rany of the flnc^st gems of the Cabinet des Antiques liave 
been in Franco from tim(> immemorial ; or at least the dates 
at whicli thoy wen^ brought, and the names of the persons 

250 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. IT. 

to whom they are due, are still subjects of dispute. The 
greatest portion of them proceed from the munificence of the 
various kings of France, and from the travels undertaken at 
their command ; others were presents made to themselves, 
and given by them to the public : many also are the fruits of 
conquest. St. Louis, as well as others of the Crusader princes, 
brought back some of them from the East. The covers of 
their ]\Iissals, and of their choice MSS., were adorned Avith 
them, a few of which are still preserved. Charles V., and his 
brother the Due de Berri, were passionately fond of jewels, 
and their treasuries were extremely rich both in engraved 
gems and in precious stones, as may be seen from the curious 
inventory of the jewels of Charles V., existing in the 
Bibliotheque Royale. Francis I., to whom France owes 
so many masterpieces of antique sculpture (procured by his 
orders in Italy through his agents Primaticcio and Cellini), 
and who, as Vasari phrases it, had made another Rome of 
Fontainebleau, drew also out of Italy and other countries 
an immense number of engraved gems, for which he paid 
vast prices. Thus the taste for them w^as diffused amongst 
his courtiers : they adorned the arms, the chains, the caps, 
the doublets of the warriors, and served for the embellish- 
ment of the dresses of the ladies of the court and of the 
nobility. Henri II. and Catherine dei Medici followed the 
example of Francis I. ; and the latter queen had brought 
with her from Florence a quantity of fine engraved stones. 
It was Charles IX. who first united them in one collection 
in the Louvre, and formed there the Cabinet of Antiquities, 
which, having been plundered and dispersed shortly ,fter, 
was no longer in existence at the accession of Henri IV. 
This great prince re-established it; he summoned from 
Provence a learned antiquary, M. de Bigarris, with the 
intention of purchasing the large collection of medals and 


gems made by this amateur, in order to unite it to the 
remains of the former royal collection at Fontainebleau, 
where the royal library was then kept. This design was 
postponed in consequence of the death of this prince, and 
was not resumed until the reign of Louis XIV. His uncle, 
Gaston d'Orleans, had bequeathed him his own collection, 
including, amongst other antiquities, a considerable niunber 
of gems coming partly from that of the president De Memes, 
a selection out of the two thousand engraved stones got to- 
gether by Louis Chaduc in Italy. This cabinet was at first 
deposited in the Louvre ; Colbert, in 1664, replaced it in the 
Bibliotlieque Royale. Louis XIV. purchased antique gems 
from all quarters, including the collection of Gualdi, and 
that formed in the East by M. de jMonceaux. Louvois, in 
1684, removed the cabinet of gems and medals to Versailles, 
and appointed M. de Carcavy keeper of it. Louis XIV. 
often amused himself with tlie examination of these treasures, 
and added to them the collections of M. de Harlai, of M. 
Oursel, and of Thomas le Comte. M, de Rainssant, keeper 
of the cabinet at Versailles, also made some important 
additions to the number ; and this care, after his death, was 
followed up by Oudinet, deceased 1712, Simon (1719), and 
afterwards by C. de Boze. Towards the end of the seventeenth 
century Louis XIV. had made the purchase of the splendid 
collection of Lauthier of Aix, in Provence, formed with great 
taste, and under the direction of the learned Peiresc, whose 
own gems Lautliier had purchased. Now also I^ouis XIV. 
bought the cabinet of Bagarris, formerly treated for by 
Henri IV., as already noticed. 'J'he famous signet of M. 
Angolo belonged to tlie Lauthier Collection. The various 
travels, in tlie interest of science, of Nointel, Lucas, De la 
Croix, and Vaillant, all undertaken at the expense of this 
sovereign, and at an enormoiis cost, greatly contributed to 


258 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

enrich the Cabinet of Antiquities. It was still further 
augmented by the purchase of the medals of Pellerin in 
1775 ; by the bequest of the collection of Caylus, and by the 
acquisition of those of Fourcault ; and by the union of that 
of St. Genevieve in 1796. The total number of the gems is 
1388, thus classified : 

634 Intagli, of v^^hich 160 are heads; 474 various subjects. 

139 Camel of the Greek School : 66 heads ; 73 various subjects. 

58 Camel of the Eoman : 51 heads ; 7 various subjects. 

172 Modern Intagli (suspected) : 99 heads; 73 subjects. 

33 Modern Intagli : 12 heads; 21 subjects. 

93 Camel, supposed modem, of Roman portraits. 

63 Camel, subjects from modern history. 

16 Camel of devotional subjects. 

57 Camel of various subjects. 

9 Mediaeval Camel : 2 heads ; 7 various subjects. 

Amongst these the names present themselves of the 
engravers, Dioscorides, Evodus, Glycon, Gnaeus, Hyllus, 
j\Iidias, Pamphilus, Panaeus, Aulus (the last modern). The 
intagli of this cabinet are distinguished for the beauty of the 
material as much as by the variety of their subjects. Many 
of them hold the first rank among antique engraved gems, 
such are the Achilles Citharedus of Pamphilus, the 
Dionysiac Bull of Hyllus, the Julia Titi of Evodus, formerly 
belonging to St. Denis, and the signet of IM. Angelo. And 
as regards camei, nothing can be cited as surpassing in 
volume of the stone and in excellence of workmanship the 
following : the Apotheosis of Augustus (known as the Agate 
of the Sainte-Chapelle, brought to France by Baldwin XL in 
1244) ; the Apotheosis of Germanicus, which came from 
Constantinople, and Avas treasured for seven hundred years 
in the convent of St. Evre at Tours, until presented to 
Louis XIV. in 1084; the Augustus, the Annius Verus, the 


Jupiter of the cathedral of Chart-res, and the vase of Sar- 
donyx, designated as the vase of Ptolemy, or of St. Denis. 


The immense collection of Berlin (by far the largest 
existing) is formed out of the united cabinets of the Elector 
of Brandenburg, of the Margrave of Anspach, of Stosch (in 
number 3544 stones and pastes, purchased by Frederick 
the Great for 30,000 ducats), of Bartoldy (entirely antique 
pastes), and of later acquisitions, forming the enormous total 
of 4490 stones and 848 pastes. Of these are classified 3634, 
being the intagli alone, as follows : 

1. Egyptian and Oriental : gems 165 ; pastes 31. 

2. Etruscan and Early Greek : gems 151 ; pastes 30. 

3. Greek and Roman lieligion : gems 1141 ; pastes 355. 

4. Monuments, heroes: gems 263; pastes 172. 

5. Historical subjects : gems 190 ; pastes 70. 

6. Ancient domestic life : gems 138 ; pastes 71. 

7. Arms, vases, instruments, masks : gems 297 ; pastes 66. 

8. Animals: gems 316; pastes 47. 

9. Inscriptions, Abraxas: gems 125; pastes 6. 

Of these 31() gems and 115 pastes present heads, and 2470 
gems and 733 pastes, various subjects. Amongst them occur 
the artists' names of Agathangelus, Agathopus, Alexa- 
Apollonides, Aulus, Craterus, Diodes, Diodorus, Deuton, 
Gnaous, Hellcnus, Ilermaiscus, Hyllus, Seleucus, Solon. 

The finest gems, to the number of 1100, are mounted in 
gold, the rest in silver. Of stones retaining their antique 
settings there are ()5, twenty-five of which are rings. Set in 
silver antique rings are 9, in bronze 15, in iron 26, in lead 1. 
By the side of eadi intaglio is placed a cast from it in plaster, 
the only mode of facilitating the study of the beauties or 
defects of an engraving when it can only be examined, but 

s 2 



Sect. II. 

uot be taken in the hand. From Berlin this plan was 
introduced into the collection of the Bibliotheque at Paris. 


The collection commenced by Lorenzo grew up under the 
patronage of the succeeding princes of the Medici family, 
especially of Cosmo III., until it has attained the number, 
according to Maffei, of nearly three thousand gems. Besides 
many camei of rare beauty, it possesses 14 heads or busts 
in full relief, in Turquois, Agate, Sardonyx, and Lapis-lazuli. 
The names, supposed of artists, occur on 23 intagli and 2 

Gori, in the 'Museum Florentinum,' has described 1010 
intagli and 181 camei, of those most valuable for art or 
subject in this collection. 

Hercules and tbe Stymphalian Birdp. 


The Strozzi Cabinet contained, says Yisconti, a larger 
number of first-class works than any other of the same nature. 
Amongst them was the Hercules of Gnaeus, the Medusa of 
Solon, that of Sosthenes, the Esculapius of Aulus, the Ger- 
manicus of Epitynclianus, the Muse of Allien, and the Satyr 
of Scylax ; and many others without names but of the very 
highest merit. This cabinet was attached, by the will of its 
founder, to the Palazzo Strozzi at Rome, whence it could not 


be removed without the penalty of forfeiture. It is now 
dispersed, but the best gems have passed into the Blacas 
Collection. The Ludovisi gems, belonging to the Prince di 
Piombino, include many of great value, both antique and 
Cinque-Cento works, but its chief glory is the Demosthenes 
of Dioscorides. A set of casts of 68 of the finest are procur- 
able at Rome. 

The Cavalier Azara, Spanish minister, possessed (1796) a 
collection formed by himself at great cost and with much 
intelligence, and rich in many camei and intagli, valuable 
either for instruction or for their workmanship. 

The Vatican Collection, though accumulated more by means 
of chance acquisitions than by selection, includes many 
examples of gems of great volume and of excessive rarity. 
'I'he catalogue prepared by Visconti for publication, but un- 
fortunately lost, filled two folio volumes, which may give an 
idea of the great riches of this collection, access to which is 
so difficult to be obtained that few visitors of the Vatican are 
aware of its existence. 


(I'riiiciimlly abiidgod from Marictto, ' Pierros Gravees,' I. 1 14.) 

The earliest artist in this line, mentioned by Vasari, is 
Giovanni delle Carniole^ who worked at Florence, under the 
patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici, in the latter quarter of 
the fifteenth century. His masterpiece was a head of Fra 
Savonarola, cut upon a large Camelian.' 

Domcnico dei Camei had engraved at Milan a portrait of 

'' Mil-tons -Schaafliausen Collec- of the time of the Medici. Hieron. 
tiou, I^. 180, Carnelian. Bust of a Savonarola? (Is this the gem men- 
Monk ; on the right tlie letter |, on tioned by Vasari ?) 
the left S. < iothic form. Fine work 

262 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Ludovico II Moro, ou a Balais Ruby, ten lines in diameter, 
about this period, or u little later. 

Pietro Maria, da Pescia in Tuscany, worked at Rome for 
Leo X. He was the friend of M. Angelo. 

Michelino also flourished there at the same time. 

Matteo dei Benedetti, died 1523, was a celebrated gem- 
engraver of Bologna, and is praised by Achillini in his 
' Viridario.' 

Francia the painter, of the same city, is also said to have 
worked in this line. 

Marc. Attio 3Ioretti also flourished there about 1495. He 
is praised by Achillini, and invited by lo. Baptist. Pio, in a 
Latin elegy (1509), to engrave the portrait of his Chloris. 

Caradosso of Milan, and his assistant Furnius of Bologna, 
are placed by Pomponius Gauricus (at the beginning of the 
sixteenth century) on a level with Pyrgoteles and Dioscorides. 

Severo da Ravenna is however set above all others by this 
writer, who styles him sculptor, scalptor, caelator. He is pro- 
bably the scholar of Marc. Antonio who engraved the copper- 
plates with the monogram s. R. 

Leonardo da Milano^ mentioned with praise by Camillo 
Leonardo, is probably Da Vinci, the universal genius who, 
besides goldsmith's work, may have tried his powers in this 
branch of art.** 

Jacopo Tagliacarne of Geneva is supposed to have engraved 
the numerous portraits of Genoese nobles of that age, which 
it was then the fasliion to use as seals. 

Henri Eiigelhart of Xurnberg, a friend of A. Durer's, was 
famous for engraving coats-of-arms on gems. 

Crio. Bernardi di Castel Bolognese, engraved for Duke 

* I have seen an enamelled pen- certainly does bear Lis usual mono- 
daul jewel ascribed to Da Vinci ; it irram. 


Alfonso of Ferrara the attack on the Fort of Bastia, where the 
latter had been dangerously wounded. He also cut the dies 
for the medals of the same prince. Paulus Jovius persuaded 
him to go to Eome, whore he was patronised by the Cardinal 
Ippolito dei Medici and Clement YII., for whom he executed 
several medals, highly commended by Cellini himself, as well 
as many intagli on gems. After the death of the Cardinal 
in 1535, he entered the service of Cardinal Alessandro 
Farnese, grandson of Paul III., for whom he executed nume- 
rous intagli, chiefly in Rock Crystal, in which he worked with 
great facility. Some of these are still to be seen (1750) set 
in a cross and two candlesticks of silver, presented by the 
Cardinal to St. Peter's. On the foot of each are three circular 
intagli representing diiferent scenes from the life of Christ, 
the designs for which were probably furnished by the painter, 
Perin del Yago. His best pieces wore a Tityus torn by the 
Vulture, now in the Strozzi Cabinet, and the Fall of Phaeton, 
both made for Cardinal Ippolito from the designs of M. Angelo. 
Another celebrated work of his was his portrait of the Duchess 
jMargaret of Austria, wife of Ottavio Farnese. He died (1555) 
at Faenza, whither he had retired upon his fortune : aged 

Matteo del Nazaro of Verona worked in France for Francis I. 
He had been pupil of Avanzi and Mondella, both Veronese 
gem-engi-avers, the former of whom was famed at Pome for 
his camei and Carnelian intagli ; and a Nativity by him, ou 
La})is-lazuli, had been sought after by Isabella Gonzaga, 
Duchess of Urbino, the first patroness of Pafll"ael(\ IMatteo's 
first work of note was a Crucifixion on Bloodstone, so managed 
that the spots of the stone represented the blood issuing from 
the wounds, and which became the property of Isabella d'Este 
of ^lantova. At the French Court he chiefly engraved camei, 
the iashionable ornament of the day. A head of Deianira by 

264 AKT, STYLES UF. Sect. II. 

liim was greatly admired, in which the various layers of the 
Agate gave the different colours of the flesh, the hair, and 
the lion's hide drawn over her head. He also executed for 
Francis a portable Oratory adorned with numerous gems, and 
bas-reliefs and statuettes in gold. He set so high a value on 
his works that he gave them away as presents rather than 
submit to what he considered too low an offer ; and is said to 
have broken to pieces a fine cameo which had not been 
accepted by a nobleman under such circumstances. After 
the battle of Pavia he returned to Verona with his fortune ; 
but was recalled to Paris by Francis immediately upon the 
recovery of his freedom, was made Head Engraver to the Mint, 
and died at Paris soon after the King, in 1547. 

Qio. Giacomo Caraglio, also of Verona, at first a copperplate 
engraver, then of gems and medals ; worked for Sigismond I., 
King of Poland, in 15.39, at whose court he was still living 
in 1569. 

Valeria dei Belli, II Vicentino, engraved equally camei and 
intagli on all kinds of gems ; but, according to the fashion of 
the age, his most numerous works are on Rock Crystal. He 
also cut dies for medals, both modern and copies of the 
antique. He was looked upon as the head of the numerous 
engravers who flourished at Pome under Clement VII., before 
the sack of that city. This Pope paid him 2000 gold scudi 
for the Crystal coffer adorned with scenes from the Passion, 
and which he presented to Francis I. at his interview with 
him at Marseilles on the occasion of the marriage of his niece 
Caterina dei Medici to the Dauphin. Besides this, a cross 
and several Crystal vases by this artist were presented to ,the 
church of San Lorenzo at Florence by Clement. He after- 
wards was employed by Paul III. and the Cardinal Farnese. 
No engraver has ever been so industrious or so expeditious as 
Valerio, and his works were long employed as models by all 


the Italian goldsmiths. He retired to Yicenza with an ample 
fortune, but continued to work at his profession down to the 
very close of his life in 1546. A daughter also of his had 
been instructed by him in the art, in which she attained con- 
siderable distinction. 

Marmita the Elder, of Parma, a })ainter, engraved many 
gems after the antique. Luigi IMarmita, his son, however, 
greatly surpassed him ; and in the service of Cardinal Salviati 
at Rome was distinguished at a period when nothing mediocre 
would have passed muster tJiere. His most famous work was 
a cameo head of Socrates ; but he abandoned gem-engraving 
for the more profitable trade of making dies for false antique 

Dometiico di Polo, of Florence, also a die-sinker, afterwards 
engraved gems. He had been a pupil of Giovanni delle 

JSfanni di Prospero delle Carniole is also named by Vasari 
as a painter, " the son of Prospero the gem-engraver." 

Luigi Anichini of Ferrara, but resident at Venice, a die- 
sinker, engraved gems with the greatest delicacy and pre- 
cision ; the smaller their size the more spirit did his intagli 

Alessandro Cesari, or Cesati (so called in Vasari, first edi- 
tion), II Greco, surpassed the latter artist in the excellence of 
his drawing. Besides coin-dies he also engraved innumerable 
gems. ^I. Angelo considered his medal of Paul III. (reverse, 
Alexander kneeling before the High Priest) as the very per- 
fection of the art, beyond which it was impossible to advance. 
Vasari names a portrait of Henri IL, an intaglio on a Car- 
neliau the size of a half-franc, made for Cardinal Farnese, as 
one of his best works. iM. Crozat possessed a cameo portrait 
of the same king in very low relief, also on Carnelian, in- 
soiibod AAKSANA1'02 KiioiKi. Vasari also praises his portraits 

266 Airr, STVLKS OF. Sect. II. 

of P. L. Fariieso IJuke of Castro, his son Ottavio, and Car- 
dinal Farnese : the last a head in gold on a silver ground. 
Three eamei are also commended a child, a lion,^ and a 
woman naked. But his masterpiece, according to Vasari, was 
a cameo head of Phocion. This, in 1750, was in the collection 
of Sig. Zanetti of Venice, and was still regarded as the most 
exquisite of any works of tliat kind. 

Giovanni Antonio dei Rossi, a Milanese, engraved the largest 
cameo known since antique times, being seven inches in dia- 
meter, with portraits, three-quarters length, of Cosmo I., 
Eleanora of Toledo, and all the princes and princesses of their 
family. This work, says Vasari, established the reputation of 
the artist, already known by a quantity of other engraved 

Misuroni, Gasparo and Girolamo, and Jacomo da Trezzo, 
all three Milanese, engraved both camei and intagli, but 
chiefly worked at vases in Agate and Jasper. The last artist 
was noted for the excellence of his 2)ortraits on gems. 
Marietti cites an admirable head in relief, on Calcedony, of 
Philip II., by whom he was brought to JMadrid. He was 
employed for seven years in making the Tabernacle of the 
Escurial, of Agates, Jaspers, and other fine stones, all found 
in Spain, and was allowed to place his name on the same line 
with the King's in the dedicatory inscription on the socle of 
the work. He is said even to have engraved on the diamond. 

Clemente Birago, another Milanese, patronised by the same 
monarch, has however a better claim to tliis honour. The 
testimony of both Clusius the botanist (who had known him 
during his stay in Spain in 1564), and of Lomazzo his country- 
man, leave no doubt as to the truth of this fact. The work 

" In the Pul&ky Cabinet is a most AAESANAP02 EnoiEI. Can this 
singular intaglio, a lion in his den, be the gem praised b\' Vasari ? 
full-i'aced, on a bm-ntonyx, inscribed 


was a portrait of Don Carlos, intended as a present to Anna, 
daughter of Maximilian II., his betrothed bride. On another 
diamond he also had engraved the arms of Spain for a seal, 
for the same prince. 

Tortorino and Giuliano Taverna, of Milan, are also named 
by Lomazzo : the first as a good engraver of camei, the second 
as a worker on Crystal. Even at the present day (1750) the 
Milanese excel in the working of Crystal. 

Annibal Fontana, died at Milan 1587, was famous for his 
camei and iutagli, and made, for Wilhelm Elector of Bavaria, 
a Crystal coffer, for which he received 6000 scudi. 

FJdlippo, called Pippo Santa Croce, a shepherd boy, began 
by carving groups on plum and cherry stones. Count Phil- 
li})in Doria brought him to Genoa, had liim instructed in 
drawing, and thus he became an engraver in gems. 

Antonio Dordoni of Busetto in Parma, died 1584 at Rome, 
is said to have held the first place among the gem-engravers 
of til at age. 

Flaminim Hatalis, probably of Liege, an admirable en- 
graver of coats-of-arms, died at Rome 1596. 


The art now began to fade in Italy, but fiourished in Ger- 
many under the patronage of Rudolph II., of whose time an 
infinity of vases in hard stones are preserved at Vienna, but 
nearly all of Gothic and bizarre forms. I'he chief of his 
artists were Lehman, who hud the monopoly of engraving on 
glass as a recompense for his discovery of that art ; and 
Miseron, created a noble and made keeper of the Imperial 
Cabinet of Curiosities. His son Denis also worked for the 
em})eror jMatthias. 

Christopher Schwaiger, died ]()<K>, aged sixty-eight, is com- 
pared to Pyrgoteles for his talent in engraving, in the vei-ses 

268 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

beneath his portrait by liUc ]viliaii. He probably flourished 
at Augsburgh. 

But few names of Italian artists of this century are known, 
yet an excellent portrait of Paul V., on Carneliau, set in a 
ring, preserved in the Borghese Palace, proves that some 
good masters still existed in his time. 

Coldore however was indubitably the first engi-aver of the 
century. He worked at Paris for Henri IV. and Louis XHI. 
The portrait of the former he has repeated an infinite number 
of times, both in intaglio and in cameo, and always with the 
same finish and success as to the likeness, ^o figures by him 
are known, his works being exclusively heads. He is said to 
have been invited over to England by Queen Elizabeth, and 
in the Crozat Collection is a cameo head of that princess on 
Agate-Onyx, evidently by this artist. He is supposed to be 
the same as the Julien de Fonteuay mentioned in the Lettres- 
patentes of December 22, 1608, as the king's valet and en- 
graver in precious stones Coldore being a nickname derived 
either from his dress or from his bu'thplace. A fine portrait 
of Richelieu, on a Siriam Garnet, in the Crozat Cabinet, is 
probably of too late a date to be his work, and is besides in 
somewliat too stiff a manner. 

Maurice, father and son, and Jean Baptiste Certain, also 
flourished under Louis XIII. 

Borgognone worked at Florence for the Grand Duke about 

Ado7ii, at Rome, principally engraved clasped hands for be- 
trothal rings. 

Bey, at the end of the century, had a great reputation at 
Rome as an engraver of all kinds of subjects on gems. They 
speak with praise of his portrait of Carlo Albani, brother of 
Clement XL, and of the seal of the Marchese Castel San 


Juao, by Jobn Picbler, 


Flavio Sirletti. died at Rome 1737, surpassed all modern 
artists in the fineness of his touch, and approached the nearest 
of all to the ancient Greek style. He excelled in portraits. 
His best was one of Carlo IMaratta, executed for Agostino 
3[asuccio, a scholar of that painter. His intagli represent- 
ing antique statues the Hercules Farnese, the Apollo, the 
(liustiniani Bacchus, and his Laocoon are excellent in draw- 
ing and ill finish. This last, on Amethyst, was bought by 
fjord Besborough. He signed his works *. 2. Yettori pos- 
sessed the last of his works, a Laughing Faun crowned with 
ivy. His two sons, Francesco and Kairaondo, followed the 
same profession at Rome. 

Costanzi, Giovanni and Carlo, in the year 1750, were thc^ 
most distinguished in this art at Rome. The elder, according 
to Stosch, engraved the head of Nero on a Diamond for the 
Prior Vaini. Carlo cut on the same gem a ]jeda, and a 
head of Antinous for the King of Portugal. His style is 
highly finished, neither too stiff nor too loose ; his drawing 
correct, his portraits the flesh itself, and very like. Nothing 
can be bett(;r for an intaglio than his portrait of the Cardinal 
Spinola on an Agate-Onyx, though JMariette was assured that 
his heads of the Pretonder and of Carlo Rene Imperiali are quite 

270 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

equal to it. He has succeeded better than any of the moderns 
in his copies of antique gems, and has frequently repeated his 
head of Antinous. Many connoisseurs have been deceived by 
his copies ; such, for instance, as that of the Strozzi Medusa, 
made in 1729 for the Cardinal Polignac, on a Calcedony of 
the same size and colour as the original, and imitated even to 
the name of the artist.'" Though born at Xaples, 1703, he 
always lived at Rome, where he had a brother Tommaso, also 
a skilful engraver in fine stones. 

Domenico Landi was also, according to Vettori, " one of the 
most famous artists at present in the same city." In 1716 he 
engraved a bust of Augustus, on Calcedony, for the Marquis 
de Fuentes, Portuguese ambassador ; in 1 720 a portrait of 
N. Duodo, the Venetian envoy, on an Emerald. Two gems, 
of larger dimensions than ring-stones, by him, are portraits of 
Trajan, Plotina, Matidia, Marciana, facing each other; and 
the other of Severus, Julia, Caracalla, and Geta. 

F. Cringhaio of Florence, engraver to the two last Dukes, 
living at Naples in 1750. 

Aiit. Pichler, established since 1730 in the same city. 

Girolamo Rossi, at Livorno. 

Of all modern engravers, none in my opinion have so fully 
come up to the antique style as Rega of Naples, who flourished 
at the end of the last century. His Hercules Eeposing and 
his Head of a Bacchante might well pass for gems of the finest 
Greek work, were it not for his signature pefa which appears 

^^ He also engraved a portrait of and St. Paul on the other. The gem 
the Empress Maria Theresa on a is two inches in diameter, and was 
large and fine Sapphire. But what designed for the brooch fastening the 
he himself considered his master- cope worn by his Holiness on great 
piece, and which cost him two years festivals, but, after once wearing it, 
and a half of constant labour, was a he ordered it to be deposited in the 
ta1)le Emerald, with the head of tlie Treasury of San Petronio at Bo- 
Pope on one side and of St. Peter logna. 


upon tliem. His intagli have much more of the tnie antique 
spirit than those of Pikler or Natter, Visconti is of opinion 
that the enj^avers of the last century do not deserve the 
eulogium bestowed on them by Milhn; the artists of the 
Cinque-Cento school, such as Cesati II Greco, Bernardi, and 
Belli, were far above them in boldness of manner and in accu- 
racy of drawing. Besides this they had a style of their o\vn, 
or at least tliat of the contemporary school ; whereas those of 
our day possess less intelligence, but are closer imitators of 
the antique in their composition and in their forms. Rega 
however Visconti pronounces a most admirable artist, and 
he had seen some of his heads in intaglio that rivalled 
the best of the antique ; this in my judgment is true, for 
nothing of any period can surpass tlie " Head of a Bac- 
chante," that favourite subject with the ancients, where the 
treatment of the hair is especially to be admired, being truly 
in the Greek manner. This Head also proves his great supe- 
riority over Marchant, who has reproduced the same subject, 
but in his usual tame and laboured manner ; whilst Rega's 
work is full of life and energy, and displays the greatest free- 
dom of touch. 

Gotfrled Graaft, 1\ Tedesco, at Rome. 

Laurent Natter, of Nurnberg, studied the art at Venice, 
and afterwards worked at Rome with considerable credit. 
^Fuch praise is given to his copy of the Julia Titi by Evodus, 
on a reduced scale ; but still more is due to his portrait of 
(Jardiual Albani, as being an original work. A IToad of a 
Youth, on Amethyst, belonging to the Abbe liothelin, was 
greatly admired in Italy. After leaving Itome he established 
himself in London, whence he is said to have gone to Persia 
on the invitation of Thamas Kouli Khan (Nadir Shah). He 
died at St. retersburgh, 17()3. 

Marc Tiiseher, his townsman, was by no means his equal 

272 A irr, STYLES OF. Sect. 1 1. 

in merit. Being at Home in 1733 lie engraved his own por- 
trait, signed mapkos, and probably some other gems ; but is 
chiefly known for his admirable series of plates of the coins of 
Sicily and Magna Grecia. 

Borsch, of Xurnberg, 167G to 1732, engraved for Ebermeyer 
numerous suites of portraits of Popes, Kings, and Emperors, 
and unfaithful copies of famous antiques, Mith nothing to 
recommend them in the execution. He taught his two 
daughters also the same art. 

Becker ' was regarded as the best German engraver of the 
century. Born at Coblentz, he went to Vienna, and engraved 
medal dies for two Emj)erors of Germany. His works in gems 
are principally seals of German Princes, containing numerous 
quarterings very skilfully done. He cut portraits on gems of 
Charles VI. and his Empress, and also of Prince Eugene. 

F. J. Barter, born at Paris 1680, engraved portraits, the 
most admired being those of the Marquis Eangoni and of 
Fontenelle ; and groups of figures extremely minute on the 
body of vases of Carnelian and Agate. 

Jacques Quay, of Marseilles, studied at Eome, where he 
engraved the head of Antinous from the bust of the Capitol. 
His drawing is correct, and imitation of the Greek style per- 
fect. His portraits are admirable, especially that of Crebillon. 
No modern engraver has ever thrown into his work such 
s})irit as Guay has done in a Carnelian intaglio, the " Victory 
of Fontenoy," from the design of Bouchardon. He afterwards 
succeeded to the post of gem-engraver to the King, formerly 
held by Barier. 

The only English artist of any merit in this line is Charles 
Christian Reisen, son of a Danish engraver who came to 
London with William III. He died in 1725, aged forty. 

' Now better kiKJwn for his false dies for ancient coins. 


yet left behind liim a great number of works. A portrait of 
Charles XII. of Sweden, a three-quarter face, is quite correct 
as to principle ; but all his intagli are wanting in finish, from 
the extreme rapidity of his execution. 

Claus, a pupil of his, and the most able, died mad in 1739. 
Smart, another pupil, was in Paris in 1722. 

Seaton, a Scotchman, also his pupil, was in 1750 the first 
engraver in London. 

Smart worked with astonishing celerity. In a single day 
he would often finish several heads, and that by no means in 
a careless manner. His best work, when at Paris, was a head 
of Monima from the antique. Seaton endeavoured to give an 
extreme finish to his gems : hence they are weak, cold, and 
without spirit. His chief works are portraits of Pope, luigo 
Jones, and Sir John Newton, for the last of which lie was 
l)aid 25 guineas. 

John PicJder, the first of modern engravers, was the son of 
Ant. I'ichler, mentioned above, and born at Naples, where 
his father had been settled from the beginning of the century. 
He, however, was far superior to his father in this line, so 
that his intagli were often sold by the antiquaries as fii-st- 
rate antique gems. To prevent this fraud he ever after- 
wards signed all his works with his name in Greek capitals 
niXAEF, He died at Rome, 1701. 


3Ientiou may be fitly nuide here of the few English artists 
whose gems, signed with their names, occasionally are seen in 
collections. Of these, the chief, beyond all question, was 
]Marchant in the last century, who executed many fine 
works, both modern portraits, antique heads, and groups in 
the (J reek styl(\ There is much grace and delicacy in his 


274 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

figures, but the finish of them is too minute to be effective, 
and consequently his heads are deficient in boldness and 
expression. At the sight of his engravhigs you become 
sensible that they were executed with the aid of a powerful 
magnifying glass, and they require to be viewed through such 
a medium to produce their full effect. This is a common 
error with modern engravers, and one of Pichler's chief merits 
is that he has avoided it, and that his works, like those of 
the ancient artists in tliis line, produce their effect on the 
eye at the first glance. Marchant's skill was, however, fully 
appreciated in his own times ; probably from the circum- 
stance of his carrying on his profession at Rome, and thus 
becoming known to wealthy English amateurs, who at all 
times have preferred to pay pounds for works of art abroad, 
rather than as many shillings for productions of equal merit 
executed at home. I have seen a Sard engraved by him, with 
two female figures, the one seated, tlie other standing by her, 
apparently portraits, for which he was paid 200 guineas. 

Clarac mentions his having been shown at Otranto a paste 
taken from one of Marchant's gems, which, backed with a 
slice of Sard after the usual manner of such forgeries, had 
been sold at an enormous price to an amateur as a first class 
Greek work, recently discovered in that locality. 

Brown was noted as an engraver of Cupids, singly and in 
groups. He also executed portraits with great taste. His 
intagli are always signed R. b. 

Burch, E. A., died 1814, was an admirable artist in this 
line. I have seen a Head of Hercules by him worthy of any 
engraver of tlie times of Augustus. His works are very 

^Yray, of Salisbury, died 1770, executed a few fine intagli, 
Pastes of wliicli were thought worthy of admission into 
Tassie's list of antiques. But though the first of English 


gem-engravers, he never obtained more than 20 guineas for 
his best works. These are, as he himself classed them, 
1. The Dying Cleopatra. 2. Copy of the Strozzi Medusa. 
3. Magdalene. 4. Flora. 5. A Madonna. 6. Female head, 
ideal. 7. Ditto. 8. Milton, front face. 9. Milton, pro- 
file. 10. The same. II. Cicero. 12. Pope. 13. Zingara. 
14. Antinous. 

Pistrucci, though a Roman by birth, may be mentioned in 
this article, as from his long residence in London he may be 
almost considered as an Englisli artist ; although his success, 
as far as pecuniary remuneration is concerned, has far ex- 
ceeded the wildest dreams of any gem-engraver of previous 
ages. At first he practised the art at Kome, and there 
executed the Head of Flora, bought for an antique work by 
Payne Knight, and long regarded as the choicest gem of his 
collection. Lord Maryborough was his first patron on his 
arrival in London, and when made Master of the Mint, 
appointed him the Chief Engraver to that establishment. 
At the great re-coinage in 1816, a Cameo by him, a Greek 
Warrior on horseback, was adopted with slight alterations for 
the reverse of the sovereigns and crowns. The improved 
copy of this design on the subsequent coinage of George IV. 
is })robably the finest work that has ever appeared upon a 
modern currency. His heads on the obverse of the same 
coinage arc by no means so successful ; they have a very 
scratchy appearance, and have none of the boldness that the 
work from a steel die ought to present : in fact he is said to 
liave cut the punches by means of the la})idary's wheel, 
exactly as if operating upon a gem, a fact whicli fully accounts 
for the feebleness of tlie result. His coronation medal, 
however, of George l\. is a very spirited work; and liis 
double sovereign of the same reign has great merit in spite 
of the scratcliy treatment of the hair, especially when we 

T 2 

276 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

consider the low state into which the arts had fallen, and the 
barbarism into which the country had been plunged by 
twenty-five years of a ruinous and unnecessary warfare. 
For his merits, great as they undoubtedly wore, he obtained 
the most fabulous remuneration : thus a Cameo with portraits 
of Augustus and Livia, which fetched at the sale of the Herz 
Collection the sum of 301., had been executed by him some 
forty years before at the astounding commission of 800?., 
doubtless the largest sum ever paid for a work of the kind. 

Ship under Sail, Kniblem of m:rtal life. 


An appropriate text to this dissertation will be the advice 
on this point given by Clemens Alexandrinus to the Chris- 
tians of the second century. Paedagogus III. 2. 

" Moreover, men ought not to wear their ring upon tlie top 
joint of the finger, for it is an effeminate practice ; but on 
the little finger, and thrust it on too as far as it will go, for 
thus the hand will be easily used for all necessary purposes, 
and the signet ring will not fall off very easily, being guarded 
by the larger size of the joint of the finger itself. And let 
the engraving upon the stone be either a pigeon, or a fish, or 
a ship running before the wind, or a musical lyre, which was 
the device used by Polycrates, or a ship's anchor, which 
Scleucus had cut upon his signet ; and if it represents a man 
fishing, the wearer will be put in mind of the Apostle, and of 


the little children drawn up out of the water (Moses ?). For 
we must not engrave on them images of idols, which we are 
forbidden even to look at ; ^ nor a sword, nor a bow, being the 
followers of peace; nor drinking goblets behig sober men. 
Yet many of the licentious world wear engi-avings of their 
naked minions and mistresses in their rings ; so that not even 
if they wish it can they at any time enjoy a respite from the 
torments of desire. We must wear but one for the use of a 
signet ; all other rings we must cast aside." 

The earliest rings are made of pure gold, hollow, and the 
metal very thin. Such occur even of the Etruscan period, 
but are very rare, the signets of that nation still retaining the 
form of scarabci. The most magnificent Etruscan ring 
known, is that once in the collection of the Prince di Canino : 
it was formed of the fore parts of two lions, whose bodies 
composed the shank, whilst their heads and fore-paws 
supported the signet, a small Sard scarab, engraved with a 
lion regardant, and set in an elegant bizzel of filigree work. 
The two lions were beaten up in full relief out of thin gold 
l)late, in a stiff archaic style, but very carefully finished. A 
Greek ring lately came in my way of a pretty and uncommon 
design, though the make was rude enough: two dolphins 
whose tails met formed the shank, and supported with their 
heads the setting, containing a circular crystal or paste. 

Iloman rings also, if of early date and set with good intagli, 
are almost invariably hollow and light, and consequently 
easily crusliod. This and some other interesting points are 
well illustrated in the story told by Cicero of L. Piso, when 

- Jklacrobius says tliat Ati'iiis Ca- delicacy of notions was afterwards 

pito, a famous lawyer of the IJeimb- carried to such a degree that, under 

lie, lii;4lily censured the practice of 'JilK'rius, persons were actually exe- 

weariug figures of the deities en- cutcd on the charge of treason for 

graved and set in rings ; hut this having worn rings set with the por- 

was on account of the profanation to trait of Aiigiistiis during their visits 

which they were ex[K)sed. This to brothels. 

278 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

praetor in Spain (in which province he was killed) : " Whilst 
he was going through the military exercise, the gold ring 
which he wore was by some accident broken and crushed. 
Wishing to have another ring made for himself, he ordered 
a goldsmith to be summoned to the Forum of Cordova, in 
front of his own judgment-seat, and weighed out the gold to 
him in public. He ordered the man to set down his bench in 
the forum, and make the ring for him in the presence of all." 
This was done to prove to the provincials his scrupulous 
honesty, that he had not taken '' even half an ounce " of gold 
out of the public treasury, but had merely given him his old 
broken ling to work up again into a new one. Here we have 
a picture of the ancient goldsmith carrying about with him 
his fire-pot and a few tools (like the Indian jeweller of the 
present day), and squatting down to execute his work under 
the eye of his employer. This mode of making the ring, by 
hammering it out of the gold, affords a pretty simile to Ovid, 
A. A. III., 221. 

" Annulus iit fiat prime colliditiir auriim." 
" The gold is beat np ere the ring is made." 

These hollow rings were convenient receptacles for poison, 
of which they would contain a large dose, being always of a 
bulky shape. Of this practice the instances in history are 
numerous, as the death of Hannibal and of Demosthenes suf- 
fice to show ; and another less known instance that of the 
custodian of the Capitol, who, being apprehended on account 
of the robbery of the gold deposited there by Camillus, which 
had been taken away by Crassus, "broke the stone of his 
ring in his mouth,' " and expired immediately, probably to 

^ Tn the Mcrtens-ScliaafliauscnCol- have no doubt it was thus formed as 

lection is an Onyx intaglio, the hack of the receptacle of a dose of poison, 

which has been completely hollowed for the gem was worked out so thin 

out into the form of a bowl, with the that it could easily be crushed by a 

usual raised circle at the bottom. I sharp bite. 


escape the torture for his supposed complicity in the sacrilege. 
The ancients were acquainted with vegetable poisons as 
speedy in their effects as the modern strychnine, as appears 
in the death of Britannicus from a potion prepared by 
Locusta, and in innumerable other instances. These hollow 
rings were put together Avith a degree of skill far beyond that 
of our modern jewellers ; for the soldering of the numerous 
joinings of the gold plates of which they are formed is 
absolutely imperceptible even when breathed upon a test 
under which tlie best modern solder always assumes a 
lighter tint. This is due to the different composition of the 
ancients, which was made of chrysocoUa (carbonate of 
copper), verdigris, nitrum (carbonate of soda, natron) mixed 
with the urine of a child, and rubbed down in a copper 
mortar with a copper pestle. I'his solder was called santema.* 

Under Claudius it became the fashion to engrave the 
device ui)on the gold of the ring itself, now made solid ; at 
first this engraving was the bust of the emperor, and such 
rings could only be worn by those that had the entrc^e at 
court. A fine example of this sort, with busts of M. Aurelius 
and L. Verus facing each other, is to be seen in the Florence 
Gallery. This was but a revival of the ancient practice, for 
Macrobius, vii., 13, quotes Ateius Capito to tlie effect that 
the devices were originally always cut upon the substance of 
the ring itself, whether it was of gold or of iron ; and that 
the irogress of luxury introduced engravings upon precious 
gems to augment the value of tlie signet. ^ 

In Pliny's time it was the fashion to wear but one on the 

* Cellini's rcccii)t for solder is arsenic is added to promote fusion. 

Native Verdigris, <> parts, Sal-ani- * 1 have seen a splendid head of a 

nioniac 1, IVnax 1, ground down nymph, ajiparently of Sicilian work, 

and mixed to a ]iaste with water, engraved uix)n the gold of a solid 

'J'he modern, used fur gold of tolerable ring; and other instances of less 

(luality, is made of ecjual parts of imi>ortancc, but certainly far earlier 

gold and silver, to which a little than the age of Claudius. 

280 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

little finger ; previously the signet had always been carried 
on the ring-finger of the left hand from a notion that a vein 
passed down it direct from the heart. At the late period 
of the empire when Macrobius wrote (late in tlie third 
century), this had again become the usual finger to wear the 
signet-ring upon, for the assembled guests in his ' Saturnalia,' 
vii., 13, express their surprise at seeing Avienus wear his 
upon the little finger of his right hand ; for which he excuses 
himself on the plea of his left hand being swollen by an 
injury. Pliny's words are, "At first it was the custom to 
wear but one ring on each of the fingers next to the little 
finger of each hand, as we see in the statues of Numa and 
Servius Tullius (the only Koman kings represented as wear- 
ing rings). Next they put them on the fore finger, even in 
the statues of deities. Last of all they thought proper to 
grant this honour even to the little finger. The natives of 
Gaul and Britain are said to have worn them on the middle 
finger. Tids, now, is the only one excepted, all the others 
are loaded ; and even the joints individually with others of 
smaller size. Some pile three upon the little finger alone, 
others wear on this but a single ring which they use as their 
signet. This is treasured up, and, like a precious rarity un- 
justly profaned, is drawn forth from its sanctuary : and to 
wear a single ring on the little finger is but a way of showing 
off the more precious collection locked up at home." The 
custom of covering all the joints of the fingers with rings 
when in full dress was so prevalent, that Quintilian, in his 
directions to orators as to their costume, attitude, and action 
(xi., 3), deems it necessary expressly to caution them against 
this senseless piece of foppery : " The hand must not be 
overloaded with rings, especially with such as do not pass 
over the middle joints of the fingers."'^ This fashion of 

" 'J'lie minute size of many an- archaeologists from their ignorance of 
tirjne gold rings has often puzzled the passages above quoted. 


having rings for each finger-joint is the one condemned by 
Clemens Alexandrinus ; and continued in use, in spite of his 
objurgations, down to the close of the empire ; for Ammian, 
writing at the beginning of the fifth century, speaks of the 
Roman nobles, on leaving the baths, receiving from the 
attendant their rings, which they had taken off lest the wet 
should injure them, and then strutting away " digitis sicut 
metatis," with their fingers measured off by the rings placed 
on each separate joint. The origin of the quarrel between 
]'Iato and Aristotle was because the former found fault with 
his luxurious style of dress and his custom of wearing a 
number of rings, at least so says Aelian, iii. 19. Lucian, 
writing in the second century, makes the girl tell her mis- 
tress that Parmeno has returned from the wars quite a rich 
man, and as a proof, " that he has on his little finger a large 
polygonal gold ring set with a three-coloured gem, red on the 
surface (an oriental Onyx)." 

Taste had so far declined even when Pliny wrote that 
some persons " made a boast of the weight of then* rings," 
of wliich one found in Hungary, and now in the Fould Col- 
lection, is a most convincing testimony. Thougli evidently 
intended for the little finger its weight was three ounces, 
tlie shank was triangular in section, increasing rapidly in 
width on each side towards the head of the ring, which thus 
formed a long and pointed oval. It was set with a large 
oriental Onyx of the very finest quality and not engraved ; 
quite tlie ring of Parmeno when the consideration of the 
mere intrinsic value of an ornament had entirely banished 
all regard for art. In my own collection is a ring of this 
date weighing 15 dwts. (a modern Roman ounce), set with 
an Onyx rudely engraved with a dancing girl ; and I have 
seen another of similar form, the Onyx intaglio of wliich was 
a pigeon : both illustrative of the remarks of Clemens 

282 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

Alexandrinus quoted above. These weighty rings were 
probably badges of office under the Empire, for we find one 
specified among the various insignia and allowances, some 
singular enough,' ordered by the Emperor Valerian to be 
made to Claudius Gothicus on his appointment as Tribune 
of the Fifth Legion (Treb. PoUio Valerian). " Two brooches 
in silver-gilt ; one brooch in gold, with a copper pin ; one 
douhle-gemmed ring of an ounce weight ; one bracelet of seven 
ounces; one neckchain of one pound." This term annulus 
higemmeus is difficult to explain, for no antique rings occur 
set with two gems, though they do with three. I suspect that 
higemmeus refers to the stone itself, and means a gem of two 
colours, as the Nicolo, so often found in these massy rings. 
One weighing an ounce was found, 1836, near Bristol, set with 
an Onyx, engraved with a head of Augustus in a good style ; 
and Caylus V., cxii., gives one of very elegant form, the 
gem of which is a Nicolo engraved with the letters q.e.h. 
The shape of these rings at once shews for whicli finger they 
were designed, being nearly triangular, the base of the tri- 
angle being the head of the ring ; so that in spite of their 
weight they sit very comfortably on the Kttle finger and on 
that alone, and are much less inconvenient to wear than one 
would have expected from their bulky proportions. Some 
Etruscan rings occur, in which the face of the ring is an 
elliptical plate adorned with figures in outline, generally 
Sphinxes: these were merely intended as ornamental, not 
as signet rings. I have met with but one Etruscan intaglio, 
not a scarab, in its antique gold setting, which was a large 
case of thin gold plate, in which the Sard was fixed and sur- 
rounded by several folds of jilaited Avire, forming a broad 
bizzel around the stone. The shank was a thick round wire 

' As " duas eximias mulieres ex captivis. 


soldered on to the side of the case, with two gold balls on 
each side of the junction. 

We have seen Pliny's remark that the Gauls and Britons 
were the only nations who wore rings on the middle finger 
(which he appears to consider a truly barbarian fashion), but 
what these rings were is not known, unless the large bronze 
plain hoops, so often found amongst ancient remains in this 
country, were of this nature. Perhaps the smaller specimens 
of the so-called "King Money " were used for this purpose, 
for nothing like an intaglio ^ ring can be assigned to these 
nations before the period of their subjugation by the Romans ; 
although numerous relics attest their skill in working gold 
into various tasteful ornaments. The abundance of this 
metal in Gaul was sucli in ancient times that the produce of 
Cajsar's campaigns in that region lowered the value of gold 
at Home by nearly one-third. 

The Gallic gold coins of native unrefined metal, rude 
imitations of the staters of Philip, are still numerous in 
cabinets, and appear to have been current in Gaul even 
under the latest emperors. In no other way can we explain 
the edict of Majorian, "Let no tax-collector refuse to take 
a solidus of full weight, except it be that Gallic solidus which 
is rated at a lower value on account of the quality of the 
gold." Now these ancient autonomous pieces are all coined 
of the metal in its native state, containing a large per- 

" One intaglio, however, has come also lately seen a silver riiifr, of an 

under my notice which was consi- cxtroniely <;rotes(juo and barbarous 

dered by its owner (whose ojnnion fixbric, the shank being an attempted 

is of the greatest weight with me) representation of caryatid figures ; 

to have been the work of a (iallic instead of an engraved stone it was 

artist. It was an oval bead, of pale set with a large silver coin, one of 

Amethyst, engraved with a wild the common imitations of the di- 

boar, and in a very i)eculiar style, drachm of Philip, and both its make 

exactly agreeing with that of the and its substitute for a gem fully 

same type so often occurring on the indicate its Celtic origin. 
reverse of the Gallic coins, I have 



Sect. II. 

centage of silver (which can only be separated by a skilful 
metallurgist) ; whereas all the imperial gold currency, even 
of the Gallic tyrants, as Postumus and Victorinus, is of the 
purest metal.' It is my belief that most of the "King 
Money " was used as articles of personal ornament, and that 
the form with large cup-shaped extremities served as a 
button for fastening round the neck the large and heavy 
Gallic " sagum " or mantle, each end passing through an 
opposite button-hole like a pair of modern studs. 

Cupid cbuiued by Psycbe. Girasol. 

Narcissus and Kcbo ; Roman. Prase, 

Let us now speak of Iron Rings, the common wear of the 
Ivomans of all degrees under the republic, tlie ornament of 
the martial metal well beseeming the descendants of the 
god of war. Here too we can appropriately introduce the 
poet's fabled origin of this decoration of the hand. " Jupiter 
having at length been moved to release Prometheus from 
his chains, in which he had sworn to keep him for ever, to 
save his conscience and yet keep his oath to the letter, 
obliged the freed prisoner to wear always on his finger a ring- 
made out of the iron of his fetters and set with a fragment 

" Sucli continued the rule till late century are equal to our jiresent 
in the Byzantine period, even the standard lor the sovereign, 
bezants ot the Comneni in the 12th 


of the rock to which he had been chained." When j\rarius 
rode in triumph, both the general, and the shive standing 
behind, had iron rings on tlieir fingers, and the fashion con- 
tinued universal to the very end of the Republic. This 
fact explains the existence of the large number of good 
intagli we meet with that have been originally set in iron, 
though the rings themselves have generally been reduced to 
masses of shapeless rust. A few, however, having chanced to 
be buried in dry sand have come down to us uninjured, and in 
some of them it will be observed that the gem was set open ; 
an example of which was a fine and large Carbuncle engraved 
with a Canopic vase, now in the Fould Collection. This mode 
of setting intagli was very unusual with the ancients : in most 
rings the stones were backed with a plate of gold to prevent 
the rust from shewing through and thus marring the beauty 
of the gem. One of the finest Roman intagli I have ever 
met with is set open in an iron ring, and is a portrait of 
IMassauissa; perhaps has been worn by Scipio liimself; the 
merit of tlie engraving proves that it must have been 
executed for a person of high position. 

Under the early republic the senators alone had the 
privilege of wearing rings of gold, for they are said to have 
taken off their rings to mark their sense of what they con- 
sidered a public calamity the publication of the Dies Fasti, 
by Cn. Flavins, the secretary of Appius Caucus, and his 
election as tribune of the people in consequence, B.C. 305. 
On the same occasion the knights laid aside their silver horse- 
trappings, for a gold ring was not made the distinction of 
that class until the reign of Tiberius ; for even under 
Augustus the greater part of that body still wore the ancient 
ring of iron. By the law passed under Tiberius, no one was 
allowed to wear one of gold unless he was of free birth, his 
father and grandfather rated at 400 sestertia (4000Z.), and 

286 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

had the right of sitting among the fourteen rows in the 
theatre allotted by the Julian law to the Equestrian Order 
(Pliny, xxiii. 8). Before this law was passed any one might 
wear a gold ring who pleased, by which fact Pliny explains 
the three bushels of gold rings collected at Cannae, as show- 
ing how universal the fashion had become at that time ; and 
C. Sulpicius Galba, under Tiberius, had complained that the 
very tavern-keepers presumed to usurp this ornament. But 
even under Augustus some senators (old Conservatives no 
doubt) still retained the republican ring of iron, as Calpur- 
nius, and Manilius who had been lieutenant of Marius in the 
Jugurthine war, and L. Fufidius. In the family of the 
Quinctii not even the ladies were allowed to wear any orna- 
ments of gold. The Lacedemonians of Pliny's age also 
adhered to the precept of Lycurgus, and only wore rings of 
iron, which custom they retained to a much later period ; 
for Phlegon, writing in the next century, while relating his 
most ghastly of all ghost stories,"^ with which his book on 
' Wonderful Things ' opens, speaks of the iron ring of 
Machatas, exchanged by him for the gold one with whicli 
PliiHnnion, his spectre-bride, had been buried. But under 
the empire rings of this metal had soon become degraded 
into a badge of servitude with the Komans ; for Apuleius, in 
mentioning a money bag sealed by a slave, speaks of the iron 
signet ring which he, as a slave, was wearing on his finger. 
Hence the wealthy freedmen used to wear them gilt. Many 
of these are still preserved. They went by the name of 
Samothracian rings in that age. Thus the rich Trimalchio, 
originally a slave, though he proves to his admiring guests, 
by actually weighing them in their presence, that the gold 

'" The original of Goethe's ' Braut in dramatic effect, for he has Gotli- 
von Corinth,' but far superior to it icised and spoilt the story. 

Sect, 11, 



ornaments on his wife Fortunata amounted altogether in 
weight to six pounds and a haK/ yet durst not himself wear a 
solid gold ring, but " had on his little finger a large gilt one, and 
on the top joint of the next finger, another of gold studded with 
iron stars." Freedmen could only obtain the right of wearing 
a ring of solid gold by an express decree of the Senate ; and, 
as may be supposed, there were not wanting instances of the 
nobles thus paying court to the favourite of the ruling prince : 
a degradation thus wittily commented upon by Pliny, in a 
letter to Montanus. "You must have already observed, 

' The passage, from Trimalcliio's 
Feast, above quoted, is worth trans- 
cribing at lengtli as a curious iUus- 
tration of the massy ornaments of 
the females of that period the time 
of Nero. " But tell me, pray, Gaius, 
why does not Fortunata come to 
dinner?" " Why," replied Tri- 
malchio, "you know what a sort 
of person she is : until she has seen 
that the plate is all right, and has 
divided the broken meat among the 
younger fry, she will not put a sup 
in her mouth," " That may be," 
says llabinna, " but, unless she 
comes to table, I vanish," So say- 
ing, he was on the point of getting 
up, but, on a given signal, " For- 
tunata " was bawled out four times 
and more, with one voice, by the 
whole body of servants. She there- 
fore came in, wearing a white apron 
in such a way as to show beneath it 
her red gown, wreathed anklets, and 
gi It slippers. Then, wiping her hands 
on the liandkerchief she wore round 
her neik, she a])]roaches . the couch 
on which Scintilla, Ilabinna's wife, 
was reclining, and kissed her as she 
was testifying her delight at her 
ap])earance, with " Do I really see 
you, my dear?" And thus things 
went on, until Fortunata pulled otf 

the bracelets from her brawny arms, 
and showed them to the admiring 
Scintilla, At last she undid her 
anklets also, and her golden hair- 
caul, which she told us was of the 
finest standard. This was noticed by 
Trimalchio, who ordered all of them 
to be brought to him ; then " Do 
you see," quoth he, " the woman's 
fetters ? Look how we cuckolds arc 
robbed and ])lundered ! They ought 
to weigh 6^ lbs,, and yet I have my- 
self a bracelet of ten jwunds weight 
made out of Mercury's tithes on my 
profits," Finally, lest we should 
doubt his veracity, he sends for a 
pair of scales, and bids all around 
make sure of the weight. Nor was 
Scintilla any better-mannered, for she 
took off from her neck a little case 
which she called her Good-luck, 
out of which she took two ear-drojis, 
and gave them in her turn to For- 
tunata for examination, saying, 
" Thanks to my lord and master no- 
body else has such fine ones," 
"Why," said llabinna, " you plagued 
me into buying you these glass 
beads ; truly, if 1 had a daughter 
I would cut her ears off. If there 
were no women we should have 
everything dirt-cheap ; but now we 
gain a pnuy and spend a ixjund," 

288 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

from my last letter, tliat I had lately remarked the monu- 
ment of Pallas (a freedman of Claudius Caesar) with this 
inscription, ' To this man the Senate, on account of his fide- 
lity and affection towards his master and mistress, decreed 
the insignia of the praetorian office, togetlier with the sum of 
150,000?., of which vote he only accepted the honorary part.' 
I afterwards deemed it w^orth my while to look up the decree 
itself. I found it so exaggerated and extravagant, that, in 
comparison with it, that most arrogant of epitaphs appeared 
not merelv modest but even humble. The collected and 
united glories, not only of those ancient heroes the Africani, the 
Achaici, the Numantini, but even of those of later times, the 
Marii, Syllas, and Pompeys, not to go down further in the 
list, will fall far short of the praises heaped upon a Pallas. 
Must I think the senators to have been joking, or to have 
been miserable wretches ? I should say joking, if joking 
befitted the dignity of the Senate. Were they wretches 
then ? But no one is sunk so low that he can be forced to 
commit such actions. Was it done then out of ambition, 
and the desire of rising in the State ? But who could be so 
senseless as to wish to rise through his own or the public 
disgrace, in that commonwealth in which the sole advantage 
of the most exalted station was the privilege of being the 
first to sing the praises of a Pallas ? I pass over the circum- 
stance that the preetorian insignia are offered to Pallas, to a 
slave, inasmuch as they are offered by slaves. I pass over 
that they vote, 'He must not merely be urged but even 
compelled to wear the gold ring,' it being, forsooth, dero- 
gatory to the dignity of the Senate that a man of praetorian 
rank should wear one of iron." An apt illustration of the 
badge of an imperial freedman, is the following description 
of a ]'ing once in the possession of an acquaintance. "An 
antique iron ring plated with gold ; it has on the centre a 

Skct. ir. RINGS AND SETTINGS. 289 

gold medallion, having the busts of Augustus and Livia 
facing each other, in high relief." 

Mask, hollowed out to contain poison. Onyx. 

Silver Rings are very abundant, both solid ones Avith the 
devices cut upon the metal, and also set with intagli. In 
one found at Caerleon, Mon. (Isca Silurum), the stone, a 
Nicolo, engraved with a rude figure of Venus Victrix, was 
set in a gold collet let into the silver bizzel ; an unique 
instance of this mode of setting. These rings are usually of 
rough workmanship, as well as the intagli they contain, and 
appear to belong invariably to the Lower Empire. From their 
size and shape they were evidently made to be worn on the 
little finger, an additional proof of their late date. In this 
country they are often found in the vicinity of camps and 
military stations, and the subjects on them are usually 
Victories, Eagles, Eavens, and similar legionary devices. 
Arellius Fuscus, when expelled from the Equestrian Order, 
and consequently deprived of the right to wear a ring of 
gold, appeared in public, according to Pliny, with silver 
rings on his fingers, apparently out of bravado, and to show 
his contempt for the ]iunishment inflicted upon him by the 
Senate. Kings are by no means rare formed entirely of 
this metal ; but 1 liave only met with one presenting a well- 
engraved device, a Venus, upon its face, for the work of such 
engravings is generally very coarse. The silver also is of 
the same base standard as tlie coinage of the period to which 
they belong ; for the nature of their subjects, being legionary 


290 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

insignia and rude attempts at imperial portraits, prove that 
they must be all assigned to the poorest classes and common 
soldiers of the Lower Empire. 

These remarks apply equally to rings of Bronze, which are, 
as might be expected, the most numerous of all, with this 
addition, that they are often found of a fanciful design, and 
set with coloured pastes for ornamental wear. Paste intagli 
generally occur in bronze settings. I know but one instance 
of a paste, a fine cameo of a Sphinx, being found set in a 
gold antique ring ; and have never met with any in rings of 
silver. Pastes thus set in antique bronze ornaments are 
almost the only kind I am disposed to consider as truly of 
ancient manufacture ; as we have already noticed under the 
head of " Pastes." Stones rudely engraved are often set in 
the rings of this metal ; and like those of silver, they were 
often made solid, with the device cut on the face, of which 
examples occur of Etruscan and Greek times. When the 
wife in the Ecclesiaziisae talks of having a counterpart of 
her husband's signet-ring made for her own use for the small 
sum of half a drachma, she must mean one of bronze.^ Al- 
though such early examples are naturally rare, yet of the 
Roman times they abound ; the most curious of the latter 
that I have met with is a very massy one preserved among 
the llutupine antiquities in Trinity College Library. Its face 
bears the letters F and E, arranged in a square as a mono- 

2 Sealing up pantries. Diogenes the same door after the contents had 

Laertius tells an anecdote ilhistrative been pilfered. But his servants, 

of the simplicity of Lacydes the noticing this sapient device, soon 

philosopher, that, whenever he had found that, by exactly imitating 

occasion to bring anything out of his method of proceeding, they 

the pantry, after sealing up the door, might help themselves with all 

he used to throw his ring into it security, and resealing the door, 

througli a hole in the door, for fear replace the signet in the same manner 

lost it sliould be taken off his finger as the sagacious philosopher, 
when asleeji, and used for resealing 


gram, and the outside of the shank is engraved ynth. the 
inscription *STiMivrAM5T0'', where the device probably 
stands for " Feliciter," " Good luck to you ; " and the legend 
" Stimius Amato N," " Septimius to Amatus," is curious from 
the very late form of the final S and A, which apparently 
belong to a later period than that of the departure of the Ro- 
mans from this island. The entire ring has been strongly gilt. 

Roman bronze ornaments may be distinguished from the 
latton or brass of similar shapes belonging to mediaeval times, 
so abundantly discovered in the earth of every old town, by 
an examination of the metal, for Roman relics are invariably 
composed of bronze (copper and tin), whilst those of the 
Middle Ages are made of " latton," that is " brass " (copper 
and zinc). Bronze when polished has always a brownish 
hue, and is very hard; whereas latton is more of a gold 
colour and much softer. 

In Lead rings occur, though they are very rare, and even 
set with intagli of a good style of art and of early date, but 
such were doubtless gilt originally, and intended to pass for 
massy gold. A device which reminds one of the trick played 
by Polycrates upon his Spartan auxiliaries, whom, on quitting 
his service, he paid off in Samian gold pieces, which he had 
coined for the purpose in lead gilt. A singular fraud of some 
rogue of antiquity accidentally came to light in a ring in my 
own collection. It was hollow, and formed out of strong 
gold plate of very ancient Greek work, and set with a Sard 
intaglio, a full face of Jupiter Ammon. From the subject, 
and from tlie stylo of art, it may safely be ascribed to some 
citizen of Gyrene, a State in which, according to Eupolis 
(Aelian, xii. 30), '' the poorest man had signet rings worth ten 
minae (30/.), and the artists engaged in engraving gems were 
to be wondered at." ' The gem in question always had pro- 

^ lie (loos not say wlietlier for tlioir numbers, or for their skill. 

u 2 

292 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. TI. 

jected slightly from its setting ; and on one occasion adhered 
to the wax on wliich it was being impressed, and thus came 
out of the ring, when it appeared that the liollow behind had 
been filled with thin leaf-lead, retaining its form, but reduced 
by age to a brittle oxide ; a change which must have been the 
work of many centuries to effect. We know that Cyrene 
was a favourite residence of the Jews from the very time of 
its foundation : may we not have here an instance of a fair 
advantage in a bargain contrived by some individual of the 
Chosen People to obtain a few drachms more for his ware 
from some unsuspecting Gentile ? 

Having now exhausted the subject of rings in all metals 
set wdth intagli, either in stone or paste, a fitting conclusion 
will be a brief notice of those, belonging usually to the Lower 
Empire, having, instead of an intaglio, a gold coin of the 
reigning prince ingeniously inserted in the bizzel. A fine 
specimen is given by Caylus, Y. cxii., of one of elegant form, 
the broad shoulders being cut into an elaborate pattern of open 
w^ork, the head octagonal, and holding an aureus of JMaxi- 
minus : Eev. Victoeia Germanica. A very similar one, but 
of still more tasteful design, in Aveight one ounce, and set with 
an aureus of Severus Alexander, was found a few years back 
in this country. This had probably been the official ring of 
some Eoman officer serving in Britain, and corresponding to 
the " xinnulus bigemmeus unciarius " assigned to Claudius 
Gothicus as tribune of the Fifth Legion.'* 

It was no doubt the impossibility of obtaining good portraits 
engraved on gems, of the reigning emperors, that suggested 
the setting of the aurei with their likenesses in these massy 

* I have lately seen another equally relating to the army have been pur- 
massive, but of the rudest fabrique, posely selected in all these instances : 
set with an aureus of Diocletian, another argument that they were 
Rev. viRTVS MiLiTVM. It will be military distinctions, 
observed that aurei having reverses 

Sect. 11. KINGS AND SETTINGS. 293 

gold rings, evidently from their intrinsic value the ornaments 
of persons who, at an earlier period, would have worn a 
cameo or intaglio portrait in the same way, of the most 
admirable execution. But the art of engraving gems with 
any degree of skill appears to have expired, as it were, all at 
once, the last imperial portrait of fine work mentioned in any 
collection being one of Constantinus Junior ; a fact the more 
strange when we consider that the medallions of this family 
are by far the most abundant in tlie whole series, whilst they 
are by no means contemptible as works of art ; and from the 
manner in which they are found mounted with loops for 
suspension, were evidently designed to be used as personal 
ornaments. Tlie total disappearance of the statues of tlie 
later emperors is more easily accounted for by the fact, that 
metal statues, usually gilt, were alone considered worthy to 
represent the form of the sovereign in that age of advancing 
barbarism. Tliere is but one marble statue of Constantino at 
Rome, and one solitary bust of Julian ; the last a most 
wretched production of expiring art. Now, not merely do 
the later historians make mention of statues of the emperors 
of those times, as set up in every large city, as of Theo- 
doric and even Phocas at Eome, and of Justinian, and 
other celebrities of his reign at Constantinople ; but they 
even allude to numerous bronze statues of poets, warriors, 
and advocates, the contemporaries of these emperors. All 
these, on any cliange of government, went at once into the 
furnace and re-appeared in the vile coinage of the epoch. 
This circumstance, besides the roguery of the coiners, may 
explain the great proportion of lead in the later bronze 
coins, such as the huge pieces of the sixth and seventh 
century ; for Pliny states that a considerable proportion of 
this metal entered into the composition of statuary bronze in 
order to render it more fusible. Long after the art of 



Sect. II. 

sculpturing marble was quite extinct, works in bronze, of 
considerable size and skill, were executed by Byzantine 
artists : witness the numerous doors of cliurches still existing, 
and dating even from the ninth and tenth centuries. In the 
best period of Koman art, marble seems to have been pre- 
ferred to bronze for portrait statues a fortunate circum- 
stance, to which we owe the preservation of so many treasures 
of ancient art. Pausanias mentions 4000 statues of Hadrian 
alone, collected in the precincts of the Olympeium at Athens, 
the votive offerings of the same number of Grecian cities : 
no wonder that statues of this prince are still so numerous. 
Pliny, in his description of the Colossus of Nero, the work of 
Zenodorus, the most skilful statuary of the time, says that 
the execution of it proved the art of casting bronze to have 
been entirely lost : a strange statement probably refen-ing to 
some defects in the fim'shed cast, or faultiness in its colour.* 
For there still exists, in the cortile of the Senator's Palace 
on the Capitol, a colossal bronze head of Nero, of admirable 
execution, which to all appearance completely refutes the 
assertion of Pliny as to the incapacity of the metal casters of 
that epoch. 

* This may have been merely an sent (1859) the art of bell- founding 

exaggerated mode of expression to is entirely lost in England, seeing 

signify the badness and honey- the two successive failures of the 

combed quality of the metal when Great Eell of Westminster, 
cast ; just as one might say at pre- 

bijuet and monogram of Paulus. bard. 

Skct. II. FIGURE RINGS. 295 


The fashion of wearing figures of Egyptian deities on the 
fingers, derided by Pliny, has left us a beautiful example, 
which is now preserved among the searabei in the British 
Museum. Three busts, of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, of Roman- 
Egyptian work, and admirably executed in fine gold, are 
arranged side by side, so as to form the head of a ring, to 
which they are set on at a right angle ; one exactly similar 
is given by Caylus, as well as another, in which the busts 
of Osiris and Isis form the opposite ends of a shank, and 
are so brought together as to lie side by side, the heads 
pointing in opposite directions.*^ These rings composed of 
deities remind one of those common in Italy, and made of a 
crucifix so bent that the stem and upper limb of the cross 
meet together at their extremities and form the shank, so 
that the crucified figure becomes the most conspicuous 
portion of the ring. How strangely do the usages of the 
most remote ages and countries coincide in particular 
instances, especially in matters connected with religious 
Avorship. Again, the Hindoo lady generally wears on her 
finger a small mirror, set in a ring, so that she may be able 
to while away an idle hour in the jileasing contemplation of 
her dusky charms ; whilst here certain fashionable prayer 
books of the best class are bound up with looking-glass linings 
to the covers, so as to enable the fair Christian devotee to 
support the infliction of a ti'dious service, or a dull sermon, 
by the aid of reflections of a more agreeable nature. 

> A most int<Mc'stiii;4 and unique in each of the lowest faces, the jms- 

x'wvs, of solid ^okl and elegant Jbrui, sat;cs thus formed iutereccting eacli 

iu the collection of an aecinaintance, other on the centre of the edifice, 

has sot ujion its face, instead of the On the flat top of the pyramid is a 

rii;urine of a god, a small tenijile, a panther in intaglio, 
pyramid of four degrees, with a door 

296 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. 11. 

These aids to devotion recall the decade rings of mediaeval 
times. These are often found of brass, but sometimes made of 
silver, and are readily known by their having ten projections 
like short cogs on their circumference, representing so many 
Avea, whilst the round head, engraved with I.H.S., stands for 
the Pater Noster. They were worn by the pious of old 
times, and could be used at night, in place of a rosary, 
by the wearer if he felt disposed to tell his beads. 


From the earliest period of the Middle Ages, the symbol of 
investiture with the office of bishop has been a ring set with 
a Sapphire or Kuby, and worn on the fore-finger. The real 
origin of this custom is not known, but probably was derived 
from the practice of the Empire, by which a ring was given 
to a military tribune on his appointment, and, in fact, as 
early as the age of Juvenal, had become the symbol of the 
office itself ; '' and we have seen from the letter of Valerian 
that it was of a " regulation " weight and description. That 
the bishop's ring is a type of his mystical union with his 
diocese, is a subsequent interpretation due to the fancy of 
some mediaeval ecclesiastic who, like Durandus, could espy a 
symbol in everything, even in a bell-rope. To the same 
source belongs the reason assigned for the choice of the gem 
with which it is set, and mentioned by Vossius, De Physio- 
logia Christiana, VI., 7. " The Sapphire is said to grow dull 
and lose its colour if worn by an adulterer or a lascivious 
person." And, c. 25, he adds, " The Sapphire worn in a ring, 
or in any other manner, is said to cheek lust, and for that 
reason is proper to be worn by the priesthood, and all 
jiersons vowed to perpetual chastity." But the true reason 

" Semt'istri vatiim digitos circumligat auru." Sat. VII, 


for the choice of the Sapphire (or ancient Hyacinthiis), 
besides its supposed sympathy with the heavens, mentioned 
by Solinus, and its connection with Apollo the god of day, 
was its violet colour, agi'eeing with the vestments appro- 
priated to the episcopal office. 

The bishop's violet represents the inferior purple, Con- 
chylia, or Hyacinthina of the Romans ; a colour which Pliny 
compares to that of the " angry sea," a very dark violet 
indeed, as any one will remember who has sailed on the 
Mediterranean in rough weather. The scarlet of the 
cardinal's robes is the true Tyrian dye, " the colour of 
clotted blood ; dark when looked at directly, but brilliant 
when held above the eye ; " ** and the " pm-ple ink," with 
which the emperors signed their names to all documents, is, 
as plainly appears in the Byzantine charters preserved to 
the present time, of a bright scarlet colour. Hence the robe 
in the Passion is by one evangelist called purple, by another 
sl3arlet.^ I therefore think it probable that, when such 
mediaeval rings occur set with a Ruby instead of a Sapphire, 
they have belonged to bishops who were at the same time, 

Those rings were often, perhaps always, interred with the 
prelates to whom they had belonged. Two were found a few 
years ago in the coffins of ancient bishops of Hereford ; others 
found under similar circumstances are preserved in the 
library of York Cathedral ; and they often occur in col- 
lections, obtained, no doubt, from the accidental desecration of 
episcopal sepulchres. The one discovered in the stone coffin 
of a bishop of St, Omor was entirely of gold, the head 

* Laus oi summa in colore san- guis. Plin. ix. fi2. 
iLiuinis concrcti nigricans asjH'ctu, ' ^Kayivba KOKKiinjv, Mat. nop- 

i(lcni((n(" stispc'ctii rcl'iilgcns. I'ndo (f^vfuiv, Mark. 
ct Ilonicro purimrcua dicilur stm- 

298 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

formed of three trefoils, combined together in a very tasteful 

The custom of burying ecclesiastics together mth all their 
official insignia, ajij^ears to have lasted far down into the 
Middle Ages, for amongst the amusing adventures of An- 
dreuccio da Perugia, related by Boccaccio, he, when reduced 
to despair, joins some thieves in plundering the tomb of the 
Archbishop of Naples, interred the previous day in all his 
precious vestments, and with a ring on his finger valued at 
500 scudi. Two parties of plunderers, the last headed by a 
priest of the cathedral, visit the tomb in succession, and 
almost at the same time, to which circumstance Andreuccio 
owes his escape from a horrible death, and returns home in 
possession of the ring, which more than makes up for all his 

At one time it seemed to me probable that this common 
practice of plundering the tombs as soon as the corpse was 
deposited therein, even by the very parties who ought to have 
most religiously guarded the sacredness of the treasure, gave 
origin to those huge rings of gilt metal so often seen in 
cabinets of antiques, bearing either the titles or the coat of 
arms of some pope or bishop. As none that I have met with 
are of earlier date than the fifteenth century, one was almost 
led to the conclusion tliat the universal violation of the 
sanctity of the tomb, even by the supposed guardians of it, 
had induced the friends of the deceased prelates to substitute 
these counterfeit insignia of their rank for the real ones, 
Avliich had been found to offer such irresistible temptations to 
the plunderers. That these metal rings were occasionally 

'" One of the earliest, if not the 1856. It is set with a large rough 
earliest extant, has lately been shown Sapphire, is made of eledrum, and 
me, said to have been found with hollow, and entirely covered with 
other insignia in the tomb of the the elegant gu'illoche pattern so con- 
Abbot of FoUeville, near Amiens, in stant in Eomanesquc ornamentation. 


deposited in tombs appears from these words of Palatin; 
Gesta Pont. Eom., Ill, 65.3. "A. S. 1007. In sepulcliro 
Sixti IV. repertus est annulus Pauli II., cum hac nota, 
PAVLVS II." This ring was sold (for 7 guineas) in Eoby's 
collection of miscellaneous works of art, by Christie and 
Manson, May 3, 1855. In the catalogue of Major IVIac- 
donald's Collection, sold by Sotheby and Wilkinson, Ap. 20, 
1857, No. 9 is "A large ring of gilt bronze set with 
Amethyst, with raised figures in high relief, and finely 
chased. It formerly belonged to Pope Boniface, from whose 
tomb it was taken during the popular insurrection in Rome, 
1849." But here it will be as well to give a more minute 
description of these rings, which may also serve to direct the 
attention of antiquaries to any allusions to the use of them 
occurring in mediaeval writers, or to the circumstances imder 
which they may be brought to light at the present day. 
Thoy are of very large dimensions, and evidently never 
designed to be worn upon the finger ; some I have seen which 
must weigh nearly a pound ; ^ they are all of the same form, 
the shanks being four-sided, and the head square, and set 
with a slab of Crystal or pale Amethyst, or sometimes with a 
piece of glass of that colour. The upper part of the shank 
usually bears the shield of the owner on one side ; on tlie 
other some religious design, as the emblems of the evangelist. 
These ornaments are cut out of the metal in high relief, and 
often in a good bold Gothic style. On the outside of the 
narrow part of the shank an inscription is often found in 
(Jotliic letters, giving the title of the owner, as epis. lugdun: 
but they more frequently are without any inscription, and 
ai)pear always to have been strongly gilt. 

One of tlie most eminent archaeologists of the present day 

' rresc'ivL'd in llic IJruiiZf Kuoiu of tbe Uilizi, Florciico. 

300 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. ' 

is of the opinion that they served as credential rings to 
authenticate the mission of any person despatched upon the 
business of the owner, and that they had no connection with 
the ring of investiture, a valuable jewel, and one always 
retained by the prelate, both in life and death. This theory 
is supported by the fact, that duplicates of these metal rings, 
belonging to the same individual pope or bishop, are still in 
existence, which certainly would not have been the case had 
merely a single one been made for the sole purpose of 
accompanying the corpse within his last resting place. In 
the Archaeological Journal of some years back is figured a 
ring of this class (but entirely without ornamental chasing on 
the sides), set with a square crystal, and inscribed on th(3 
upper part of the shank, eogerii regis, probably one of the 
Neapolitan kings of that name.^ This is the earliest instance 
known to me, and confirms the liypothesis that these rings 
served merely as credentials to the envoys of their possessors. 
It is curious that, with these two exceptions, they should all 
have belonged to ecclesiastics of various ranks. At present 
this class of antiques is extensively forged in Germany, as 
well as all other varieties of medioBval seals and signets ; the 
high price they command from collectors of the relics of the 
Middle Ages is a great temptation to the manufacture, which 
also presents but little difficulty to a skilful worker in metal. 
Hence all objects of this kind which appear without a well- 
authenticated pedigree ought to be examined by the amateur 
with a very suspicious and critical eye. 

- Another lately seen b}^ me has century) on the other, marking its 
a Fleur-de-Lys on one side, and French and regal origin, 
a crown (apparently of the 14th 


Serapis : Roman. Cameo. 


The foregoing dissertation naturally introduces tlie subject 
of the mediajval seals and rings, which are so often found set 
with antique intagli for the purpose of signets. The subjects 
engraved upon them were always interpreted by the owners 
as representations of scriptural personages and events. Thus 
a triple mask stood for the Trinity, with the legend added 

Triple Mask : Iloman. Jacinth. 

around the stone, " Ha2c est Trinitatis Imago ; " and a similar 
intaglio I have seen, a Jacinth, set in a massy gold ring, with 
" Noel," the corruption of Emmanuel, repeated on each side 
of the setting, evidently in a similar sense. Isis nursing 
Ilorus naturally passed for the Virgin and Child ; nor was 
tliis substitution confined to intagli alone, for the "Black 
Virgins " of certain French churches (revered from the 
earliest j)criod of the IMiddle Ages, but unfortunately de- 
stroyed in the general wreck of everything ecclesiastical in 
1704), were discovered by IMontfaucon to be basalt figures 
of tlie above-named Egyptian deitie.!, which, having merely 

302 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

clianged names, continned to attract the devout to their 
temples as before. The common type of a Muse holding a 
mask, did duty for Herodias with the Baptist's head in her 

Jupiter Olympius : Roman. Sard. 

hand ; and St. John the Evangelist was represented by the 
figure of Jupiter with the eagle at his feet. Silenus with his 
crooked stick was appropriately transformed into some 
croziered abbot ; whilst cupids made very orthodox angels. 
The bust of Serapis passed always for the portrait of Christ ; 
and every one who has paid any attention to tlie representa- 
tions of this mysterious divinity, characterised as they are by 
a grave and pensive expression, so different to the open and 
genial air of the Greek and Roman Jupiter, will feel con- 
vinced that the countenance of Serapis, and not the pretended 
letter of Eufus to Tiberius, supplied the original type for the 
portraits of our Lord. The description of the Alexandrians, 
given by Hadrian in his letter to Servianus (Vopiscus in Vita 
Saturnini), seems to tend to an elucidation of the origin of 
this interchange of representations between the old and new 
Faith. " Those who worship Serapis are also Christians, and 
those who style themselves the bishops of Christ are devoted 
to Serapis. The very Patriarch himself, when he comes to 
Egypt, is forced by some to adore Serapis, by others to adore 
Christ. There is but one God for them all, him do the 
Christians, him do the Jews, him do all the Gentiles also 
worship." The Jewish prejudices entertained by the early 
Christians were so powerful, that such portraits were not 


admitted into their churches until a very late period ; and 
any traditional description of Christ's personal appearance 
must in a generation or two have become much too vague to 
serve as any guide to an artist.^ Sacred plate of the Middle 
Ages was enriched with swarms of intagli, a practice common 
enough long before under the Empire, for Juvenal laughs at 
tlie person who transferred the gems from his rings to the 
exterior of his drinking vessels : 

" Nam Virro ut multi gemmas ad pocula transfert 
A digitis." 

Caylus gives figures of several of the greatest merit, both 
camei and intagli, selected from nearly three hundred, at that 
time (1760) preserved set in the sacred vessels* and orna- 
ments belonging to the sacristy of Troyes Cathedral. The 
shrine of the Three Kings of Cologne, a work of the eleventh 
century, has some admirable camei set in its two ends, and 
its sides are studded with engraved gems of all sorts. For the 
subject of one of them (a Leda and Swan) the devotees of 
the period must have been puzzled to find a scriptural 
parallel. But it is needless to particularise these works, as 
every collection of documents of the IMiddle Ages will dis- 
play, in their seals attached, abundant evidence of the 
universality of the custom. The parchments preserved in 
the muniment room of Corpus Cliristi College, Cambridge, 
have a great number of impressions from antique intagli set 
in the personal seals of the donors and attestors of the various 

' Epipbanhis {Ilccres. xxvii.) setting tlienmp all together, worsliip 

brings it as a grave charge against and do sacrifice unto tliem alter the 

tlic Carpocratians, " that they had gentile fa.sliion." 
painted portraits, and even gold and The greatest part of tlicsc gems 

silver images, and of other materials, were small intagli on Camelian, and 

which they affirmed to 1h3 portraits of set in a cliasse containing a tooth of 

Jesns, and made by Pilate after the St. Pott'r, and the hea<l of St. Philip, 

likeness of Christ at what time he so- made l)y order of Bishop Garnier, 

journed amongst men. These thoy Almoner to the Crusaders at the 

keep in secret along with others of taking of Constantinople, whence he 

Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, and stole the skull of the Apostle. 

304 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

deeds ; amongst which, however, very few occur of any merit 
as to workmanship, being generally of late Koman date. I 
have seen a small rude intaglio of Pax, surrounded by a 
mediaeval legend eichardvs esp, which had been regarded by 
the German antiquaries, in which country it had been found 
(at Ratisbon), as an invaluable relic, being the very signet of 
Richard Coeur de Lion ! 

Lapidaria or Treatises on Gems still exist, describing the 
benefits that accrue from the possession of stones sculptured 
with certain figures. Their virtues are deduced from the 
meaning supposed by the authors of these treatises to be 
implied by the engraving on the gem ; and both grounds and 
inferences are, it is needless to say, in most cases ridiculously 
absurd. The mode in which they express themselves on this 
point would lead one to conclude that they considered the 
stone and figure to be a natural production, and not a work 
of art ; an idea the more admissible if we reflect upon the 
great length of time during which the art of gem-engraving 
had been totally unknown in Europe. The last intaglio 
known, of any merit as a work of art, is the famous Sapphire 
of Constantius, in which that emperor is represented spearing 
a wild boar in the neighbourhood of Ca3sarea, that city being 
typified by a female reclining on the ground. The rude 
works of the Gnostics may have been executed for a century 
or two longer, for the tomb of IMaria, wife of Honorius was 
found, when opened, to contain several, buried with that 
princess as amulets, in spite of her orthodoxy ; with the notion 
no doubt that they could do the deceased no harm, and might 
possibly be of service to her in her passage to the next world, 
as Ave shall see when we come to treat of the class of Abraxas 
gems, a barbarous but highly interesting series of intagli. 
We have already noticed the signet of Mauricius, who reigned 
582 to 602, but I cannot vouch for the genuineness of the 
stone, for it has much the air of a work of the Renaissance. 


I have, however, met with an account of a most interesting 
intagh'o, the authenticity of which is indubitable, and which 
brings down the traces of the existence of the art of engraving 
on gems some centuries lower than is generally allowed ; to 
tlie examination of which the next article shall be devoted. 


Tliis cross, itself indubitably a work of the Carlovingian 
period, but mounted upon a silver-gilt foot of very elegant 
design in the taste of the fifteenth century, is preserved in 
the treasury of the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle, and affords 
some singular illustrations of certain j)oints already treated of 
in these pages. The surface of the gold is ornamented with 
arabesque tracery, and studded thickly with gems set close 
together in plain raised collets. These consist of Pearls, 
Kubies, Sappliires, Amethysts (one an intaglio of the Three 
(Iraces), and Emeralds ; another convincing proof, if any 
were needed, of the common use of the last gem in ancient 
times. At the intersection of the arms of the cross is placed 
a magnificent cameo on Onyx, about 3 inches high and 2-^ 
wide, representing the laureated bust of Augustus holding an 
eagle-topped sceptre ; a Mork of the highest merit. But the 
most interesting feature that presents itself to oiu* notice in 
this early relic of the first dawn of medicneval art, is the signet 
of Lotharius himself, set in the lower part of the stem of the 
cross, immediately beneath the cameo of Augustus. It is 
cm graved on a large oval piece of rock crystal about 1^ inches 
high by 1^ wide, and n^prcscnts the bust of that king, liis head 
covered with a close-fitting helmet with a slightly projecting 
frontlet, like those of the latest Roman period. Around the 
bust runs this legend, in well formed lloman letters, 


" O Christ, defend King Lotbaire." 

306 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

The execution of the engraving is very tolerable ; far better 
than could have been expected at that date, a.d, 823, especi- 
ally when we consider the rudeness of the coinage of the same 
period. It is not the work of the Byzantine school, for the 
characters of the legend bear no resemblance to those em- 
ployed by its artists, but are precisely the same as those seen 
on the Frankish stone and metal work of the time of this 
monarch. This is by far the latest intaglio of ascertained 
date, of which I have been able to find any trace ; and its 
existence supports the opinion previously expressed, that the 
art of engraving gems lingered in Europe to a much later 
period than is generally supposed. 

This most splendid specimen of ancient jeweller's work is 
admirably figured in the magnificent 'Melanges d'ArchffiO- 
logie,' Vol. I., par MM. Cahier et Martin. 


" I have seen," says Pliny, ix. 58, " Lollia Paulina (once the 
wife of the Emperor Caligula) though it was on no great 
occasion, nor Avas she in full dress of ceremony, but merely at 
an ordinary wedding party I have seen her covered all over 
with Emeralds and Pearls shining in alternate rows, over all 
her head, her hair, hair-fillet, ears, reck, necklace, and fingers ; 
the value of all which united amounted to the sum of forty 
millions of sesterces (400,000?.) : a value which she was ready 
to attest by the vouchers for the prices paid. Nor were these 
jewels the presents of an extravagant prince ; they were, on 
the contrary, fiimily heir-looms, that is to say, bought with the 
spoils of provinces. This was the result of peculation, this 
the end for which M. LoUius made himself infamous all over 
the East, by taking bribes from princes ; and at the last 
drunk poison when C. Caesar, the adopted son of Augustus, 


had renounced his friendship : all for this end, that his grand- 
daughter might show herself off by lamp-light covered over 
with the value of forty millions of sesterces ! Let any one 
now count up on the one side the sums carried in triumph by 
Curius or Fabricius, let him picture to himself their scanty 
dishes ; and on the other side, Lollia, a wretched female, a 
tyrant's plaything, seated at the feast ; would he not have 
preferred that they should have been dragged down from 
their triumphal cars, rather than have been victors for such a 
result as this ? " 

Claudian enumerates among the treasures left by the 
Emperor Theodosius to his two sons : 

" Quin et Sidonias clilam^des et cingula baccis 
Aspcra, gemmatasque togas, viridesquo smaragdo 
Loricas, galcasque renidentcs hyacinthis." 

" Sidonian mantles rich with purple fold, 
Belts bossed with pearls, robes stiff with woven gold, 
And helmets shining green with emeralds bright, 
And breastplates rich with precious sapphires dight." 

In illustration of the last lines it may be observed, that 
Constantino often appears, on his small brass coins, wearing 
a helmet studded with gems set together as closely as 
possible. This passage also supplies another argument in 
favour of the identity of the Hyacinthus with om- Sapphire, as 
that stone is found more abundantly used than any other in 
the decoration of the jewellery of the latest lloman age, in 
the few instances (to be described in the next article) tliat 
have been preserved to our times. Hero, too, it may be 
observed, that these ornamental helmets of the latter empire 
were the origin of the imperial crown in its present shape, 
the gradual transition of form being easily traced upon the 
coins of the Byzantine Cuisai's. 

X 2 

308 AKT, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 


A brief notice has been already given, under Emerald, of 
the Iron Crown of Monza, and that of King Agihilph. But 
these have been altogether eclipsed, both in value and in 
interest, by the discovery of eight crowns in solid gold, of the 
intrinsic worth of 2000?., lately discovered in clearing away 
a deserted cemetery at Fuente di Guerrazar, two leagues 
from Toledo. The most important, that of King Receswin- 
thus, A.D. 653, is a circle of fine gold one foot in diameter, 
set with 30 huge Rubies and 35 Pearls, alternating with 
Sapphires. The circle is edged by two borders, adorned with 
a running pattern of Greek crosses made of pieces of Carne- 
lian, cloissonnSs in gold. From 24 little chains liang these 
letters, of gold, incrusted with Carnelians, like the border, 


From the letters again hang 24 pendeloques in gold and five 
Pearls, and support 24 pear-shaped pink Rubies, forming a 
fringe all round the croMii. Lowest of all hangs a magni- 
ficent cross, of elegant form, set Avith very large gems, and 
liaving three pendants from the arms and foot. 

The second crown, supposed to be the queen's, is set with 
Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, Opals, and large Pearls, and 
has a fringe of Rubies and a pendant cross, but is altogether 
of a plainer make than the first. 

The other crowns are much simpler, and are set with but 
few stones ; they probably were those of counts and barons of 
the time. On one is the inscription, 









which records its dedication by Sonnica to Santa Maria di 

Abaxo, a church at the foot of the hill on which Toledo 



This most venerable relic of Byzantine art is formed of a 
broad flat circlet of fine gold, from which spring four arches 
supporting a cross. It was sent, A.D. 1072, by Michael 
Ducas, Emperor of Constantinople, to Geisa I., Duke of 
Hungary, or, as he is styled in his enamel portrait placed 
above the circlet, " Geabitras, king of the Turks." Next 
comes a portrait of Constantinus Porphyrogenitus ; then one 
of Ducas himself ; the fourth and largest enamel represents 
Christ seated, exactly as he appears on the bezants of the 
period. These four portraits are placed at the springing of 
the arches that close the top of the crown ; on the front of 
the circlet itself are fixed four smaller enamels of Michael, 
Gabriel, St. George, and St. Demetrius. 

Above the medallion of Christ is a large heart-shaped 
Amethyst, below it is a huge rough Sapphire ; four large 
Sapplures are also set equidistant on the circlet, all of them, 
but one, being unpolished. The edges of the circlet are 
closely studded with Pearls set touching each other in a row. 
The large Sapphire at the back is surrounded by four green 
stones, cut in an oblong form, but their precise nature cannot 
bo ascertained. In the deed by which Queen Elizabeth of 
Hungary pledged this crown to the Emperor Frederic IV., 
tlio stones are enumerated as 53 Sapphires, 50 Pubies, one 
Emerakl, and 'S'20 Pearls. Here is another proof of the early 
existence of the Emerald in Europe, and of the correctness of 
the opinion as to the real nature of the Hyacinthus, for what 
otlier gem, to judge from Claudian's account of the robes and 
armour of Theodosius, should we expect to see so lavishly 
employed as this in decorations of the Byzantine age ? 

310 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 


Before quitting the subject of ancient jewellery, I cannot 
refrain from giving a brief description of an ornament, wliich, 
though not antique, exemplifies the Oriental idea of magnifi- 
cence more fully than any example that has ever come before 
me. This was a monster ring presented two centuries ago by 
the Great IMogul to the only envoy of the Em23eror of Germany 
who ever visited his court. The very first sight of this jewel 
sufiiced to convince one that it could have had no other origin 
than this, such a show of barbarian splendour did it exhibit, 
forming in itself a complete cabinet of every kind of precious 
stone of colour to be found witliin his dominions. Its form 
was that of a wheel about three inches in diameter, composed 
of several concentric circles joined together by the spokes 
radiating from the centre, in which was set a large round 
Sapphire ; the spokes, at all their intersections with the 
circles, have collets soldered on them, each containing some 
coloured gem ; in fact, every stone of value, except the 
Diamond, occm's in this glorious company. On the back is 
fixed the shank, and when worn it covers the whole hand 
like some huge mushroom. 

Strange to say, this same pattern is found in an ornament of 
a very different origin a Koman fibula discovered at Shefibrd, 
Bedfordshire, and now in the collection of the Cambridge 
Antiquarian Society. It is composed of bronze gilt, and is 
about eight inches over, and formed of three concentric 
circles connected as in the ring, all set with large pastes 
imitating Emeralds and Amethysts. The gilding is still very 
perfect, and the colours of the pastes remarkably good and 
brilliant. The form of this fibula is perhaps unique, but 
there can be little doubt of its Eoman origin, having been 
found together with many relics of that period, such as 


Samian ware and other pottery. This is another singular 
instance of the persistence of ancient types in the East, 
which strikes us so forcibly in the examination of the Etruscan 
and Grreek gold work, much of which might have been but 
yesterday brought from India, the same lightness of material 
and delicacy of execution, as well as similarity of " motive," 
characterising the productions of ages so widely separated. 

Cameo, Onyx. 


At a late period of the lloman Empire, the practice had 
become common of adorning the statues of the gods with 
articles of jewellery, such as would be worn by wealthy per- 
sonages of the time. Of this custom avo find no traces in 
former ages, for the gold and gems that decorated the statues 
of the flourishing periods of the arts were employed in the 
actual construction of the figure or of its draj)ery and acces- 
sories. Zosimus ascribes the tragic end of Serena, the 
widow of the great Stilicho, who was strangled by the orders 
of the wretched Ilonorius (or rather of the eunuchs who 
governed him), to the vengeance of the goddess Vesta, whose 
statue she had despoiled of a most valuable necklace of 
precious stones. This was done at the time the temple was 
deserted by its former guardians, in consequence of the con- 
fiscation of its revenues. Hence Zosimus (a devout adherent 
to the ancient faith), whilst lamenting the fate of so excellent 

312 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

a matron, cannot refrain from pointing out the justness of the 
punishment " which encircled with the cord that very neck 
previously adorned with a necklace obtained by sacrilege 
from the most venerable of the Roman shrines." The priests 
of old, in the Eternal City, must have had greater faith in the 
devotion or the honesty of the worshippers, than is manifested 
by their successors of the present day, for although some of 
the Madonnas, especially that dell' Annunziata, seem one 
blaze of jewels, the gifts of devotees of every age and country, 
yet they are in reality nothing but false stones. The guar- 
dians of the churches themselves confess the substitution, and 
affirm, that to guard against accidents, every real offering is 
represented to the public view by a fac-simile in paste, whilst 
the originals are deposited for safety in the sacristy of the con- 
vent, though it is shrewdly suspected by the natives that the 
originals would not be forthcoming if demanded, having, 
immediately on their dedication, been converted into a form 
more applicable to the requirements of the " living temples." 
The sacred vessels of the sacristy of Cologne Cathedral blaze 
with a profusion of precious stones, which even to the eye of 
the casual inspector, appear too brilliant to be genuine, and 
have much the appearance of recent pastes. I have also 
been informed, by a person of the greatest skill in antique 
gems, that the large Onyx camei, already mentioned as 
decorating the ends of the shrine of the Three Kings, are 
not of stone but of coloured paste. If tliis be true, it affords 
strong grounds for suspicion that the originals have been 
abstracted at some time -witliin the last three centuries ; 
moved from their place by the potent arguments of some 
w^ealthy collector, and copies in paste substituted for them ; a 
fraud not difficult of execution, as the shrine is deposited 
within a very gloomy enclosure, and can only be examined 
by means of a hand-lantern, for which permission a consider- 


ablo fee, one thaler, is charged. The devout but poor 
worshipper can only contemplate the open front of the shrine 
which contains the sacred skulls, from without, and at some 
distance, through a grating ; so that any tampering with the 
ornaments of the sides of the shrine might be carried on 
without any fear of detection. 

The sacrilege of Serena recalls a curious circumstance 
connected with the downfall of the ancient worship at Kome. 
The zeal of the Christian populace, as long as the Empire 
lasted in the West, was only allowed to vent itself upon the 
more disreputable deities of foreign origin, such as the Egyp- 
tian monsters, against which even the Senate had in earlier 
times waged vigorous war ; and against other religions intro- 
duced from barbarian regions, like Mithras and his host de- 
stroyed by the onslaught of Gracchus, so highly lauded by 
the irascible abbot of Bethlehem. The ancient deities of 
Italian origin appear to have remained unmolested as long as 
the Empire endured. The temples were indeed closed to 
worshippers, and their revenues sequestrated, but the build- 
ings and statues remained as decorations to the city. On the 
other hand, the figures symbolizing abstract ideas, such as 
Victory and Fortune, had still a certain degree of respect 
paid to them. The melting down by Palladius of the gold 
statue of Virtus, in order to buy off the threatened attack of 
Alaric, was even regarded as an unpardonable offence, and a 
sure omen of future ruin, by the almost wholly Christian popu- 
lation of Home. The figures of the goddess Ivoma and of 
Victory appear some centuries later on the coins of the most 
orthodox and fanatical Byzantine emperors. Even in the 
reign of Constantius, a persecuting bigot, we read of the 
Consul sacrificing in the temple of Castor and Pollux at 
Orftia, when contrary winds locked up the corn-fleet in the 
harbours of Africa, and threatened the city with famine. But 

314 ART, STYLES OF. Sect. II. 

on other occasions also, tlie new converts, when reduced to 
despair, had recourse to the expedients of the ancient faith, 
sanctified by so many centuries of uninterrupted victory. 
Thus during the last siege by Alaric, when all hopes of de- 
fence had failed, on a rumour that the citizens of Nepi had 
repulsed the Gothic besiegers by means of a thunderstorm 
raised by the rites of some Etruscan Haruspices, the Senate 
was anxious to try the effect of the same invocations, and had 
even obtained the consent of the Bishop Innocentius to such 
a scandalous proceeding. He, as Zosimus observes, was ready 
to sacrifice his creed to his country ; but when the Etruscan 
priests, rejoicing no doubt in his confusion, insisted on the 
proceedings being conducted publicly, and in the Forum 
itself, his pride of office came to the aid of his faith, and he 
allowed the business to go no farther. As an illustration of 
the preceding remarks a brief notice will not be out of place 
of the numerous figures of Eoma (often cut on plasma), as 
well as of Victories and Eagles, usually mere scratches, and 
so rude as to be hardly recognisable, even when engraved on 
fine gems, and which may safely be attributed to the very last 
ages of Eoman power. These rude intagli will often be found 
set in massive gold rings (in fact, as a rule, the more valuable 
intrinsically the setting, the less so is the gem as a Avork of art), 
evidently the ornaments of the wealthiest classes of the time, 
and who, had anything better, in point of execution, been then 
obtainable, would certainly have procured it to adorn such 
costly decorations. From the circumstance that only such 
miserable attempts at engravings were then to be procured by 
the most liberal patrons, we may conclude how nearly the art 
had declined towards the period of its total extinction. 

I have already noticed the rarity of imperial portraits in 
intafrlio after the time of Caracalla. Even the miscellaneous 
Herz Collection (the sole object of which was to assemble the 



greatest possible variety of subjects, irrespective of material 
or of beauty) contained none of later date than the family of 
Severus. The Mertens-Schaafhausen Cabinet, so rich in 
portraits, affords however a highly interesting and unique 
design, the heads of Diocletian and Maximian, combined in 
the character of Janus, an apt allusion to their pacific rule. 
Tlie same observation applies still more forcibly to cameo 
portraits, which, though abundant enough and of excellent 
style, of the time of Hadrian and his successor, entirely dis- 
appear in the next century with Severus, of whom some are 
extant, of considerable merit and in splendid stones. In fact, 
the only genuine cameo bust I have seen of a later date was 
one of IMacrinus, and that of very inferior execution.* The 
above-named collection possesses, indeed, a head of Valenti- 
nian, on a slab of Porphyry 4 inches by 3 in dimensions ; but 
this, both from its size and material, must rather be designated 
a bas-relief than a cameo. Camei, however, reappear at a late 
period of the Byzantine empire, worked out in the same stiff 
and barbarous style as the religious subjects of the same date ; 
and, like those, often disfigure and deface slabs of Sardonyx 
of extraordinary size and beauty. 

' A cameo of consideraLlo size, crown ; the whole worked out in flat 

said to have been found at Xauten relief, like the medallions of the time, 

on the Rhine, and apparently an- in an inferior single-coloured Onyx : 

tique, presents a laureatcd bust of a most imi)ortant monument of the 

Constantine, enclosed in a civic expiring art. 

;iu'i Uaxiiiiiau na J-iuxm u rceu J .ia\>ct 

Sm SUBJECTS. Rkct. 111. 

AnLuiue Gem, with forced name of artist Mycon : Greek, 



" Graved on the gom the god of Love I see, 
Whose mighty force no mortal heart can flee ; 
With dext'rous rein he guides the lion's might, 
Unnumher'd graces spring around to light ; 
In one hand grasped aloft the whip he roars 
O'er the rough neck, in one the bridle bears. 
The murd'rous god that tames the monster dire, 
How few of mortals shall escape his ire !" 

Marcus Argentarius, Anthol. ix. 221. 

Next to the celebrated Emerald signet of Polycrates, the 
most famous is probably the Agate of King Pyrrhus, which is 
said to have been so marked naturally as to represent Apollo 
holding the lyre and surrounded by the nine Muses, each with 
her appropriate attribute. The natural veins and shadings 
of the stone must have been very much assisted either by art or 
by the very lively imagination of the beholder, to have drawn 
so complicated a design upon the small surface of a ring- 
stone ; although Agates do occur at the present day marked 


with figures which it seems almost impossible to ascribe to a 
mere freak of natm^e. Amongst those in the British Museum 
is one representing the head of Chaucer covered with the 
hood, as in his well-known portrait, the resemblance of which 
is most extraordinary ; and yet the pebble is evidently in its 
original state, not even polished, but merely broken in two. 
In the Florence Cabinet is a red and yellow Agate, the shades 
of which admirably represent a Cupid running ; and a few 
other similar natural pictures are shown in the same col- 
lection. Among the gems at Strawberry Hill was a " lusus 
natura?, a rare Egyptian pebble representing Voltaire in his 
night-gown and cap, set in gold ;" also " another representing, 
^^ itli the utmost exactness, the portrait of a woman in profile, 
a rock behind her, and sky before, set in gold, and accounted 
very curious."' The examination of these "nature-paintings" 
supplies the explanation of an epigram by Claudian " On a 
table of Sardonyx-stone," which is somewhat obscure in con- 
sequence of its very flowery style of expression, and at fii-st 
rather suggests the idea of a mosaic being intended by his 
description, though there can be no doubt it refers to the 
natural colours and veins of the stone tablet itself. 

Epigram XLIV. In menscl de Sardonyche lapide. 

" Mensa coloratis aqiiilai sinuatur in alis 

Quam floris distinguit honos, similisque figura 
Texitur, imphimcm mentitur gemma volatum." 

" The coloured veins that o'er its surface stra}^ 
An eagle's form with dusky wings portray ; 
With native liues trac'd on the flower'd stone, 
A life-like figure in perfection showTi ; 
Form'd in the gem tlio picture seems to fly, 
And wingless cheats the wond'ring gazer's eye." 

' Some otliers still more cxtrnor- tion of the Hope Precious Stones,' 
(liiiary arc .specified in the 'Dt'scriiv by B. Ilerz. 

318 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

This epigram also supplies another instance of the vast 
size of the slabs of Sardonyx obtained by the Romans ; and 
this must have been the " gem," two of which made the 
draughtboard, " tabula lusoria," carried in the Triumph of 
Pompey, and which was four feet long by three wide. 

Dio records that the head of Augustus, engraved by Dios- 
corides, was the signet used by his successors until Galba 
substituted for it his own family device, a dog, looking forth 
from a ship's prow. Sylla's favourite seal was the surrender 
of Jugurtha,^ a subject no doubt represented thereon in the 
same manner as it is found on the reverse of one of his 
denarii, where the Roman general appears seated on an ele- 
vated platform, and before him are two men kneeling, one of 
them with his hands tied behind his back, Avhile the other 
holds forth a branch, the emblem of a suppliant. According 
to Dio, xlii. 18, the Roman Senate refused to credit the news 
of the death of Pompey until Julius Caesar produced before 
them his very signet-ring, which was engraved with tliree 
trophies, like that of Sylla's. The motive for selecting this 
device was the same in both cases, to commemorate the three 
principal triumphs of their military career. The Spaniard, 
whose father had fallen in a duel with Scipio ^milianus, was 
so proud of the fact that he used for his signet a stone en- 
graved with a rejDresentation of the combat ; whereupon Stilo 
wittily inquired, what would he not have done if his father had 
killed Scipio, instead of Scipio's killing his father ? Augustus 
at first sealed with a sphinx, having found two intagli of 
this design, and perfectly alike, among the valuables of his 
mother ; and one of these, when absent from Rome, he used 
to leave in the hands of his deputy to authenticate any letters 
or proclamations that might be suddenly required by any 

" Pliiiy, Nat. Hist, xxxvii, ; my cliiei' authority for the statements 
made in this chapter. 


emergency to be issued in his name ; but so many satirical 
remarks were made upon his use of a sphinx that he gave it 
up, and employed a head of Alexander the Great for his 
signet.^ Tliat of Maecenas Avas a frog, the sight of which, as 
announcing a contribution about to be levied, used to strike 
terror into people's minds. This famous patron of literature 

Signet of Muecenas. Etruscan Calcedony. 

extended his favour to tliis branch of the fine arts, of which 
a testimony still exists in his portraits from the hand of 
Apollonius, of Solon, of Aulus, and above all of Dioscorides, 
which is the second in merit of the eight authentic surviving 
works of that engraver. How passionately i\IaBcena3 loved 
gems, doubtless not merely for themselves, but for the art 
enshrined within their substance, appears from his lines upon 
the departure of Horace, for which loss, he says, not even the 
sight of his darling collection could console him : 

" Lugens, o mea vita, te, Smaragdos 
Beryllos neque, Flacce, ncc nitentes, 
Nuper, Candida margarita, quaere : 
Nee qnos Thyniea lima perpolivit 
Anellos nee laspios lapillos." 

' A Calcedony scarab in the Mor- to some member of the ix)werful clan 
tens - Sehaalbausen Collection, en- maikne, the " re.^al ancestry " of 
ti;iav((l with a frog (lx)th the Iwetle Horace's patron. That sucli devices, 
and the inta;i:lio a highly finished like onr heraldic crests, were here- 
work of an Etruscan artist of the ditary, appears from Dio's notice of 
best period), may be assigned, with- Galba's hereditary seal. 
out much stretch of probabilities, 

320 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

" Whilst I thy absence, my life, deplore, 
Emeralds and lustroiis Beryls charm no more ; 
No more, my Flaccus, can the brilliant white 
Of Indian Pearls as once my eyes delight : 
Nor can my favourite rings my grief beguile. 
Nor Jaspers polished by the Thynian file." 

Augustus also evidently alludes to his mania for collecting 
gems in the passage of a letter in which he thus mimics 
his affected style : " Vale mel gentium, metuelle, ebur ex 
Hetruria, laser Aretinum, adamas supernas, Tyberinum mar- 
garitum, Cilneorum smaragde, iaspis figulorum, berylle 
Porsennse, carbunculum habeas" (corruption of Carbuncule 
Arabice). Macrob. ii. 4. " Farewell my ivory statuette from 
Etruria, my Aretine spice, my diamond of the Upper Country, 
my pearl of the Tiber, my emerald of the Cilnian clan, my 
jasper of the potteries, my beryl of King Porsena, my ruby of 
Arabia," &c., joking him at once on his royal Etruscan de- 
scent (liis weak point) and on this his favourite hobby. 
Ismenias, the celebrated flute-player in the reign of Alex- 
ander, having been informed that an Emerald, engraved with 
a figure of Amymone, was for sale at a town in Cyprus for 
six gold staters (six guineas exactly), commissioned a person 
to buy it for him, who made, as he thought, a good bargain, 
and brought back two gems for the same money ; but Isme- 
nias, instead of thanking him for his trouble, said that " he 
had done very wrong in lessening the dignity of the gem by 
beating down its price." Alexander would not allow his por- 
trait to be engraved on gems by any artist except Pyrgoteles ; 
and from the manner of Pliny's expressing himself, it would 
appear that the Emerald was the only stone selected for this 
honour.'* According to the account in Athenaeus, the sophist 

* After his conquest of Asia, rius" to seal his edicts to the Per- 
Alexander used the "ring of Da- sians, his original signet for those 



Athenion, on his return from his embassy to Mithridates, is 
carried in state into Athens, reclining upon a litter with silver 
legs and coverings of purple. He is lodged in the house of 
Dies, the richest man of the time, which is furnished for his 
reception with tapestry, pictures, statues, and a vast display 
of plate. Out of this house he used to strut, trailing behind 
him a splendid mantle, and wearing a gold ring engraved 
with a portrait of IVEithridates. Here it may be observed that 
portraits of this king are of frequent occurrence on gems, for 
he seems to liave been very popular in Greece, where he was 
no doubt hailed by the natives as a welcome deliverer from 
the burdensome yoke of Kome. His portrait appears, from 
the arrangement of the flowing locks, to be treated as one of 
Apollo, probably in allusion to his name, the equivalent of 
Holiodorus, " the gift of the Sun." He was certainly a prince 
who appreciated and encouraged the arts, for his coinage is 
amongst the most beautiful in the entire Greek series a 
circumstance hardly to be expected at that late period ; and 

addressed to the Greeks. The de- 
vice of this last was probably a lion, 
at least such was the figure on the 
signet with which Philip dreamed 
that he sealed up the womb of 
Olympias (a dream interpreted as 
the presage of the future greatness 
of the infant), and in commemoration 
of this dream, Alexander subse- 
qiiently founded a city named 
Lcontoi)olis. Moreover the sole 
coins, hemidrachms, bearing his 
actual portrait with the horn of Am- 
mon, have a lion for the reverse. 
At this ixjriod every man had a 
fixed device for his signet, as well 
known, and as unvarying as a coat- 
of-arms at jnesent ; for we read of a 
conspiracy being detected, in conse- 
quence of a letter being brought to a 

Greek officer, bearing an unknown 
seal, and which proved to be one 
from an agent of Darius. (Quint. 

Unfortunately no author has men- 
tioned what was the device on the 
signet of Darius ; although we labour 
imder the " embarras de richesses " 
in the varying descriptions of the 
seal of Xerxes, authenticating his 
communications to Pausanias ; for 
the scholiast on Thucydides, i. 129, 
says, "The signet of the King of 
the Persians bore, according to some, 
the portrait of the king himself; 
according to others, that of Cyrus 
the founder of the monarchy ; and 
again, as others say, the horse of 
Darius, by reason of whose neighing 
he was made king." 

322 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

he is the first monarch recorded to have formed a cabinet of 
gems. The Spartan magistrates in the time of Pausanias (the 

MittLiidates. Yellow Sard. 

second century) used for their official seal the portrait of 
Polydorus, one of their ancient kings, but no reason is assigned 
why he was selected in preference to all the others. Areius, 
King of the Lacedemonians, ends his letter addressed to the 
High Priest Onias thus : " The seal is an eagle grasping a 
serpent in his talons" (Josephus, xii. 5). In the 'Amphi- 
tryon,' in the dialogue between Mercury and Sosias, we 

" Ubi ea patera nunc est ? M. Est in cistula 
Amphitryonis obsignata signo. S. Signi die quid est ? 
M. Cum quadrigis Sol exoriens. Quid me captas carnufex ?" 

" AVhere is the bowl now? Mer. Lock'd up in my trunk, 
Seal'd with Amphitryon's seal. Sos. Say what 's the seal ? 
Mer. Sol rising in his car. Why seek to entrap me, 
Thou gallows-biid ? 

It is probable that Plautus, whose plays are all adaptations of 
older Greek comedies, had some ancient authority for making 
this the device of the signet of the Argive king. The fre- 
quency of the portraits of Alexander the Great, upon gems of 
very different ages, arose from their being worn as amulets 
down to a late period. Trebellius PolUo, speaking of the 
family Macriayia, says that the females wore the portrait of 
Alexander of JMacedon, engraved on their Jiair-canls, their 


bracelets, and in their rings ; and adds that it was a common 
belief that persons who carried about with them a portrait 
of Alexander in silver or gold, prospered in everything they 
did ; and even so late as the time of St. Chrysostom, he 
mentions (Hom. ii.) the practice of wearing his bronze coins 
fastened to the head or feet, as charms to keep off sickness. 

Cicero says (De Fin. v. 1), " I cannot forget Epicurus even 
if I wished it, for our friends have his portrait not only in 
paintings, but even engraved on their cups and in their rings." 
I once had a portrait of this philosopher, engraved in a late 
tliough still antique style, on a fine Sardonyx, with the clia- 


racters i k2 thus placed an early instance of such an 

arrangement of the letters of a name, afterwards so frequent 
in Byzantine times. His portrait is easily recognised by his 
thin cheeks, long hooked nose, and ample beard, more 
adapted to the character of a Cynic than to the idea one 
would be inclined to form of the aspect of him that taught 
pleasure to be the chief good. This too illustrates the pas- 
sage of the poet, who speaks of a certain pei-sonage as being 

" Barbatus, macer, eminente naso, 
Ut credas Epicuron oscitaii." 

" ITim, bearded, lean, and with projecting nose, 
A yawning Epicurus you 'd suppose." 

One of the omens announcing the coming fall of Nero was 
the presentation to him by his favourite Sponis, as he was 
taking the auspices on New Year's Day, of a ring engraved 
with the Rape of IVoserpine a most unlucky subject, being 
the received symbol of death, and appropriated as a decora- 
tion to sarcopliagi. Nothing in the eyes of a Eoman could 
be more ill-omened than such a New Year's Gift ; altogether 
as ])rophetic of future woe. as the unaccountable legend on 

Y 2 

324 SLTBJKCTS. Rect. III. 

the marriage medal of Mary and Francis II., " Hora nona 
Dominus Jesus experavit Heli clamans," words so inappro- 
priate to the occasion that they must have been suggested 
by Atropos herself to the designer of the medal, in bitter 
irony of the festive day. Chiflet asserts (but I fear only on 
the authority of some mediaeval WTiter) that Augustus used a 
signet engraved with a tortoise and butterfly, in allusion to 
his favourite maxim, Festina lente (" No more haste than good 
speed"); but this conceit savours too much of the Cinque- 
Cento taste to be really authentic. Tlie Sapphire of Con- 
stantius, lately mentioned, from the legend const antivs 
AVG., engraved so conspicuously over the principal figure, 
was most likely executed by that emperor's order, as his pri- 
vate signet; and the Calcedony with the bust and legend 
of Mauricius, in the jMertens-Schaafhausen Collection, is, if 
genuine, a most interesting personal relic of that unfortunate 

Yisconti (' Esposizione di Gemme Antiche,' No. 497) thus 
describes a portrait supposed to be that of Constantius II. : 
" Impression of an intaglio in Rock Crystal, from the Flo- 
rentine Museum ; a youthful bust wearing the paludamentum, 
and appearing to offer, in his physiognomy, the features of 
Constantius, son and successor of Constantino the Great." 
But his next (No. 498) is a portrait of the highest historical 
interest : *' A most singular Carnelian, though of miserable 
execution, inscribed alahicvs. rex. gothorvm. The bust 
is in front-face, and has upon the shoulders a kind of stole 
called lorum in those times, which formed part of the habit of 
ceremony of the emperors and of the consuls." It may be 
conjectured that this was cut for the official seal ~ of the 
secretary of the Gothic king. Had it been intended for his 
private signet, it would doubtless have been executed on a 
stone of gi-eater intrinsic value a Sapphire or an Amethyst. 


Portraits of this late- epoch, when they do occur on gems, are 
generally given in front-face and very deeply cut, showing 
that the mechanical part of the arts, and the ability of sinking 
intagli with facility in the hardest stones, still survived the 
total extinction of all knowledge of design. Front-face por- 
traits had ere this come into fashion upon the more important 
productions of the Mint, such as the medallions; and very 
shortly after entirely banished profiles from the obverses of 
the gold currency. In the De la Turbie Collection, No. 49, 
is a Carnelian engraved with arabesques, and a Greek in- 
scription, KOMNHNOC TOY CEBACTOY, " ComneuUS, SOU of the 
Emperor," or in modern phrase. Prince Comnenus. This is 
consequently an intaglio belonging to the twelfth century, 
during wliich that family held the imperial power ; and is also 
the latest instance that has come under my notice of an en- 
graved stone, the date of which can be approximately fixed. 
It snpplies another argument in support of the opinion that 
the art of gem-engraving was re-introduced into Italy by the 
artists fugitive from Constantinople in 1453. Pepin used for 
liis signet a head of the Indian Bacchus, and Charlemagne 
one of Serapis ; but there is little doubt that, at that period 
of ignorant orthodoxy, the first passed muster as a portrait 
of Moses, the second, with better reason, as that of Christ 

Probably the most famous signet of later times is that of 
M. Angelo, preserved in tlie Paris Collection. It is a Sard, 
engi-aved with a group representing a Baccliic Festival, quite 
in the Renaissance style. In the exergue is a boy fishing, 
the rebus upon tlie name of the artist, Gio. Maria da Peseta. 
Many connoisseurs however still hold the gem to be an un- 
doubted antique. Of this relic the following curious story 
is told: In tlie last century, as the Abb6 Bartlielemy was 
exhibiting the rarities of the Bibliotlieque to a distin- 

326 SUBJECTS. Skct. III. 

guislied antiquary of the day, he suddealy missed this ring, 
whereupon, without expressing his suspicions, he privately 
despatched a servant for an emetic, which when brought he 
insisted on the savant's swallowing then and there ; and 
in a few minutes he had the satisfaction of hearing the signet 
tinkle in the basin held before the unlucky victim of his love 
of antiquities. There are more paste copies of this gem, some 
of them excellent imitations, than of any other intaglio in ex- 
istence, not so much on account of the actual beauty of the 
composition (which, although fine, is by no means of the first 
class) as from the celebrity of the signet due to the fame of 
its original possessor. 

An antique ring^ lately came under my notice, which, 
though its history is quite unknown, one feels tempted to be- 
lieve must have been the actual signet of some empress of 
the fifth century. A female portrait, front-face, like that of 
G-alla Placidia, deeply though rudely cut on an octagonal 
Amethyst, was set in a massy gold ring of a very uncommon 
but elegant design, representing a cable of many strands, the 
shank gradually swelling from the middle towards the head, 
wliicli thus was flattened out sufficiently to receive the stone. 
The work was executed with the greatest precision, corre- 
sponding fully to the elegance of the design an unusual cir- 
cumstance in antique rings, especially those of Koman date, 
which are for the most part clumsy in form, the only object 
kept in view by the ancient goldsmith being to make them 
fit comfortably upon the finger without the risk of turning 
round upon it. And now that the subject of antique settings 
is once more brought before us, I must mention a splendid 
Greek signet of solid gold, engraved with the head of a 
Nymph, of the best period of Sicilian art, proving that rings 

Now in the Uzielli Collection. 

Skct. III. CHIMERAE. 327 

of this description had been in use long before the reign of 
Claudius, the time assigned by Pliny for their coming into 
fashion,^ which also is refuted by the remark of Atteius 
Capita, already quoted, that the older Romans cut their 
signets on the iron or gold of the ring itself. Both these 
rings were in the former splendid collection of Mr. Bdocke, 
to whose exquisite taste and profound knowledge of this 
branch of antiquity I am indebted for many of the observa- 
tions incorporated in these pages. To him also belonged 
the Diamond in its antique ring, described above a rarity 
that I had sought for in vain amongst the most famous 
European cabinets. 

Stymphaliau Bird : Roman- Burnt Sard 


Chimerae, also called Grylli, from the Italian word signify- 
ing both a cricket and a caprice, are grotesque figures 
formed of portions of various animals combined into the 
outline of one monster, wliich generally bears the shape of a 
bird or of a horse. Paintings of similar " capricci " were com- 
mon among the ancients, and went by the same name that 
they still bear in Italy ; for Pliny uses the expression " pinxit 
et Gryllum ridiculi habitus," to designate these fantastic 

" Pliny's remark may ix^rhaj-s trait on the gold ring itself, in- 
011 ly refer to the newly introdnced s^eati of on a gem. 
fashion of cutting the impenal por- 

328 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

compositions. These iiitagli are sometimes called Basilidan 
Figures, and classed among Gnostic gems ; to which family, 
hovvev^er, they by no means belong, for besides that they 
never bear the symbols or legends characteristic of the 
Gnostic amulets, the style of work which they exhibit is a 
sufficient proof to an experienced eye that they belong to a 
much earlier date the flourishing period of Eoman art. 
Their first origin must have been those combinations of 
masks so frequent in all collections where the engraver 
sought to produce effect by putting together the strongest 
contrasts, such as faces of a satyr and a nymph side by side, 
or back to back Janus-like ; or a stern tragic and a laughing 
comic mask ; and an infinity of similar groups, often joined 
together with singular skill. A very favorite stone for these 
subjects was the red Jasper; doubtless its colour Avas con- 
sidered appropriate to such representations. One of the 
most ingenious of these combinations I have ever met with 
is in my possession, and represents a fine bunch of grapes 

Bunch of Grapes: Ecman. Red Jasper, 

with stalk and tendril, the whole formed out of five masks, 
the two upper satyric, the three lower comic, a few grapes 
being introduced to fill up the outline ; an idea probably 
unique and carried out with much art in this instance. 
Some of the very finest Roman art is to be found displayed 
in the Avork of these groups : witness the admirable com- 
bination of throe masks, svmbolical of the three divisions of 

Hkct. III. CHIMERAE. 329 

the drama, on a large Sard formerly in the Webb, now in 
the Foil Id Cabinet. A very frequent arrangement is to 
represent a beautiful youthful profile covered with a helmet 
composed of three or more caricature masks, all united in 
one whole. A full-faced wide-mouthed tragic mask has 
often a comic, with mild and regular features in profile, 
attached to the back ; and every collection furnishes new 
examples of the artist's ingenuity in varying these com- 
binations. The next stop was to combine the human head 
with that of some beast : thus an old man's head is backed 
by that of a wild-boar, of a ram, or of an elephant, all which 
combinations are of frequent occurrence. 

By adding to these compositions the head and neck of a 
bird or of a horse, a complete animal sui generis was obtained, 
which was next supplied with legs, and often mounted by a 
Cupid, a parody of the popular subject, Cupid riding the 
lion. A favorite type was formed out of a peacock's head 

and neck set upon a body made out of a satyric mask, backed 
by a rum's head, out of which springs a cornucopia for the 
tail, while tlie monster tramples upon a dolphin or a lizard ; 
wli('r(> the general idea of the outline of the whole is that 
of the sacri'd Ibis destroying such re[)tiles; perhaps a sly 
hit at th(> fashionable Egyptian superstitions of the age. 
A mouse or ralibit is often introduced, together with a 
l(!tter or two, sometimes of the Punic alphabet, probably 

330 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

giving to the initiated the key to the enigma. The com- 
pleted figure makes a very good imitation of a crane ; or of 
a cock with a horse's head, perhaps the hippalectryon of the 
comedians ; and it will be found that these monsters, however 
varied in form, are almost always made up of the same com- 
ponent parts : the satyric mask, or perhaps head of Socrates, 
the ram's head, cornucopia, mouse, dolphin, rabbit, and 
lizard, always entering into the composition. Hence one is 
tempted to hazard a conjecture that these objects, the at- 
tributes of Earth, Air, and Sea, have a certain designed 
relation to each other, and the figure resulting from them 
a deep and mystic meaning. May they not symbolise cer- 
tain virtues or qualities arrogated to himself by the owner of 
the signet? It is hardly probable that they would have 
been so generally used for signets (at a time when good 
taste still flourished), if they had been only caprices of 
the artist, in which case also the component parts would 
have admitted of unlimited variations, and not have been 
confined to portions of the animals already enumerated. 
A design sometimes occurs representing the Stymjphalian 
bird, a long-legged crane, with a human head helmeted, 
and armed with a buckler and two javelins ; a figure 
wliich, curiously enough, is a type of the denarii of the 
family Valeria? Tlie story goes, that these birds were 
invulnerable, but could with their bills pierce through the 
strongest armour a quality typified by the darts ; they con- 
sequently set Hercules and his arrows at defiance until 

^ Or it may be one of the birds of vice contains an allusion to the 

Mars inhabiting the isle Aretias in name Valeria, another instance of 

the Euxine, which shot forth their (in heraldic phrase) the " Canting 

feathers like arrows in their fliglit Arms " of the Eoman families, as 

on tlie api^roach of the Argo, and the elephant of Ca?sar, the calf of 

wounded Oileus in the shoulder Vitulus, the larches of Lariscolus, 

(Apol. Rhod. II. 1060). This de- &c. 

Skct. III. 



Pallas came to his aid and gave him a bronze rattle by 
means of which he scared them away to the coast of the 
Kod Sea. There their descendants continue to the present 
day, for the officers employed on the late nautical survey of 
its shores discovered on the sand hills the deserted nests of 
a monstrous crane far exceeding in size anything known to 
belong to that species. Interwoven in the structure of one 
of them were the bones and tattered clothing of a ship- 
wrecked sailor, still retaining his silver Match, and thus 
testifying to the recent construction of the pile. 

Lyres composed of dolphins and tortoises, accompanied by 
ravens and hoopoes, all animals consecrated to Apollo, are plen- 
tiful enough, and serve to support the opinion that the other 
more enigmatical compositions had a well-defined intention. 
All these chimerae, grylli, or symplegmata, are found much 
more abundantly on red Jasper than on any other stone. 


Tlie Signs of the Zodiac are often seen upon gems of Roman 
work, cither singly, combined, or as adjuncts to figures of 
<l'itif'S. the representatives of the dilVerent planet-s. They 



Sect. HI. 

may reasonably be supposed to have a reference to the 
horoscope of the owner : for that persons who had been 
blessed with an "auspicious nativity" indulged in the vanity 
of parading it before the public eye is Avell-known from many 
liistorical allusions. Thus Severus selected for his second 
wife Julia Dorana, because she had a " Eoyal Nativity," and 
many a senator was sacrificed by the timid tyrants of the 
Empire for the same reason as was Metius Pomposianus by 
Domitian : quia imperatoriam genesin habere ferebatur. One 
of the most auspicious horoscopes was Capricorn, 

" in Augusti felix qui fulserit ortus "^ ManiUus, 

" ^^'llo shone propitious on Augustus' birth ; " 

Augustus with his horoscope Capricorn. Caioeo. 

a fact commemorated by this emperor on the reverse of one 
of his denarii, as Suetonius has noted. Hence this Sign 
often accompanies the portrait of Augustus on gems.- Fir- 
micus lays down that, " on the rising of the third degree of 
Capricorn, emperors, kings, and persons destined to fill the 
highest offices are born." He gives a very detailed list of 
the " Apotelesmata Signorum," or the influences exerted by 

Skct. hi. astrological INTAGLL 333 

each degree of the respective Signs, in its ascension, upon the 
future destiny of the infant born under it : for this influence 
was greatly modified by their various altitudes in the heavens. 
Manilius also gives a similar list, though less full, describing 
only the influences of the Signs at their rising, or when 
attended by the ascensions of certain constellations. Thus 
under Aries the native will be a great traveller ; under 
Leo, a warrior ; under Cancer, a sailor ; under Aquarius, 
honest, chaste, and religious, &c.* Pisces, strangely enough, 
brought to light the talkative and slanderous. 

Capricorn is for the above reason a very favorite device, 
as are also IjCO, and Virgo figured as Victory but dis- 
tinguished by her helmet and the wheat-ears in her hand. 
Scorpio is, next to Leo, the most frequent of all, and with good 
reason, if we can credit Manilius as to his influence on the 
native's fortunes.^ These figures are generally accompanied 
by a cornucopia, to define their astrological intention. A 
magnificent Sardonyx intaglio (Fould) has Jupiter seated, be- 
tween IVIars and Mercury standing, upon an arch under which 
is a bearded River-god ; thus giving us the nativity of Rome, 
for cities had their nativities like men. 

Two or three sometimes occur in combination on the same 
intaglio, as Virgo seated between Taurus and Capricorn. 
This expresses the joint influence for good of these Signs ; 
for some were accounted as hostile, others as friendly to 
each other. I'lie three so united are a trine, or the three 

" But when receding Ciipritonms shows " " Whoso is bom beneath Ih' auspicious sky 

The star that in his tail's briglit sumiiiit When Scorpio rears liis glilteriiig tail on 

plows, high, 

Tlieii shall the native dare the angry seas. He shall the earth with rising cities 

A hardy sailor live, and spurn inglorious crown, 

ease. And trace tlie circuit of new founded towns. 

Or ancient cities in the dust lay low 

I'lost thou desire a son pure, holy, cliaste, And give their sites back to the nistic 

With probity and every virtue graceil? plough ; 

Such shall Ik; lK)rn, nor deem the promise O'er ruined houses bid ripe crops to wave, 

\ain. An<l Ores flourish on a nation's grave." 

When first Acpiarius rises from Ihe main." IliiiL 
MANtl.ll'S, vl. 

334 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

respectively touched by the points of any equilateral triangle 
inscribed within the zodiacal circle. 

When they appear as adjuncts to the figures of planetary 
deities, they denote the power that god or planet exerts 
when placed in that particular Sign ; a power varying in 
nature and in degree according to the part of the Sign in 
wliich he happened to be at the moment of the nativity : 
points all laid down with the greatest exactness by the 
accurate Firmicus,^" in his Decreta Saturni, Jovis, &c., e.g. 
" If Mercury be found in Scorpio the native will be handsome, 
fond of dress, honourable, and liberal. If he be found in Leo 
the native will be a soldier, and gain glory and fame. If 
Jove be in Cancer the native will be the friend and faithful con- 
fidant of the secrets of the rich and powerful," &c., &e. Again 
the Signs attend the representations of other deities besides 
those of the planets : for, according to Manilius, each one was 
under the patronage of its own tutelary god or goddess, whose 
choice seems to have been dictated by the use or disposition 
of the animal or personage thereby symbolized. 

" Pallas the Earn, Venus the Bull defends. 
The beauteovis Twins their guardian i^hcebus tends. 
( "yllenian Hermes o'er the Crab presides, 
Jove with ( 'ybele the fierce Lion guides. 
The Virgin with her Sheaf is Ceres' dower ; 
The artful Balance owns swart Vulcan's power. 
Still close to Mars the warlike Scorpion's seen ; 
The Centaur huntsman claims the sylvan queen ; 
A\ hilst Capricorn's slin;nk stars old Vesta loves, 
The Urn is Juno's Sign, opposed to Jove's ; 
And Neptune, o'er the scaly race supreme, 
Claims his own Fishes in the falling stream." 

* His voluminous treatise on LoUian, was written luider Con- 
Astrolocry, addressed to the Count stantinus Junior in the 4tli century. 


These combinations also represent, the Planets and their 
Houses,' for 

" The planets look most kindly on the birth 

When from his proper House each views the earth, 
For tliere th' auspicious larger blessings showei-. 
And the malign are shorn of half their power." 

The engravings of the Signs were evidently worn in later 
times as amulets for the protection from disease and accident 
to those portions of the body under their especial influence. 
For each member was under a particular Sign, a belief of 
the highest antiquity, and scarcely yet extinct.^ Hepliaestion 
expressly observes, " the star Clmumis in the breast of Leo, 
protects against all diseases of the chest." The Greek 
astrologer quoted by Salmasius (De An. Clim.), speaks of 
the Avcaring of figures of the decani, or tliree cliief stars, in 
each Sign (of which Chnuniis is one), cut upon rings as 
cliarms against disease and accidents. These decani are, as 
Scaliger observes with justice, tlie curious winged figures, 
sometimes holding a Sign in their hands, so often appearing on 
the Abraxas gems. Such were the " constellation stones " of 
the mediaeval astrologer.'' Scaliger^ gives, as borrowed by 
the Arabians from the Greeks, a catalogue of most strange 
figures and groups, intended to express the particular in- 

1 Dorotlu'UsaiidMauetlio (ii. 141) aiiiinal, the lijiuro of wliioli tliey 

lav down that bear ; thus Loo airainst the assaults 

" ciiicfost (if these, wiihnsiioct most l)onisn '^f lious and wild beasts, Scofpio 

When 111 Aquarius (loihoui Saturn shine: a-iaiust .scori.ions and rei)tiles, &c. ; 

Jove Ml tlie Archer joys; til impetuous Miirs " ' ... 

01 ritjiit exults in liery Scorpio's stars ; t)ut SO extremely material an uiter- 

s..ft Venus loves the ifuii; the Virgin fair p,.etation was certaiul V iiot accoptctl 

llerines leRurils a.H Ins iMH'Uliar cnre. i _ v i " 

Kur to each planet that iUuine.s the Rkies liv the ancientS. 

His proper House some favourite Sign sup- " i . ,, ,. , , . . > , 

11 .' " My moondial and Napier s bones, 

' And several <<instellalion stones.'' 

" Tlie Arabian astrolojjiers sjieak Hudibras. 

of these i^ems as defending the * Xota> in Maniliiiin. Lib. V. 
wearer a'j.iiiiist the attat^ks of the 


fluence of each degree of every Sign on the destiny of the 
native.^ Probably a careful study of these descriptions would 
enable the inqui^^r to decipher the intent of many of the 
inexplicable combinations engraved on the later talismanic 

In the combinations above mentioned Sol appears as a 
star with eight rays ; the planets sometimes are symbolized 
by their 'attributes placed over a star : thus the caducous 
figures for Mercury ; the dove for Venus ; the spear for 
Mars, &c. But the Signs even in the most hasty antique 
work are always given as full figures, however sketchily 
indicated; never as the hieroglyphics by wliich we are 
accustomed to see them denoted in almanacs. When such 
do occur on a stone it may be safely assigned to the Italians 
of the Eevival and following century, when astrological gems 
and amulets were produced in even greater abundance than 
at any period of the ancient Empire, the belief in the science 
being then far stronger and more universal than in the 
times of pagan Rome. These hieroglyphic abbreviations 
probably originated with the Arabian writers, the founders 
of astrology in mediaeval Europe, and were due to their 
religious prejudices against representations of the human 
figure, which actually led them to substitute new symbols 
of their own for many of the Greek constellations, as well as 
for some of the Signs as Gemini, Virgo, and Aquarius.^ 

Another not uncommon device is a crescent and seven 
stars, the Pleiades : this may be assumed to have been a 
lady's signet from its occurring as a reverse on tlie medals 
of many of the empresses as Sabina and Faustina. The 

* Tliese tables are tevmcd "My rio- ^ Gemini they rendered by two 

geneses Signorum," a corruption of peacocks ; Yirgo by a bunch of 

Moeriogeneses, the influence of each wheat-ears ; Aquarius by a mule 

part or degree upon the nativity. carrying two buckets. 

Sect. III. 



crescent enclosing the sun-star is also to be observed on 
gems. The motive for choosing such a device is hardly to 
be conjectured, unless indeed we supp<5fee the owner thus 
placed herself under the patronage of all the heavenly host 
at once. Of the astronomical coins, the most singular is that of 
Niger the celestial globe supported on the conjoined figures 

Hipparchua the Astronomer : Itoman. Lapis-lazuli. 

of Taurus and Capricorn : which may be supposed to contain 
an allusion to his surname Justus, for Erigone (Astraea) often 
appears thus supported. Some of the large bronze medals of 
Antoninus Pius from the Alexandrian mint, bear on their 
reverses a sign with the bust of a deity ; another has the head 
of Serapis surrounded by those of the planets, and the whole 
enclosed within the zodiac. The curious Emerald of the 

Alexandrine EmTnld. 

338 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

Mertens-Schaafhaiisen Collection apparently offers a similar 
composition, and from its style may safely be ascribed to the 
same period. 

larchas, the Indian philosopher (probably the president of 
a Buddhist college), presented ApoUonius Tyaneus with seven 
rings named after the planets, each of which that sage used 
to wear upon its appropriate day : an early allusion this to 
the present nomenclature of the days of the week. 

aiithraio Bull, symbol of the Earth. Green Jasper. 

In the same proportion as the preceding class of Grylli affect 
the red Jasper, so is the mottled green, or dull yellow 
variety of the same stone, the favorite material for the ex- 
tensive series of intagli connected with the worship of Mithras, 
the oriental equivalent of Phoebus, whose place he took in 
the creeds of the second and third centuries. To judge from 
their good execution many of these intagli date from the early 
Empire, and thus form as it were the introduction to the 
innumerable host of Gnostic gems amid which the art of 
gem engraving expires. These works belong to the oriental 
doctrines so -vndely diffused through the Koman world during 
the Middle Empire, and which taught the exclusive worship 
of the sun as the fountain of light and life. They are 
easily recognized by the designs they present: a lion'' sur- 
rounded by stars, with a bull's head in his jaws ; or Mithras 
himself attired as a young Persian and plunging his dagger 

' Loo is the " House of Sol." 


into the throat of a bull, above which appear the sun and 
moon and some of the signs of the zodiac. In these com- 
positions, the lion is the type of the sun, as the bull is of the 
earth ; and the piercing its throat with the dagger signifies 
the penetration of the solar rays into the bosom of the earth, 
by which all nature is nourished : which last idea is expressed 
by the dog licking up the blood as it flows from the wound. 
The sign of Capricorn, so frequently introduced, represents 
the necessity of moisture to co-operate with the action of the 
sun to secure the fertilization of the soil, and the scorpion, an 
almost invariable adjunct to the bull, typifies the generative 
heat. Often this scene is depicted as enclosed by a host of 
Egyptian sacred animals, crocodiles, ibises, hawks, &c., stand- 
ing around in attitudes of adoration and gazing upon the 
work of their supreme head, Mithras. Bas-reliefs in stone of 
the IMitliraic sacrifice have been found in various parts of 
England, as at Bath and on the line of the Picts' Wall, probably 
the work of the Syrian troops stationed in this island. The 
most complete assemblage of Mithraic symbols that I have 
met with is to be found in an intaglio figured by Caylus, VI., 
pi. Lxxiv. It is engraved on a very fine Agate, 2 inches long 
by 1^ inch wide. In the centre is the usual type of JMithras 
slaughtering the bull, the tail of which terminates in three 
wheat-ears ; beneath is the lion strangling the serpent, the 
emblem of darkness. On each side is a fir-tree against 
which are fixed torches, one pointing ui)wards the other 
downwards : at the side of one is a scorpion ; of the other, 
a bull's head. Above each tree is again a torch, each point- 
ing in opposite directions. On eacli side of the principal 
group is Apollo in his quadriga, and Diana in her biga. 
Above all stand two winged figures entwined with serpents 
and resting upon long sceptres, between whom are three 
flames, as well as four at the side of the figure to the right, 

z 2 



Sect. III. 

making up the number seven : an allusion to the seven planets. 
A naked female surrounded by ten stars is on her knees before 
the figure on the left : this may typify the human soul pray- 
ing for purification. There is no doubt but that this com- 
position, if it could be interpreted, would be found to contain 
a complete summary of the Mithraic creed.** 

Mithraic Talisman of Kicandar. Green Jasper 


To the same period belong the intagli presenting heads of 
Serapis with the legend etc geoc CAPAnic, "there is but one 
God, and he is Serapis ;" eic zwn geoc " the one living God ;" 
NiKAO CAPAnic TON *eoNON, " baffle envy, Serapis," &c. A 
beautiful Sard of Eoman-Egyptian work in my collection re- 
presents Serapis seated on a throne with the triple-headed 
animal, described by Macrobius (b. vii.), at his side ; before him 
stands Isis, holding the sistrum and the Avheat ears ; around the 
group is the legend, H kypia icic apnh, " immaculate is our 
Lady Isis ; " the very terms applied in our day to the same 

^ The torches raised and lowered 
signify the East and West ; the 
serpent winding four times around 
the youth the annual course of the 
sun, as is clearly proved by a torso 
of Mithras found at Aries, in which 
the zodiacal figures are placed be- 
tween the folds of the serpent. The 
tail terminating in wheat-ears al- 
ludes to the fifty life-giving plants 
which sprung from the tail of the 

Primeval Biill when destroyed by 
Ahriman. The scorpion between 
his hind legs typifies aiitumn, as the 
serpent lying beneath does the 
winter. The raven represents the 
attendant priest, for in these rites 
the superior officials were styled 
Lions, the inferior Eavens ; hence 
the rites themselves are often desig- 
nated Leontica and Coracica. Vide 
Seel's Mithra. 

Sect. 111. SERAPIS. 341 

deity, whose worship has in reality ever subsisted, though 
under another name. All these invocations are characteristic 
of the age when the liberal western mythology, which 
pictured Heaven as a well-ordered monarchy peopled by 
innumerable deities, each having his proper and independent 
position, was beginning to give place to the gloomy super- 
stitions of Oriental origin, according to which the tutelary 
divinity of some particular nation was the sole god of heaven 
and earth, whilst those of other races were either vain fictions, 
or else evil spirits. Many gems, fine both in material and 
workmanship, give us the ancient Egyptian divinities exactly 
as represented on the oldest monuments, but engraved in a 
pure Koman style. Most of these belong to the time of 
Hadrian, who attempted to revive the outward forms of the 
old religion, the spirit of which had well nigh passed away ; 
an attempt which has generally preceded the downfall of 
every extinguished creed. 

]\Iacrobius, I. 20, says, " The city of Alexandria pays an 
almost frantic worship to Serapis and Isis ; yet all this 
veneration they prove that they offer to the Sun under that 
name, both by their placing the corn basket upon his head, 
and accompanying his statue by the figure of a three-headed 
animal, the central and largest head of which is that of a 
lion. The head that rises on the right is one of a dog in a 
inild and fawning attitude, while the left \rdTt of the neck 
terminates in the head of a ravening wolf. All these 
animal forms are connected together by tlie wreathed body 
of a serpent, which raises his head uj) towards the right hand 
of the god, on which side this monster is placed. The lion's 
head typifies the Present, because ifs condition between the 
Past and the Future is strong and fervent. The I'ast is 
signified by the wolf's head, because the memory of all tilings 
past is snatched away from us, and utterly consumed. The 



Sect. III. 

symbol of tlie fawning dog represents the Future, the domain 
of uncertain but flattering hope. But whom should Past, 
Present, and Future serve except their author ? Plis head, 
crowned with the calathus, typifies the height of the planet 
above us, and his all-powerful capaciousness ; since to him 
all things earthly return, being drawn up by the heat which 
he emits." 

" Again when Nicocreon, king of Cyprus, consulted Serapis 
as to which of the gods he ought to be held, he responded, 

' A god I am, such as I show to thee : 
The starry heaven my head, my trunk the sea ; 
Earth forms my feet, the air my ears supplies, 
The sun's far-darting brilliant rays my eyes.' 

" Hence, it is apparent that the nature of Serapis and of 
the Sun is one and indivisible. Isis, so universally worshij^ped, 
is either the earth or Nature as subjected to the sun. Hence, 
the body of the goddess is covered with continuous rows of 
udders, to show that the universe is maintained by the 
perpetual nourishment of the earth or Nature." 

.\Liubis, burroundei by the seven vov 
Green Jas^ter. 


But the true development of the Egyptian doctrines in a 

new phase is very conspicuous in the extensive class of 

Gnostic intagli, wliich, with the exception of a few rude 

engravings of victories, eagles, &c,, are the sole glyptic 


monuments we possess of the last centuries of Roman domi- 
nation in the West. As may be supposed, the art displayed 
in these intagli is at its lowest ebb; and the work appears to 
have been executed by means of a very coarse wheel, like 
that on the Sassanian stamps of Persia, a country the source 
of a large proportion of the ideas expressed in their figures 
and legends. Instead of the choice Sards, Amethysts, and 
Nicoli of an earlier period, we find these amulets almost 
without exception cut upon inferior stones, most commonly 
on bad Jaspers, black, green, and yellow ; on didl Plasmas, 
or perhaps Jade, and sometimes on Loadstone, but rarely on 
Sards or Calcedony. These Gnostic types, when found of 
good work, and engraved on fine stones, as is sometimes the 
case, will on examination turn out to be works of the Cinque- 
Cento period, when similar subjects, and all figures bearing 
any relation to astrology, were again executed in large 
numbers, in compliance with the ruling superstition of the 
day. A fine Amethyst once in my possession, engraved with 
a figure of the hawk-headed, Priapean, Thoth, standing on a 
serpent, and holding in his extended right hand a small 
fiffure of Anubis, was a remarkable instance of this revival 
of ancient ideas ; for the work was worthy of the best times of 
tlio art, and in itself a convincing proof that the intaglio 
could not have belonged to the Gnostic era. Pastes of this 
class do not exist : the real stones were cut so rudely, 
uud doubtless produced so chea})ly, that it was not worth 
while to imitate them in a less valuable material. The sole 
exception that has come under my notice, to the inferior 
([Uiility of the gems used for these amulets, is an extraordinary 
rarnet tablet, described further on. 

Without entering into the intricate maze of these doctrines, 
except occasionally, and just as far as is necessary to explain 
Ihe representations involving some of their ideas, I sluJl 



Sect. III. 

proceed to classify tliem in the order of their antiquity. 
The earliest are doubtless those which offer purely Egyptian 
types ; a very frequent one being a serpent, erect, and with a 
lion's head surrounded by seven rays, and usually accom- 
panied by the inscription xnoy4>io or xnoymic. This is 
Chneph, the good genius of the Egyptian religion, the type of 

Choeph: Alexandrian. 

life and of the sun. Sometimes we find this idea more fully 
developed in the form of a lion-headed man, bearing a wand 
entwined witli a serpent, the head of which is directed 
towards his face. A common inscription around the figure, 
or on the back of the stone, is the Hebrew-Greek, cemec 
EiAAM, " the eternal sun ; " alluding to the appearance of 
Christ " the sun of righteousness," regarded as the equivalent 
of the genius of light; to wliom also refers the legend 
ANAeANABAA, " tliou art our Father," a corruption of the 
Hebrew "Lanu atha ab." To the Egyptian family also 
belongs the Harpocrates, seated upon the lotus flower (having 
the life-giving symbol purposely exaggerated) and often 
accompanied by Anubis, serving as a type of the necessary 
reo-eneration of the believer.^ The same deity often is repre- 

^ The regeneration of the soul is the Snn-Lion impregnating a naked 
sometimes typified in a very singular female, the xiswal Eastern symbol of 
and literal manner, by a group of the disembodied spirit. 


sented sailiug through the air in the mystic boat, steered by 
two hawks, with the sun and moon above his head. The 
backs of these intagli are often filled up by the seven vowels 
of the Greek alphabet, arranged in as many lines, each vowel 
being repeated until it fills its respective line ; illustrative of 
the curious tenet, that each vowel represented the sound 
uttered in its course by one particular planet, which, when all 
combined, formed a hymn to the glory of the great Creator 
of the Universe. An outline of a human figure entirely filled 
up with these vowels and other legends, is the type of the 
regenerated and spiritual man, entirely freed from all earthly 
taint.^ Again, we have a combination of diff'erent deities in 
the figures witli many wings and arms, and uniting the 
attributes of Athor and Sate, the Egyptian Venus and Juno. 
But the most frequent ty})e of this class is the Anubis, or 
jackal-headed god, sometimes rej)resented in his ancient 
form, and as bearing the caducous of Hermes, to denote his 
office of conducting the souls of the dead through the shades 
unto their final resting-place in the Pleroma ; ' and some- 
times appearing as a being with botli a human and a jackal's 
head, to express his identity with Christ as the guardian of 
the si)irit when released from the body. This idea explains 
the meaning of a rude drawing on the wall of a vault in the 
Palatine, where this jackal-l leaded figure is represented 

^^ Scali^^cr takes him to Ik- the roprcscnt<'vtion of Christ raising souls 

ri'prosentative of the 305 Aeons, all out of Purgatory. The Hell of the 

their names Ixiing supposed to be Persians, the huniing lake of molten 

compressed witliin the outline. metal, into which at the Day of 

' In gems of a better period Judgment Ahriman and liis fol- 

Ilermes is not imfrequently seen lowers were to Ik; cjist, had for its 

witli his caduceus, bending over and ubject the idtimate imrificatiou of 

assisting the soul to emerge from the condemned ; a doctrine recog- 

thc earth, or Hades. A strange nised by some of the Christian 

coincidence in form, at least (if not Fathers, and even by St. Jerome. 
in origin), with the common media'val 

346 SUBJECTS. Sect. 111. 

crucified, with the inscription aaesamenoc cebete ton geon, 
" Alexamenos adores the god ; " tlie work of some pious 
Gnostic in reality, but which is usually interpreted as a 
heathen blasphemy, from the jackal's head being mistaken 
for that of an ass. A Sard in my collection presents to the 
first view the primitive and orthodox representation of the 
Good Shepherd bearing the lamb upon his shoulders, his 
loins girt with a belt with long and flowing ends ; but on a 
closer view the figure resolves itseK into the double-headed 
Anubis, the head of the lamb doing duty for the jackal's, 
springing from the same shoulders as that of the man, whilst 
the floating end of the girdle becomes the thick and curled 
tail of the same animal. I have also met with another type 
of difficult explanation : a woman seated upon a huge 
crested serpent ; evidently not the usual Chneph, as it does 
not bear the lion's head the invariable adjunct to that 
symbol. Stones also occur entirely covered on both sides 
with long legends in the Coptic language but Greek cha- 
racter, the most ciu'ious of which was the famous Garnet of 
the Herz Collection, an oblong slab, 2f inches high by Ig 
wide, with 11 lines on one side, and 14 on tlie other, of a long 
invocation ^ in the Greek character, but in a different language, 
in which many Hebrew (or Chaldee) words were interspersed, 
together with the names of angels.^ A very singular type is 

2 It is a most singular coincidence satisfy the learned and sagacious 

that the inscriptions on each side of canon. 

this tablet (excepting a few words ^ lamblichus (Letter to Porphyry) 

enclosed within a coiled serpent at expressly says that the gods are 

the top of the other) exactly cor- pleased with invocations in Assyrian 

respond with those on the oval and Egyptian, as being ancient and 

Calcedony given by Chitiet, xvii. 69, cognate languages to their own, and 

and of which his friend Wendelin those in which prayers were first 

had sent him a very orthodox ver- made to them, and that they have 

sion, which, however, did not by stanqtcd as sacerdotal the entire lan- 

any means, and with good reason, guage of these holy nations. 

Skct. 111. GNOSTIC GEMS. 347 

the figure of Osiris wearing a radiated crown, and with the 
body swathed like a mummy, standing upon the heads of four 
angels, upon whom two streams of water flow out of his sides.'' 
An armed man, the Soldier of the Mithraic rites, often occurs, 
sometimes holding a spear terminating in a cock's head, and 
sometimes grasping two serpents. 

The long and unintelligible legends so characteristic of 
these intagli, are often found cut on the backs of gems of an 
earlier date, but the subjects of which were analogous to the 
religious ideas of the times, such as figures of the Sphinx, the 
Lion, Medusa's head, or Sol in his car. The letters of these 
inscriptions are usually of a square form, the rudeness of the 
instrument employed, or the want of skill in the artist, 
having prevented his forming circular characters ; to do which 
neatly requires the greatest dexterity and practice, and is the 
most difficult task that can be required from the wheel ; for 
the elegant and minute inscriptions of the earlier engravers 
will be found to have been scratched into the stone with the 
diamond point, and hence their perfect neatness of execution. 

We now come to the figure which has given its name to 
this entire class the god Abraxas, or as the name reads on 
the gems, Abrasax. The letters of this word, when employed 
as Greek numerals, make up the number 365, the successive 
emanations of the Oreat Creative Principle, which embraces 
all within itself, and hence is styled the Pleroma ; an idea 
fitly typified by a word expressive of the collective number of 
its components. The numerical value of the letters in 
Abrasax is also equivalent to those in MeitTiras, the repre- 
sentative of Christ ; hence the figure of this god is a combina- 
tion of various attributes, expressive of the union of many 

^ On Assyrian ;^ein.s Atlior appears T]>e Persian female Ized Arduislicr 
with arms oxtonded pourinp; out the is tlio " <;iver of tlie Living Water." 
waters of life \\\x)\\ the suhject figures. 

348 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

ideas under the same form. He is, therefore, depicted with 
the head of the cock, sacred to the Sun ; or of a Lion, the 
type of Mithras, with a human body clad in a cuirass, whilst 
liis legs are serpent's, emblems of the good genius ; in his 
hands he wields the scourge the Egyptian badge of sove- 
reignty ; and a shield, to denote his office of guardian to the 
faithful. On one side of him, or in the exergue, is the word 
I A w, the Jehovah of the Hebrews, a malignant spirit, whose 
influence Abraxas was thus entreated to avert at least this is 
Matter's explanation of this type. It was the Gnostic 
doctrine that the soul when released from the body, and on 
its way to be absorbed into the Infinite of the Godhead (the 
object aimed at in all oriental religions), was obliged to pass 
through the regions of the planets, each of which was ruled 
by its own presiding genius, and only obtained permission to 
do this by means of a formula of prayer addressed to each 
genius, and preserved in Origen.^ These spirits were, 
Adonai, of the Sun ; lao, of the Moon ; Eloi, of Jupiter ; 
Sabao, of Mars ; Orai, of Venus ; Astaphai, of Mercury ; 
and Ildabaoth, of Saturn. All these titles occur on gems 
surrounding the figure of Abraxas, whose potent aid gives 
victory to the believer over the poNver of tliem all. The 
names of the Jewish angels Michael, Gabriel, Suriel, llai^hael, 
Tauthabaoth, and Erataoth, occur as the titles of the genii of 
the fixed stars the Bear, Serpent, Eagle, Lion, Dog, and 
Bull. These notions were all of Magian origin, and had been 
adopted by the Jews during their captivity. But in the 
Gnostic mythology they were all degraded from their high 
estate, and reduced to the rank of secondary spirits of a 
mixed nature, but opposed to Abraxas, the Lord and Creator 

* According to Zoroaster the seven Dews, chief-ministers of Ahriman, 
are chained each to a distinct planet. 


of all. Most of these gems appear to have been designed 
merely for amulets, and not for ring-stones, for which they 
are unfit, on account of their large dimensions ; I have never 
met with more than one in an ancient setting of any sort, but 
Matter figures one antique gold ring, engraved with the type 
of Abraxas. They were no doubt intended to be carried 
about the person,^ perhaps as credentials between the initiated 
a custom to which St. John alludes in the passage, "To 
him will I give a white ' stone, and in the stone a new name 
written, which no man knoweth, save he to whom it is 


That these amulets were intended for suspension around 
the neck, is indicated by the generic name of such charms, 
viz., Periapta ; and, in fact, the only Gnostic stone I have 
ever seen retaining its antique setting, is one adapted for this 
purpose. It is a red Jasper, of an oval form, engraved on 
one side, with a mummy with radiated head, the type of the 
glorified soul ; with the legend abpacaz : on the reverse is 
the usual figure of iaw, with his name below. The stone, not 
quite an inch in length, is set in a rude frame of gold, with 
a broad loop soldered on the top edge for suspension, exactly 
as in the huge medallions of the same date. This unique 
example exists among the miscellaneous gems of the British 
IMuseum, amongst wliich I recognised all the finest of the 
Gnostic intagli, figured so long ago by Chiflet ; proving the 
truth of the assertion, that all the curiosities of the world 
ultimately gravitate towards London, as their centre-point of 

" Thus the talisman of the Princess on to her jewelled girdle. 

I'luloura, ' ' a Carnelian engraved with ' Probably the Calcedony, on which 

strange figures and letters," wa.s car- the figures of the Egyptian Agatho 

riod by her in a small purse sewe<l dajmon usually occur. 

350 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

attraction. In this number particular attention is due to an 
oval Carnelian, covered on both sides with that inscription, 
already noticed as occurring on the Garnet tablet of the Herz 
Collection, and on the Calcedony figured by Chiflet ; thus 
proving the formula to have been a favourite one amongst 
these religionists, and not improbably a kind of confession of 
faith. A very singular relic of the latest period of this 
heresy is a large egg-shaped Calcedony, engraved with the 
lion-headed deity, surrounded by two lines of a Cufic legend ; 
the whole rude in the extreme, and in the manner of the 
latest Sassanian seals. These gems, as well as plates of lead 
and bronze similarly engraved, and even medals and tessarae 
of terra-cotta, were placed together with the corpses in the 
tomb as a safeguard against demons. Many were found 
in the sepulchre of Maria, although the Avife of a most ortho- 
dox emperor, Honorius ; and in the ancient cemeteries of 
southern Gaul they are discovered in gi-eat abundance. The 
number of them in use at the close of the Empire must have 
been very great, so numerous are they in Italy and in 
France, which latter country was the seat of a very extensive 
branch of these sectarians, the Priscillianists. It is probable 
that these doctrines lurked unnoticed amongst the original 
inhabitants of Gaul, under the reigns of the Arian Gothic 
princes, and revived in full vigour during the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries in the Manicheism of the Albigenses, 
whom the mere fact of their having been so cruelly persecuted 
by the Catholics does not prove to have been necessarily such 
good Protestants as they are usually accounted in our day. 

A curiously-shaped globular vase, often seen on these 
gems, is explained by Matter as the receptacle of the sins 
committed during life, for it appears in company with Anubis 
weighing two figures in a balance ; but I am inclined to take 
it for the vessel shaped "like an udder," used for pouring 


libations of milk at the rites of Isis. A column, terminating 
in a triangle, and covered with letters, with Anubis or some 
other deity standing before it in the act of adoration, is of 
frequent occurrence ; as is also a group, composed of a sword, 
bow, cup, and butterfly. It is curious to observe how the 
Freemasons have retained many of these emblems in their 
symbolical pictures ; where we see the erect serpent, the 
sword, the bowl, the inscribed column, and the name of St. 
John, whom these ancient sects claimed as their especial 
apostle, presided over by the symbols of the Sun, IVIoon, and 
Planets, and arranged in a manner strongly reminding one of 
the ancient representations of the Gnostic doctrines. Again, 
Michael actually appears (in a basalt intaglio) in the form of 
a hawk-headed and winged youth, holding in each hand a 
mason's level, while the oft-repeated figure of Harpocrates, 
with his finger on his lips, significantly betokens the in- 
violable secrecy required from the initiated. A distinguished 
official of the craft, w^hen looking over the plates of Gnostic 
gems in the Apistopistus of Macarius, confessed to me his 
astonishment at recognizing there many of the mystic 
symbols of his brotherhood. It must also be remembered 
that the Freemasons claim descent from the Templars, an 
order suppressed in the fourteenth century on the charge of 
IManichcism, and on grounds similar to those that led to the 
extirpation of the Albigenses accusations in which there was 
probably some truth, although only taken up as an excuse 
for confiscating the property of the Order, which had excited 
the cupidity of the needy sovereigns of Europe.* Some traces 

" GiKisiicisiii, of the Tcmjildrs. prcvssion of the Order, in his Chapter 

Von Ihviumor (Mines de I'Oricnt, entitled " The mystery of Bai)honiet 

VI.) has :itti'ni]ited to substantiate, revealed, or the Teni])lars convicted 

by tlie evidence of existing remains, by their own monuments of sharing 

all the charges brought against the in the ajxistasy, idolatry, and im- 

Tcniiilai-s as the exciise for the sup- purity of the Gnostics, and even of 



Sect. III. 

of Gnosticism probably still survive among the mysterious 
sects inhabiting the valleys of Libanus. As late as the time 
of Justinian, Procopius states that more than a million of 
Idolaters, Manicheans, and Samaritans (a Gnostic sect), were 
destroyed in Syria by the persecutions carried on by this 
bigoted emperor ; and as that region soon afterwards fell into 
the hands of the more tolerant Mahometans, who never 
interfered with the religion of their tributaries, there is a 
probability of these doctrines having been handed down to 
the present day, especially when we consider the extra- 
ordinary vitality of every well-defined system of religious 

Mai'tyrdora. Red Jasper. 


It is a most singular circumstance that, amidst this multi- 
tude of heretical designs, intagli representing purely Christian 
subjects are of the rarest possible occurrence, that is, in works 

the Ophites." Here he maizes oiit 
that by " Baphomet " is meant the 
BacpTj MrjTiBos, or baptism of the 
Spirit ; and he discovers an endless 
variety of Gnostic emblems in the 
jettons dug np occasionally in tlie 
ruins of their prcceptories, and in 
the sculptures ornamenting the 
churches of the Order. But these 
mysterious jettons are in fact merely 

bracteate coins of certain Suabian 
Westphalian bishops, and of the 
markgraves of Brandenburgh ; and 
the " Baphomet," whom, as it is 
set forth in the indictment,, " they 
adored in the shape of a man's head, 
with a long beard," is only the name 
Mahomet, corrupted in the mouth of 
the ignorant French witness for the 


of indubitable antiquity ; for of modern times they are, as 
might be expected, by no means uncommon. I liave, how- 
ever, met with one of good work, apparently of the third 
century, a red Jasper, engi-aved with the martyrdom of a 
female kneeling before a naked executioner armed with a 
singularly shaped sword, evidently made for the purpose of 
a headsman's instrument. Before the saint is a dove with a 
palm in its beak, above is the monogram of Christ, in the 
exergue the letters anft, which may perhaps fix the scene of 
the event at Antioch. A Nicolo, engraved with the Heavenly 
Father seated on his throne, and surrounded by the twelve 
patriarchs, might belong to any sect of the late period to 
which its style induced me to refer it. In the Herz Collec- 
tion was a Carnolian intaglio of the Good Shepherd standing 
between two tigers looking up at him, inscribed esivkev, in 
which the name of Jesus appears to be intended, together 
with some other appellation or title. The collection of the 
British Museum contains, however, some higlily curious and 
undoubted Christian subjects engraved on gems. 

The most interesting of these is a red Jasper set in an 
elegant antique gold ring, the shank formed of a corded 
pattern, in wire, of a novel and tasteful design. The stone 
bears in neatly formed letters, IHCOYC geoyyioc thpe, 
" Christ, Son of God, keep us." Another of equal interest 
and of the earliest period of our religion, a fish cut on a fine 
Emerald (quarter of an incli square), is set in an exquisitely 
moulded six-sided ring with Ihited and knotted shank, imi- 
tating a b(Mit reed, very simihir to a bronze one figured in 
(!jiyhis. A beautiful and large Sapphire of very spherical 
tnrin, is <>ngraved with the monogram of Christ, the straight 
lin(^ of the r being converted into a cross by a line passino- 
through it. Another example this, to be added to the list of 
genuine aiititpie works u[)on this stone. 

2 A 

354 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

A Sard of the same Collection bears a singular device, a 
cross planted upon a lisb, with two doves perched at the 
extremities of the arms, and the name ihcoyc repeated above 
and below them. Lastly, the Good Shepherd in a landscape, 
did not appear to me of such indubitable authenticity as the 
rest, for the work was entirely wheel-cut on Sard, in the style 
of the Gnostic school ; so easily imitated by the modern gem 


We have seen the statement of Origen, which too is adojited 
by Matter, ' Histoire Critique du Gnosticisme,' that lao, 
Adonai, &c., were the names of the genii of the moon, sun, 
and planets, beings inferior and even antagonistic to Abraxas 
the representative of the Supreme Creator himself. But, 
resting on the actual authority of the inscribed amulets, I 
am inclined entirely to reject this theory, and to assert that 
this doctrine, if ever held, must have been that of a small 
sect of Jewish or Magian origin, and certainly not that of the 
numerous body who engraved and wore the gems that have 
come down to us in such abundance. The inscriptions upon 
these prove beyond a doubt that Abraxas, Adonai, Sabao, 
are merely titles or synonyms of lao, the deity symbolically 
represented by the engraving. Thus we find the prayer, 
"lao, Abraxas, Adonai, Holy Name, Holy Powers, defend 
Tibia Paulina from every evil spirit ; " and the same names 
constantly occur united together, and followed by the epithets 
ABAAeANABAA, " Tliou art our Father," cemeceiaam, " The 
Eternal Sun ; " a mode of invocation which would certainly 
not have been applied to beings of a discordant, much less of 
an antagonistic, character to each other. Besides, if Abraxas 
were the opponent and future victor of lao, it would have 
been absurd to place their names together (that of lao often 

Sect. II f. lAw. ABPASA2. 355 

the first), each evidently invoked in the accompanying prayer, 
and honoured by the same titles of adoration. Again, the 
composite figure which represents, as all writers agree, 
Abraxas himself, is much more frequently accompanied by 
the inscription lao than by the word Abraxas, and nevertlie- 
less is followed by the same addresses of " Thou art our 
Father," " Eternal Sun," as when both names occur united. 
It would also be quite as contrary to the usual course of 
proceeding in representations of sacred subjects, to make 
the picture of a deity and inscribe over it the name of his 
adversary, as it would be to paint a crucifix with the name of 
Satan occupying the place of an explanatory legend. And 
it will be shown presently tliat the numerical value of the 
name Abraxas has a distinct reference to the nature of the 
god worshipped, from the earliest period, under the title of 
lao. If wo examine the figure of Abraxas, we shall find it 
to be made up of portions of animals considered, in the 
ancient religion, as attributes of the sun. Thus he has the 
head of a cock and serpent legs, emblems of the sun in the 
Egyptian mythology, and he bears in his hand a whip, the 
symbol of the god of day. That the name Abraxas had 
reference to the sun appears from Jerome on Amos, ill., " As 
Basilides, who called Almighty God by the portentous name 
of Abraxas, and says that the same word, according to the 
Greek numerals, and the sum of his annual revolutions, are 
contained in the circle of the sun ; whom the heathen, taking 
the same sum, but expressed in different numerical letters, 
call ]\[ithras ; and whom the simple Iberians worship under 
the names Balsamus (liOrd-Sun), and Barbelus (Son of the 
Lord)." Augustine explains these numbers thus ; " Basilides 
protended the number of heavens to bo SO'), the number of 
the (lays in the year. Hence he used to glorify a ' Sacred 
Name ' as it were, namc^ly f lie word Abraxas, the letters in 

2 A 2 

356 SUBJECTS. Sect. 111. 

which name, according to tlie Greek mode of computation, 
make up that number." These passages establish the 
identity of Abraxas with Mitlwas, whicli latter name we also 
meet with upon Gnostic intagli. For the same reason Apollo 
in his car, intagli of a better time of art, occur frequently 
inscribed wdth lao and Abraxas in characters of a later date ; 
proving that the ancient type was viewed as indicative of the 
same idea as the newly-coined Sacred Name of Basilides. His 
religious system is thus briefly and clearly given by Tertullian, 
Praescript.: " Afterwards Basilides the heretic broke loose. 
He asserted that there was a supreme God, by name Abraxas^ 
by whom IMind was created, whom the Greeks call Nous. 
From this emanated the M^ord, thence Providence ; from 
Providence, Alrtue and Wisdom ; from these afterwards 
Virtues, Principalities, and Powers were made ; then infinite 
productions and emissions of Angels ; by these Angels 365 
heavens were established. Amongst the lowest Angels indeed, 
and those who made this w^orld, he sets last of all the God of 
the Jews, whom he denies to be God, but affirms that he is 
an Angel." 

Having thus proved the identity of Abraxas with Mithras, 
or rather the fact of the word's being only a numerical epithet 
applied to the Sun-god, let us examine the exact sense of the 
name lao, and we shall find this too to be but a synonym 
of ]Mitliras. Macrobius (B. i.) says that Apollo of Claros, 
being consulted as to which of the gods that deity was to 
be regarded who was called locos, delivered the following 
oracle : 

" The joyous rites ye 've learnt to none disclose, 
Falsehood, small wit, weak imderstanding, shows. - 
Regard Tao as supreme above, 
Pluto in Winter, at Spring's opening Jove ; 
Phcebus through blazing Summer rules. the day, 
A\ hilst Autumn owns the mild lao's swa3\" 

Sect. III. IA,. ABPASA2. 357 

Here we find lao explained to mean one of the names of the 
Supreme Deity, whose physical representative is the Sun. 
Again, we have Dionysius (Bacchus) added to this list in the 
following oracle of Orpheus : 

" Jove, Pluto, Phoebus, Bacchus, all are one." 

Tluis we see that lao is an epithet of the Sun, who, in the 
philosophical explanation of the old religion, is regarded as 
synonymous with Bacchus. Hence originated the prevalent 
belief of antiquity that the Jehovah of the Jews, a name ren- 
dered in Greek by iag, was the Egyptian Bacchus a notion 
supported in their minds by the golden vines which formed 
the sole visible decoration of the Temple, and in the Jewish 
custom of celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in huts made 
of boughs, and attended with many of the ceremonies used at 
the Greek Dionysia. This opinion as to the real origin of the 
Jewish worship is mentioned by Tacitus as prevalent in his 
time, although he does not agree with it, but solely on the 
ground that the gloomy and morose character of the Hebrew 
religion proved but badly its relationship to the rites of the 
nieri-y god of wine. 

Serapis, the representative of Universal Nature (according 
to his response to Nicocreon), may also have been signified by 
the names lao and Abraxas, and thus have been taken as a 
type of Christ as the Creator of the worlds, xshich would serve 
to explain the strange assertion of Hadrian, that all the 
Christians of Alexandria were worshippers of Serapis, and that 
Christ and Serapis were one and the same god; for Alex- 
andria was the very hotbed of Gnosticism, and the largest and 
earliest [)ortion of the gems we are now considering, by their 
styh' of execution and the symbols upon them, clearly show 
their l\uyptian origin. A most singular amulet of this date, 
in the Horz (collection, was a heart-shaped piece of basalt, 
engraved on tlui one side with seated figures of Ammon and 



Sect. III. 

Ka (Jupiter and the Sun), between them the mystic Asp, and 
on the reverse this legend : 

" fis BaiT fiy Ada>p fJLia rcov /3ia eis 8e Ax(opi, 
;^atpe narep Kocrp.ov X^'-P^ rpiiiopfpe 0foj." ** 

" Athor and Bait, one power, with Achor one, 
Hail Father of the world, hail triple God." 

This amulet was probably made about the time of Hadrian, 
both the execution of the iigures and of the letters being neat 
and careful, and such as characterised that epoch. 

ii-iune Deity with Coptic legend. Green Jasper. 

A large ivory ring, found at Aries, bears the monogram of 
Christ between A and CO, as it appears on the coins of the 
Gallic princes of the fourth century, Magnentius and De- 
centius, but accompanied by the title abpacaz, a sufScient 
proof of the identity of the two personages in the estimation 
of its owner. Mithras (Abraxas) was easily admitted as the 
type of Christ, the Creator and Maintainer of the Universe, 
from the circumstance that in the Persian religion, to which 
the Jews owed all the spiritual portion of their creed,' he 
was declared to be the first emanation of Ormuzd the Good 
Principle, and his representative to the world.' The Mithraic 

^ The unity of three deities, or 
rather the expression of the same 
deity in three persons, was a very 
favourite Egyptian typo. 

"^ Such as the belief in a Future 
State of rewards and punishments, 
the Immortality of tlie Soul, the 
Final Judgment, the existence of 

Angels and Evil Spirits, (fee. 

' " Who being the brightness (or 
rather a reflection) of his glory, and 
the express image of his person, and 
u[>holding all things by the word of 
his power" "Being made so much 
better than the Angels," &c. Ile- 
brervs, I. 

Sect. III. 

lAw. ABPASA2. 


rites bore a great resemblance to many subsequently intro- 
duced among the Christians, as well as to the initiatory cere- 
monies of the Freemasons of the present day. The believers 
were admitted by the rite of baptism ; they had a species of 
Eucharist ; and the courage and endurance of the neophyte 
were tested by twelve successive trials called tortures, under- 
gone within a cave constructed for the purpose, before he was 
admitted to a full knowledge of their mysteries. These ini- 
tiatory rites are thus alluded to by Justin Martyr (Apol. II.) : 
" The Apostles, in the commentaries written by themselves, 
which we call Gospels, have delivered down to us that Jesus 
thus commanded them : ' He having taken bread after that 
ho hud given thanks, said. Do this in commemoration of me; 
this is my body. And having taken a cup and returned 
thanks, he said, This is my blood ; and delivered it to them 
alone.' Which tiling indeed the evil spirits have taught to 
be done out of imitation, in the mysteries and initiatory rites 

Mitlji-uic Hyinbols. 1 ha Iwo Priucipl'^s. Altar n-ith the Hricred Wains, Lustxal WaiA 
Haven, &:c. Plasma. 

of Mithras. For there a cup of water and bread'* are set fortli, 
with the addition of certain words, in the sacrifice or act of 
worsliip of the person about to bo initiated : a tiling whicli ye 
cither know by personal experience or may learn by enquiry." 

- In this rmuul cake, termed of tlie desipiation Missji, appliul to 
Mi/.il, we have tlie idototype of the the IJlootUess Sacrifice. 
Host, ami the niuch-dispvitetl origin 

360 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

Again, on this point Tertullian (Praescript.) says, " The devil, 
whose business it is to pervert the truth, mimics the exact 
circumstances of the Divine sacraments in the mysteries of 
idols. He himself baptizes some, that is to say his believers 
and followers ; he promises forgiveness of sins from the sacred 
fount, and thus initiates them into the religion of Mithras ; he 
there marks on the forehead his own soldiers ; he also cele- 
brates the oblation of bread, he brings in the symbol of the 
Resurrection, and wins the crown with the sword." This last 
phrase he thus explains : " Blush, ye Roman fellow-soldiers, 
even if ye are not to be judged by Christ, but by any soldier 
of Mithras ; who, when he is being initiated in the cave, the 
very camp of the powers of darkness, when the wreath is 
offered to him (a sword being placed between, as if in mimicry 
of martyrdom), and then about to be set upon his head, he is 
v^'arned to put out his liand and push the wreath a^vay, and 
transfer it to, perchance, his shoulder, saying at tlie same 
time, ' My only crown is Mithras.' And thenceforth he never 
wears a wreath ; ^ and this is a mark he has for a test, when- 
ever tried as to his initiation, for he is immediately proved 
to be a soldier of Mithras, if he throws down the wreath and 
says that ' his crown is in his god.' Let us therefore acknow- 
ledge the craft of the devil, who mimics certain things of those 
that are divine, in order that he may confound and judge us 
by the faith of his own followers." But a dispassionate ex- 
aminer will remark that these two zealous fathers somewhat 
beg the question, in asserting that the Mithraic rites were in- 
vented in mimicry of the Christian sacraments, having been 
in reality in existence long before the promulgation of the 
Christian religion. On the contrary, there is very good reason 
to believe that the simple commemorative rites established by 

"* The universal custom o[" the the being without one would of itself 
ancients at all festivities : so that be a most remarkable singularity. 

Sect. 111. lAw. ABPASA2. ~ 361 

Christ himself were invested with the mystic and supernatural 
attributes afterwards insisted upon as articles of faith, by the 
unscrupulous missionaries, in order to outbid the attractions of 
ancient ceremonies of a similar nature, and to oifer to the 
convert, by the performance as it were of certain magical 
formula), all those spiritual advantages of wliich the rites them- 
selves were merely the symbols. 

The worship of Mithras subsisted at Rome for a long 
period under the Christian emperors. Jerome, writing to 
Laeta, says : " A few years ago your kinsman Gracchus, a 
name the very echo of patrician nobility, when he held the 
office of Prefect of the City, did he not upset, break, and 
burn the Cave of Mithras, and all those monstrous images 
that served in the initiatory rites, the figures of Corax, 
Niplius, the Soldier, the Lion, the Persian, Helios, and 
Father Bromius ? " 

In the representations here enumerated we recognise 
symbols of constant recurrence upon the gems under con- 
sideration : Corax the raven ; Niphus, probably Chneph, the 
lion-headed serpent; the armed man; the lion; the youth 
in the Persian dress ; the sun, typified by the star ; Bromius 
or Bacchus, by the large bowl. Many of these also con- 
tribute portions of themselves to make up the composite 
deity called Abraxas, who unites in himself Corax, Niphus, 
Miles, and Helios. The gem given by Chiilet, pi. xv., 62, 
appears to mo to present a picture of the rites of initiation 
into the IMithraic religion, and in it all the above-named 
figures and symbols are introduced. Two serpents erect 
form a sort of frame for the composition, at the top of which 
we see the busts of Sol and Luna face to face, between them 
is a hawk witli expanded wings, at the back of each is a 
raven. In the field are two crowned and naked men on 
horseback trampling upon two dead bodies : between these 

3G2 SUBJECTS. Sect. 111. 

is a kneeling figure in the attitude of supplication, over his 
head are two stars. Behind each horseman stand two soldiers ; 
at the bottom is a table supporting a loaf of bread, a roe 
(an attribute of Bacchus), a cup, a sword, combined with 
some indistinct emblems, possibly the wreath mentioned by 
TertuUian. On the back of the stone is engraved a more 
simple composition representing two crested serpents, twined 
round staves and looking into a cup ; two stars above a table 
resting on a crater, and two bows ending in serpents' heads 
on each side. Here I fancy we may discover the picture of 
some of the trials of courage (the twelve degrees of torture 
of Suidas), to whicli the neophyte was subjected, exactly as 
the " apprentice " on his admission to the Masonic Lodge of 
tlie present day,^ and surrounded by all the host of Mithras 
so remorsely destroyed by the zealous Gracchus. One test 
of the courage of the neophyte was the apparent approach of 
death, for Lampridius mentions, among the mad freaks of 
Commodus, that " during the Mithraic ceremonies, when 
something was to be done for the sake of inspiring terror, 
he polluted the rites by a real murder:" an expression which 
clearly proves that a show or scenic representation of such an 
act entered into the proceedings ; a circumstance probably 
denoted by the two corpses beneath the horsemen. The 
raven properly takes its place among the symbols of JMithras 
as being an attribute of Apollo in the early mythology, for 
which reason it is often engraved seated on a lyre. 

Niphus, or Chneph, spelt upon the gems xnoybic, xnoy^ic, 
and XNOYMic, the lion-headed serpent of such frequent 

* During this probation, which scourged for the space of two day!?, 

lasted forty days, the neophyte was These twelve tests are represented 

tested by the four elements ; he was on the sides of the well-known bas- 

obliged to lie naked on the snow a relief preserved in the museum at 

certain number of nights, and was Innsjiruck. 

Sect, III. lAw. ABPASAS. 363 

occurrence is said by Hephaestion to be one of the Decani or 
three chief stars in Cancer. This name comes from the 
Egyptian xnovb, gold, xapxnovmic, the first Decanus in 
Leo, also occurs figured with a human head surrounded 
by rays and with a serpent's tail : his name is written 
xoaxnovbic on the gems. A Greek * astrologer says of these 
Decani, "there are in each sign three Decani^ appointed, of 
various forms ; one holding an axe, the others represented 
differently : these figures engraved in rings are charms 
against accidents as Teucer says, as do other great astrologers 
of his times." This passage explains the meaning of a curious 
Carnelian in the IMertens-Schaafhausen Collection, engraved 

Hermes Heptachrysoa. Romau Sard. 

in a late Koman style, with the figure of Mercury seated on 
a throne, bearing the attributes of Jupiter, the thunderbolt 
and lanrel-crown, and with a rara at his side. Around him 
is tlie legend EnnxAXPVCoc, which has a strong analogy to 
the xapxnovmic above mentioned as the name of a Decanus 
in Leo. From the statement as to the talismanic power of 
the three Decani in each sign, and the custom of wearing 
their figures engraved in rings, there can be little doubt but 
that we have in this intaglio a potent Decanus of Leo or 
Aries, for the animal at hia side may do for either, and in 

* Quoted by Salniiisius, l)e Annis spcctor," a term exactly rendered 
Cliniact. by Horoscoims, the star that looks 

'' From Dokan, ('luvlilce "In- iiiKni the hour of onc'd nativity. 

364 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

his mis-spelt Greek title a translation of liis Egyptian name 
an epithet compounded with the word " gold," for it may be 
rendered "sevenfold golden." 

A curious passage indicative of tlie general belief of the 
protective virtue of tliis figure of Chneph, is to be found in 
Galen De Simp., Med. Facult., B. ix. " Some indeed assert 
that a virtue of this kind is inherent in certain stones, such 
as is in reality possessed by the green Jasper, which benefits 
the chest and mouth of the stomach if tied upon it. Some 
set it in a ring and engrave upon it a serpent with radiated 
head, just as King Nechepsos j)rescribes in his thirteenth book. 
Of this stone I have had ample experience, having made a 
necklace out of such gems and hung it round the neck, 
descending so low that the stones might touch the mouth of 
the stomach, and they appeared to be of no less service than 
if they had been engraved in the way laid down by King 

Chneph is given as the name of the Good Genius by Euse- 
bius, I., 7, where he says, "the serpent unless injured by 
violence never dies naturally, whence the Phenicians named 
it tlie Good Genius ; similarly the Egyptians have called 
him Chneph and given him a liawk's head on account of the 
especial velocity of that bird. The priest at Epeae, styled 
the head interpreter of sacred things and scribe, has thus 
explained the meaning of the allegory. " The most divine' 
nature of all was one serpent bearing the form of a hawk, 
and also being most delightful in aspect : for w^hen he 
opened his eyes he filled all the places of his native region 
with light, but when he closed them darkness immediately 
ensued." Our serpent of the gems, however, does not appear 
with a hawk's head, but always with a lion's ; for which 
reason one would be inclined to apply this description of 
Eusebius' to the Abraxas figure, who sometimes appears with 

Sect. III. lAw. ABPASA2. 365 

the head of a hawk, or of a lion, instead of that of a cock, 
the most common mode of representing him. 

I liave already described the Mithraic gems as being 
earlier in date, and unconnected with the doctrines of the 
Basilidans. I have no doubt as to the correctness of this 
assertion, and that no diftlculty will be found on inspection 
in distinguishing the two classes of intagli, the former being 
marked by the superiority of style as well as by the absence 
of Egyptian symbols, and of the long Coptic legends. Many 
of these intagli belong to the best period of Eoman art, 
and it is not difficult to see how the worship of Apollo was 
gradually merged in that of his more spiritual Oriental 
representative. The Pater Bromius of the Cave of Mithras 
may, however, be designated by the title Sabao, so often 
repeated in company with Adonai; for Bacchus is often 
called Sahazius from the cry Sahaoi raised by his votaries 
during the orgies, a word clearly the same as the Hebrew 
Sahi, glory." Adonai, " Our Lord," is rendered by the 
Greeks Adoneus, a title of Pluto, and we have already seen 
the verse of Orpheus asserting the identity of Bacchus 
Pluto, and Sol. This list of synonyms recalls the circum- 
stance that the Syrian worship of Adonis was explained as 
typical of the sun's loss of power at the winter solstice. 
These sacred names lao, Sabao, were degraded at a later 
period into charms for making fish come into the net. The 
niodiajval doctors read lao as Aio, and construing it as the 
cry of the peacock, promised wonderful eftects from a gem 
engraved with this bird with a sea-turtle beneath it, and in- 
scribed with this word. There is an amulet asrainst the 
plague still current in Germany (probably the last surviving 

" (V'ltaiu s(rt;uian.s of tlio lire- what an ancient and respectable 
sent day, wlio sliout out tliis word authority they may claim for tlie 
attluir " lii'vivals," are little aware practice. 

366 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

trace of this class of inscriptions), which is engraved on a 
thin plate of silver in this manner. 



























The numerals added together downwards, across, or diagonally 
make up the sum 84, perhaps in allusion to the time of 
Christ's ministry on earth. This table appears suspended 
over the head of Melancholy in A. Durer's famous engraving : 
the meaning of it there, had long puzzled me until I met 
with the above plate in a little work by Kerner on Amulets. 

Isiac \ase. iied Jasper 

The most detailed account preserved of the symbols and 
types used in the worship of Isis when still in its glory (in 
the second century), is the description of the procession 
given by Apuleius, Met. xi. " Next the crowds flow on of 
persons initiated into the divine mysteries, men and women, 
of every rank and of all ages, shining in the pure whiteness 
of a linen robe ; the latter having their dripping hair en- 


veloped in a transparent covering; the former with their 
heads shaven clean and their bare crowns shining white, 
the earthly stars of the nocturnal religion, raising as they 
went along a shrill tinkling with sistra of bronze, silver, and 
even of gold. But the chief performers in the ceremony 
were those nobles, who, clad in a tight linen robe descending 
from the waist to the heels, carried in the procession the 
glorious symbols of the most potent deities. The first held 
at arm's length a lamp, diffusing before him a brilliant light, 
not by any means like in form to tliose in ordinary use for 
illuminating our evening meals, but a golden bowl supporting 
a more ample blaze in the midst of its broad expanse. The 
second, similarly robed, held up with both hands the altar 
which derives its name from the beneficent providence of 
the sui)reme goddess. The third marched along bearing 
aloft a palm branch, the leaves formed of thin gold, and also 
the wand of ]\Iercury. The fourth displayed the symbol of 
Justice, the figure of a left hand with open palm, which on 
account of its natural inactivity and being endowed with 
neither skill nor cunning, appeared a more fitting emblem of 
equity than the right hand would have been. The same 
l)riest also carried a small golden vessel made of a round 
form like an udder, out of M'liich he poured libations of milk. 
The fifth bore a winnowing fan piled up with golden sprigs ; 
the last of all carried a large wine jar. Immediately after 
these follow the deities condescending to walk upon human 
feet, the first rearing terribly on high his dog's head and 
nock : that messenger between heaven and hell, displaying 
a face alternately as black as the night, and as golden as 
the day ; in his left a caduceus, in his right waving a green 
palm branch. His stops were closely followed by a cow 
raised into an upright position ; this cow was the fruitful 
symbol of the Universal Parent, the goddess, which one 
of the happy train bore with majestic steps supported 

368 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

on his shoulders. By another was carried the coffer con- 
taining the mystic articles, and closely concealing the secrets 
of the glorious religion. Another bore in his happy bosom 
the awful image of the Supreme Deity : not represented in 
the form of a beast either tame or wild, nor of a bird, nor 
even in the shape of a human being, but ingeniously devised 
and inspiring respect by its very strangeness : the ineffable 
symbol of a deeper mystery and one to be veiled by the pro- 
foundest silence. But next came, borne in precisely the same 
manner, a small vase made of burnished gold and most skilfully 
wrought out into a hemi-spherical bottom, embossed externally 
with strange Egyptian devices. Its mouth, but slightly raised, 
was extended into a spout and projected considerably beyond 
the body of the bowl, whilst upon the opposite side, widening 
as it receded to a capacious opening, it was affixed to the 
handle on which was seated an asp wreathed in a knot, and 
lifting on high its streaked, swollen, scaly neck." 

The " vase shaped like an udder "is the exact description 
of that seen so often upon the gems, and which Matter so 
strangely explains as the vessel containing the sins of the 
deceased, a most unlikely subject to be chosen for an amulet 
intended to gain the favour of the heavenly powers. The 
winnowing fan often occurs placed upon this vase ; and the 
golden bowl used as a lamp is often met with in the group 
of emblems which sometimes fills up one side of these intagli. 
Anubis, in order to display by turns a golden and an ebon 
visage, must have been represented with two heads in his 
image carried in this procession, just as he appears with 
wand and palm in the Basilidan rejDresentations. The 
mysterious figure of the Divinity too awful for Apuleius to 
describe, from the strange expressions used by him to describe it 
as " neither beast, bird, nor man," I am tempted to believe 
must have been a compound of all three very probably a 
statuette of our friend Abraxas himself, for it Avas of small 

Skct. hi. ISIAC SYMBOLS. 3G9 

sizo, being carried hidden in the bosom of the priest's robe.* 
This theory is confirmed by the circumstance that a bronze 
figure five inches in heiglit, found in the South of France, 
now exists in the Mertens-Schaafliausen Collection, whence 
the following description of it is extracted. "No. 20G2. 
Statuette of lao standing, armed with cuirass and buckler 
and whip, his head in the form of a cock's, his legs termi- 
nating in serpents." 

From the extreme rudeness of many of these iutagli, there 
can be little doubt that the manufacture of tliem was earned 
on long after the date usually assigned for the total extinction 
of the (jlyptic art in Europe. The mechanical proceedings 
of this art are so simple and the instruments required in it 
so portable and inexpensive, that the sole cause of its being 
discontinued in any age must have been the cessation of the 
demand for its productions. But we actually have many 
]^yzantine camei of the IMiddle Ages, and as the IManichean 
brancli of tlie great Gnostic heresy flourished down to the 
tliirteenth century under the names of Paulicians, Bulgarians, 
Albigcnsos, and Cathari, some of the extremely barbarous 
engravings in whicli the last trace of ancient art has dis- 
appeared may justly be referred to a period long subsequent 
to the Ml of tlie ^Vestern Empire. We shall see that ]\[ar- 
bodus, in the eleventh century, speaking of tlie Turquois and 
the Beryl, orders tliat certain figures should be cut upon tlicm 
in order to endow them with magical powers. This he would 
hardly hnvt; done, if the art of engraving had been totally 
unknown in his day ; for at a later j)eriod, when such was 
actually the case, we find the mediaeval philosophers always 
using the expression, "if a gem be found engraved with such 

" It must lie rc'inc'iubereil also that all writers a<xro(' that lao was an 

Iv^'y]itiaii deity. 

2 ij 

370 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

or such a figure," thus proviug that tliey were entirely 
dependant upon chance for the acquisition of these invahiable 
talismans, and that they had no artists within their reach 
capable of executing such designs according to their prescrip- 
tions. It was not the antique origin of these amulets, 
although ascribed to the ancient Hebrews, and thence called 
Jewi Stones, that alone gave them their mystic potency, for 
plenty of instances subsist of charms cut in mediaeval times 
on metal rings, in the characters of the period, a most curious 
instance of which is that figured by Caylus, YI,, cxxx. 
A gold ring formed out of a square bar of equal thickness 
throughout, each side covered with an inscription in Lom- 
bardic characters, apparently in barbarous Greek but con- 
taining many Gnostic epithets, as follows : 


This talisman was found in France and doubtless had 
belonged to some noble Albigeois of the thirteenth centurv, 
as may be inferred from the form of the characters of the 
legend. Another favourite charm was the names of the 
three Kings of Cologne, Casper (or Jasper), Melchior, and 
Balthasar ; also the inexplicable words " Guttu Gutta Thebal 
Ebal," IHS Nazarenus, and numerous similar inscriptions of 
magical eifect. From these instances we may conclude that 
they would have gladly multiplied the natural powers of the 
gems themselves, by engraving the miraculous Sigilla upon 
them, had not the art entirely disappeared from the cities of 
mediaeval Europe. Indeed at the very commencement of the 
Eevival we find Camillo Leonardo prescribing how and at 
what seasons such talismans ought to be engraved to acquire 
the promised powers : and in looking over miscellaneous lots 


of stones in Italy one meets with abundance of planetary- 
magical, and invocatory intagli, evidently the productions of 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I have never seen 
any camei bearing Gnostic representations : a strange fact if 
we consider the extensive use of these amulets under the 
Lower Empire, and one which proves the complete discon- 
tinuance of the art of engraving camei at that time. The 
unique cameo in my possession representing Anubis in the 
character of Hermes, above alluded to, from its high finish 
and careful execution was most probably the ornament of 
some believer in the Egyptian ancient doctrines, of the age of 


IMedical stamps are small stone tablets with inscriptions cut 
upon their ftice and edges, giving the name of the medicines 
and that of tlie maker or inventor ; and were used for stamp- 
ing the boxes containing them, in order to guarantee their 
genuineness, exactly like the present method of authenticating 
})atont medicines by means of a seal. It is curious that most 
of those stamjis belong to eye-salves. Such preparations must 
have been in great request among the ancients, who suffered 
greatly from diseases of the eyes, of Avhicli more than two 
hundred were specified by their oculists. This liability to 
such complaints was due probably to their custom of always 
going bare-headed, and passing from their confined and gloomy 
rooms into the full blaze of a southern sun, without any pro- 
tection to the eyes. Jn the llerz Collection was a large Sard, 
engraved with a figure of the goddess Roma seated, inscribed 
iiEitoriiiLi oroisALSAMVM. Tlic surface of the stone was 
much woi'n by use, and showed thereby the great demand 
there must have been for the boxes containing this prepara- 
tion, which may have derived its name from the famous phv- 

2 n 2 

372 SUBJECTS. Skct. III. 

sician, the founder of the Alexandrian school of medicine. 
This intaglio was purchased for the British Museum at the 
high price of 81., although the work of it was rude and of late 
Roman date. In fact, the stone itself had very much the 
appearance of a paste ; the letters also of the inscription were 
very large and ill-formed. 

The inscriptions on these stamps are so curious, and throw 
so much light upon the subject of the patent medicines of 
antiquity, that it is worth while to give here an abstract of 
Caylus' excellent dissertation upon them (i. 225). It will be 
observed that they all refer to collp-ia, or medicines to be 
applied to the eyes. 

The two first were found at Nimeguen, and bore the in- 





This stamp served for authenticating the genuineness of 
four different sorts of salves, prepared by a no doubt noted 
oculist, M. Ulpius Heracles, very likely a freedman of Trajan's, 
from the fact of his bearing the same family name ; and 
besides, in Eoman times, physicians were generally Greek or 
Asiatic slaves by origin. The Stratioticum was a remedy for 
the ophthalmia, to which soldiers Avere subject; the Diar- 
rodon (rose-salve) for Impetus, or inflammations of the eyes ; 
Cycnarium, a white ointment made of emollient ingredients, 
for the same complaint ; Talasserosa, one into the composition 
of which bay-salt entered. The second stamp bore the name 
of the same person, with those of four additional salves : 
Melinum, compounded with verdigris ; Tipinum, an extract 
from the plant called Typlie ; Diarces, for Diacroces, saffron- 
ointment ; and Diamysos, salve of misi/, or red vitriol. 


The third stamp, given by Spon, lias the name of another 
oculist : 





Of these, the first was a remedy for the Psora, or dry ophthalmia, 
and Caligines, or dimness of sight ; the second, an extract of 
the well-known herb Celidony, to clear the eyes ; the Nardi- 
num, of many minerals combined with nard ; the last, Chloron 
or green salve, of sulphate of copper, to clear the sight. 
The fourth stamp, found at Gloucester, reads, 


J'ho second of which was an extract of the juice of balsam, to 
be drop})cd stactum into the eyes, and therefore an astringent 

U'he fifth bears the name of Q. Caer. Quintillian, and his 
salves : Stacta ad Clar. Dialepid., an astringent derived from 
the Lepidium, or Avall-pepper ; Diasmyrn, salve of mjTrh ; 
and Crocod., or saffron ointment. This was found near Cou- 
tances in Normandy. 

The sixth came from Dijon, and bears the name of IM. Sul. 
Charito. It served to stamp his gallipots of Isochrysa ad clar., 
or golden ointment ; Diapsor., already named ; 1 )iari-hodon ad 
fervor., or a remedy for the burning heat of the eyes ; and 
l)iasmyrn., as already described. 

The seventh, found at Bcsan(;on, has the name of G. Sat. 
Sabinian, and his salve Diaclierale, the derivation of which is 
not known. 

The eighth, also from Besanqon, gives the name of L. Sacous 
Menander. and his four coUyria : Chelidonium ad cal. ; Meli- 

374 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

mini delac, or distilled ; Thalasseros. delact. ; Diapsoricum 
ad sc, or ad scabiem, the dry ophthalmia. 

The ninth, from Mandeuvre, bears the name of C. Snip. 
Hypnus, and is inscribed with tlie titles of his Stactum Opob. 
ad c. : Diale})id ad Aspri., for Aspritudines, or ^Yarts on the 
eyelids ; Lysiponum ad suppurationem, an emollient for the 
cure of gatherings on the lids ; and lastly his Coenon ad 
claritatem, or universal ointment, to clear the sight. 

The tenth is in the Collection of Antiques, Paris. It is 
unfortunately broken, but the original reading was perha})s 
Dccimi P. Flaviani Collyrium lene m. ad aspritudinem oculo., 
and Decimi P. Flaviani Collyrium mixtum c. 

M. Tochon d'Anneci published in 181(j a brochure upon 
these stamps, in wln'ch he described tliirty examples, by 
adding those of his own collection, and others unpublislied 
tliat had come to his knowledge, to the nineteen previously 
described by Sacius. Of the unpublished are ivnitavri 
anum ad cicatrices et rheumata"), and ivnitaveicrocod 
DAMisvsACDiATHESiSETiiEV., or Juui TauTi Crocod. diauiysus 
ad diathesis et rlieomata. Here diathesis, rheumata, and epi- 
l)liora, are various kinds of ophthalmia, xinother stamp has 
DiAMisvs ADDiATiiETOL, or JJiamysus ad diatheses et omnem 


Lippitudinem, the last two words occurring at full length on 
some of these stamps as well as in the abbreviated form. 

The " Tipinum," for Tiphynum, was of the same nature as 
tlie "Lirinum," ointment of lily, for the Tiphyon is classed 
by Pliny amongst the liliaceous plants. The " Diacherale," 
hitherto unexplained, Visconti intei-preis as " diaceratos lene," 
a salve composed of hartshorn. 

The " Authemerum" of another stamp is a salve to be pre- 
pared every day, as being liable to spoil by keeping, like our 
golden ointment. 

Another is phronimevodes adasprietcik. ("Phronymi 
euodes ad aspri. et cik."), a singular substitution of the k for 
the c. 

Seneca (Ep. Ixiv.) alludes to these medicaments and the 
diseases of the eye for which they were employed : " Hoc 
asperitas oculorum conlevatur, hoc palpebrarum crassitude 
tenuatur, hoc vis subita et humor avertitur, hoc acuitur visus." 

Another salve named upon these stamps is the " Floginum " 
(Phlogiiium), made from tlie juice of the phlox, and the " Sar- 
co])haguni," or corrosive, an application for ulcers. 


This subject introduces naturally the consideration of the 
very numerous class of metal stamps foraied with a handle at 
the back, and made for impressing the name and titles of the 
owner on clay, either used as a seal, as is still practised in 
the East, fur securing the doors of storehouses and cellars, or 
for stamping the pitch and gypsum stoppings of the necks of 
am})hor;c and other vessels. They were also employed by 
potters for imjiressing their names on the handles of the huge 
jars of their fabricjue or in the centre of tiles, in the latter 
case often giving also the name of the emperor for whose 

376 SUBJECTS. Sect. 111. 

buildings tliey were working. But a most singular fact re- 
lating to these objects is that the bulk of them are found with 
the letters in relief, and therefore must have been intended to 
be inked over, and impressed upon the parchment or papyrus 
of the legal document as an official authentication, so nearly 
had the makers of these fixed types approached to the prin- 
ciple of stereotype printing. It is evident that these in- 
scriptions, being in relief, could not have been designed for 
stamping clay or wax, on which substances the impressions 
tliemselves are always found in relief. It necessarily follows 
therefore that they were employed to save time in applying 
the necessary signatures to a large number of documents re- 
quired simultaneously, precisely as the stamps now used in 
the passport bureaux of the Continental States. 

Jupiter, So!, Luua. Opal. 


Every collector of gems must have been struck witli the 
extraordinary frequency with which certain subjects are re- 
peated on gems, generally from causes that may be readily 
conjectured, although the rarity of other representations, that 
would seem to have had quite as many claims to recommend 
them to the engraver's notice, is very difficult to be satis- 
factorily explained. It Avill also be observed tliat many sub- 
jects are cut in preference upon particular sorts of gems ; and 
the tollowijig is a rougli attempt at a relative view of the 


occurrence of the more usual representations, and of the 
varieties of stones which each class particularly affect: 
First, beyond all dispute, are the figures of Victory, executed 
in every style, from that of the best epoch to the rude scratches 
of expiring art. Almost as frequent are the figures of Nemesis, 
that deity so justly revered by the ancient world, only to be 
distinguished from Victory by her being always helmeted and 
holding a bridle or a measuring-rod in her hand. Virgo or 
Erigone, a similar figure, is known by her cornucopia and 
rudder. These subjects, belonging to every date, are found 
in every material ; those of the Lower Empire, however, occur 
very abundantly in Plasma. Next come eagles in all attitudes, 
and combined with various emblems, on the same kinds of 
stones as were employed for the preceding figures. Venus 
comes next after eagles in point of frequency, the sea-born 
goddess appropriately affecting the sea-green colour of tlie 
Plasma a gem on whicli we rarely meet with other subjects 
than Venus, eagles, and Victories. Cupids, as a necessary 
consequence, also abound on gems, and give scope for the most 
elegant fancy on the part of the artist, in his representation of 
their various groups and attitudes, as engaged in various sports 
and occupations. IMinerva takes the next place, and, as may 
be deduced from the style of the intagli, was the goddess who 
chiefly occupied the engravers under the Flavian family ; for 
most of the neatly-executed gems with this type will be found 
identical in style with those on the reverses of the denarii of 
Domitian.^ lioma, distinguislicd from the preceding by being 

'' The Medusa's Head, lx)th as a arc amongst the most numerous of 

liiolile, tlie tj-jie of Ik-auty dead, in all, the latter form being the most 

reiinxincing whieli the most skilful fre<iuent when of late work. It even 

artists of every ago have emulated occurs u]ton the CJnostic gems, and, 

each (iHier ; and the living front- api)arently from its universal use, 

lace (iorgon, with snakes erect, was worn as an amulet to avert 

and rejilete with energy and rau'e, the Kvil Kye. This seems provetl 



Sect. 111. 

seated on a throne and holding an orb, is very frequent, espe- 
cially on the gems of a later period. Now follows the turn of 
Bacchus, old, young, bearded, beardless ; the Dionysus, the 
Indian, the Liber Pater of the Eomans, with all his train of 
Silenus, Fauns, and Bacchantes, who disport themselves as 
full figures, busts, and heads on all kinds of gems, yet appro- 
priately affecting the Amethyst as a sort of antidote to their 
own influence. Mercury has been hitherto omitted, although 

Cassandra mourning the dcom 
Troy. Sard, 

Minerva supporiing the bust of 
Dornitian. Sard. 

he ought to be placed on the same footing in the list as 
Victory herself, the god of gain being properly the favourite 
deity of all times, and, as may be shrewdly suspected from 
the late style of many of his figures, retaining his hold upon the 
finger of many a Christian convert who had made no difficulty 
of casting away his other gods of a more subtle and unworldly 
character. He will be found, the reason of it quite unknown, 
to occur very frequently upon Amethyst. Hercules, as the 
deity whose protection assured good luck, was a special 
favourite, particularly of the Komans under the Middle 
Empire ; and his heads will be found engraved as it were in 

by a red Jasper of mine, bearing the a signet, but for a talisman, 'i'he 

Gorgon's Head and the legend profile heads of Medusa, on the otlier 

APHrn-POPOMANAAPH. hand, will be found to be productions 

" I protect Roromandares." of the better times of the arts, and 

'I'lie letters, not being reversed, show usually among the finest specimens 

that the stone was not intended for of it remaining to us. 


preference on the Nicolo. The bust of Jove, usually given as 
a front face, also is tolerably frequent ; but much less so is 
the full figure of this deity seated on a throne a singular 
circumstance, remembering how common a type this was of 
the Grecian coinage. Serapis, however, whose worship was 
so universal under the later emperors, claims by far the 
largest share of the intagli representing Jupiter. This 
divinity usually appears on the finest red Sards that could 
be procured at the time. Amnion is met with but seldom, 
and then only on gems of an early date. Apollo is next 
to Serapis in point of popularity, together with his attri- 
butes, especially lyres, represented in a great variety of 
shapes. Diana ^ is more unfrequent, still more so Juno, their 
characters doubtless being too prudish and severe to suit the 
temper of the times which produced the greatest quantity of 
the intagli existing. An infinite variety of masks, chimerae, 
and caprices, apparently all belonging to the same epoch (the 
second century), now appear, and usually on the red Jasper, 
a fine material, but almost unknown to earlier times. Ceres 
herself is not seen very frequently, although pictures of rural 
occupations are plentiful enough. Neptune is still more rare ; 
still more so Saturn and Vulcan. As for Pluto, I have never 
yet seen a representation of so ill-omened a deity ui)on any 
gem. The head of Mars, or the god himself (an armed warrior 
holding a spear and shield), is by no means unccmimon upon 
Ivomau gems. The same is the case with arms, especially 
helmets, on which the artists have often expended their 
utmost skill. As might have been expected in a people so 
})iissiunately addicted to the games of the circus, chariots and 

'" T1k)U;j;1i Sol occurs very frc- with only in solitary oxaniplus even 
([ucutly, botli as a full li^ure, and in the larirest collections, 
as a Imst, yet I, una is to l>e met 

380 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

horses of all kinds, often mounted by fantastic riders, and 
furnished with grotesque steeds and charioteers, appear in 
vast numbers and in all varieties of material. Animals make 
up the majority of Etruscan intagli, especially in that rude 
class the origin of whicli can be distinctly assigned to the 
engravers of that nation. They also furnish, and in the same 

Hercules tnromiDg bis club. Eiiutjcan Scarab. " Type of t-i^e Satyic Drama. Bed Jasper. 

style of art, coarse representations of fauns and of the games 
of the gymnasium, but seem never to have attempted por- 
traits. Of Koman date, the lion and the bull are the most 
common subjects, from their astrological import ; then the 
various kinds of dogs and the wild boar, and every matter 
connected with the chase of this beast. The herdsman and 
the shepherd are amongst the most numerous class, and 
testify to the longings of the pent-up citizen for the quiet 
occupations of the country aspirations so often expressed by 
the poets, " O rus ! quando ego te aspiciam ? " Of fishes the 
dolphin is the favourite, usually depicted as entwined around 
an anchor, a trident, or a rudder : the last type was the signet 
of Sextus Pompeius. The crawfish, a common device, is often 
cut upon the appropriately-coloured Plasma: this creature 
being taken by the Greeks as the emblem of prudence, was 
on that account so frequently selected as a signet by the 
ancients. Among insects the locust is common on gems : its 
form is tliat of our grasshopper, but it is in life often two or 
three inches long, and is now called by the Tuscans la cavalla. 


This must not be confounded with the cicada or cigala of the 
Italians, which more resembles a huge fly in shape than any- 
thing else ; and from its continuous song (a sound like the 
cry of the starling) was considered as an attribute of the god 
of music, and therefore was often engraved in company with 
a lyre, when it is sometimes mistaken for a bee by persons 
not acquainted with the real insect. Of birds, after the eagle 
comes the parrot, next the peacock and the raven : the last a 
prophetic fowl, and an attribute of Apollo. We have seen 
how Clemens Alexandrinus recommends the Christians of his 
own times to adopt for signets the dove, fish, the ship under 
sail, the lyre, the anchor, and the fisherman : of all which we 
find numerous intagli, and usually of the coarse execution 
betokening a late period. Gnostic gems have been already 
sufficiently considered : their number in Italy and France is 
incredible, and probably a tenth of all intagli discovered in 
those countries belong to this class. The Greek period gives 
us some magnificent portraits, but they are rare, and were 
most probably engraved only for the use of the person him- 
self as his private signet, an usage we see alluded to in the 
' Pseudolus ' of Plautus. In the Roman period it seems to 
have been held a mark of loyalty to wear the portrait of the 
reigning emperor, which accounts for the vast number of such 
down to the time of Caracalla, and many of whicli, even of 
tlio early Caesars, are of the most inferior execution, clearly 
manufactured at a cheap rate for the wear of the military and 
the poorer classes.^ After this period, gold medals set in 
rings, and huge medallions suspended round the neck, took 
the place of engraved gems. It may here be remarked that 
the greater number of imperial portraits, particularly those of 

' 'I'lifse iinpcM-ial portraits arc and bronze, tlius proving the jx)- 
ittcn I'ounil s{>t in rinijs of silver vorty of their original wc.irers. 

382 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

large size, to be seen in collections of gems, are the works of 
artists of the times since the Revival : they are much more 
numerous than the true antique heads of the emperors and 
their connexions, whence they ought always to be examined 
with suspicion, above all whenever the stones themselves ex- 
ceed the usual dimensions of a signet. The heads of Domitia, 
Julia Titi, M. Aurelius, and L. Verus, have been those most 
frequently copied by modern artists. 

In the list of my own collection, it appears that more than 
half of the entire number are Sards of various shades, and 
after them in number come the Onyx and the Jasper. 
Plasmas would have been almost as numerous as Sards, had 
not the choice of the gems been guided by the good work of 
the intagli, and not by the wish to obtain a great variety of 
subjects. The proportionate numbers of the gems will be 
found nearly the same in all collections, where the acquisition 
of fine work alone is the end proposed by the amateur to him- 
self ill his purchases. In the Herz Collection, where the sole 
object was to accumulate a variety of subjects, quite irrespective 
of their authenticity, execution, or material, in an unreasoning 
emulation of the famous cabinet of Stosch (the cause that more 
than half of its contents were modern imitations or worthless 
pastes), the varieties of stones were much more numerous ; as 
the latest works of the Decline supply vast numbers of Plasmas, 
and various shades of the Jasper, as well as Garnets, to the 
collector. But sucli an assemblage of works of all degrees of 
merit is only fit for a national museum, not for a private 
cabinet, where the aim of the possessor should be to keep as 
few pieces as possible, and those only that are the best of 
their kind ; so that each gem becomes, as it were, a collec- 
tion in itself. 

The preference shown by the ancient engravers for parti- 
cular kinds of gems, is well illustrated by the annexed tabular 

Skot. III. 



view of those composing the Mertens-Schaafliausen Cabinet, 
formed entirely of intagli, with few exceptions, antique, only 
97 of the whole number being camel of various periods. 

Sard and Carnelian . . . . 604 

Calcedony 279 

Onyx 109 

Plasma 101 

Jasper, various 161 

Garnets 54 

Amethyst 36 

Jacinth 22 

Lapi.s-lazuli 32 

Emeralds 10 

Crystal 8 

Chrysolite 4 

Beryl 3 

Euby 2 

Sapphiie 1 

Opal 1 

Tiirqnois 3 

Tsicolo 49 

Besides tliese, there are a few in horn-stone, haematite, 
nephrite, loadstone, and Lydian stone or touchstone. 

cr^on: (ireco-ltalian Cameo. Sard 

384 SUBJECTS. Sect. III. 

Pompey, witli his titles. Nicolo. 


The chief of arcliseologists, Visconti, remarks in his ' Esp. 
di Gemme Antiche,' " How conducive the study and tlie 
accurate examination of ancient works in the precious stones, 
commonly termed ' Gems,' is to the understanding of anti- 
quities, and to every species of valuable erudition, as well as 
to the intelligence of the arts of design, and to the training 
of the eyes in the distinguishing of true and simple beauty, is 
an argument already sufficiently dilated upon by others, and 
unnecessary to be further discussed in this place. I must, 
however, preface my description of this collection of casts 
(made for Prince A. Chigi), by the mention of certain con- 
siderations wliich have served me as rules in drawing it up, 
as well as in the choice and formation of the entire cabinet. 
Two advantages, over all other existing relics of antiquity, 
are possessed by engraved gems, and both are connected witli 
the service to be derived from them : the first is, that they 
are able to fui-nish accurate instruction, not to those present 
alone, whilst those absent are either entirely deprived, or 
must derive it from drawings merely, as the sole resource ; 
drawings too, often incorrect, scarcely ever perfectly accurate, 
and wliich can only transfuse into the plate what the eye of 
the draughtsman (often an unskilled one) lias been ~able to 
comprehend in the original of his design. Antique intagli, 
on the contrary, by means of the impressions from them, in 
a certain manner may be said to multiply themselves, and 

Skct. II r. PLASTER CASTS. 385 

are represented in perhaps a better point ol view than the 
originals; from which circumstance these impressions serve 
equally well with the monument itself to build our reflections 
and our decisions upon, except in those very rare and excep- 
tional cases where some peculiarity of mechanical execution 
of the work is concerned. The second advantage, and that 
one of the highest importance, is, that their very hardness of 
material, and the nature of the work on them, especially as 
regards intagli, to such a degree secure the integrity of these 
antique productions of art, that the representations, together 
with all their symbols and accessories, have been preserved 
without the slightest damage to the present moment ; not 
mutilated, as is too often the case with works of art in marble, 
or as with medals, made illegible by wear, or changed and 
corroded by their long entombment amidst the acids of the 


The collector of antique gems ought to take every oppor- 
tunity of carefully examining all cabinets of camei and 
intagli to which he can obtain access, especially in the 
numerous small collections brought to London for sale during 
the season. As these are usually of the most miscellaneous 
character, and composed of works of all ages, gathered to- 
gether without discrimination, he will have an opportunity of 
comparing every style, and thus by degrees of gaining the 
almost intuitive perception of antiquity, only to be acquired 
by practice. Pie will soon learn how never to pass over an 
antique as a modern work ; the converse faculty will, how- 
ever, be more slowly imparted to his eye, for the most 
experienced may sometimes be taken in by the exact imita- 
tion of the antique in some gem the production of the skilful 
artists of the last century. Much too may be learnt from 

2 c 

3S() SURTECTS. Skot. III. 

the careful study of casts from gems of undoubted authenticity, 
as regards the style and design, and the execution or the 
mechanical part of the work of different epochs, all which 
may be acquired nearly as well from the constant and minute 
examination of the casts as by that of the gems themselves. 
After some practice the student will find himself enabled to 
distinguish the casts produced by the various sorts of gems, 
by observing how different is the work on the Sard from that 
on the Plasma, how that on the Nicolo again has its peculiar 
touches, while the flowing and shallow work peculiar to the 
Jacintli is to be recognised at the first glance. The style of 
engraving on the Garnet also, when by chance a good intaglio 
on this gem does occur, has a peculiarity of its own, some- 
what approximating to that of the Jacinth. 

These plaster-casts are easily taken, arid only require a 
little care in the manipulation to produce extremely accurate 
impressions : the process is as follows. The face of the gem 
must first be slightly oiled, to prevent the plaster from stick- 
ing in the lines of the intaglio. A little plaster must next 
be mixed with water to the consistence of paste, and then 
laid upon the intaglio with a fine brush, as if giving it a coat 
of paint, by which we prevent bubbles from forming on the 
surface of the cast, which would completely spoil it. Next sur- 
round the gem with a margin of thick paper to keep the 
plaster in shape, and lay upon the first coat any quantity of 
plaster mixed to a strong consistence, to give the required 
thickness to the cast ; let it dry for half an hour, when it will 
be easily separated from the stone, and a perfect impression 
will be produced. This is the regular and somewhat tedious 
process ; but I have found the two first steps of oiling and 
coating the gem may be dispensed with, by breathing for a 
few moments upon the gem, so as to make it thoroughly hot 
and moist before laying on the plaster, which if carefully 


worked into the intagli with the end of tlie instniment (a fine 
wooden spatula is the best), will be found to yield a cast 
quite free from bubbles, and easily detached from the intaglio 
without risk of fracture. If the cast be dipped, when dry, 
into strong tea, it will take a light brown tint, much more 
agreeable to the eye than the glaring white of the plaster 
itself. I have also found that by laying upon the cast a coat 
of a strong solution of gum arabic, which it will soon absorb, 
a considerable degree of hardness as well as a pleasing 
marble-like gloss is imparted to tlie otherwise tender 
material ; a valuable addition to casts that are exposed to 
much handling from the careless. 

Casts of sulphur, coloured s\itli vermilion, are made by 
melting it slowly in a ladle, and pouring it into plaster moulds 
made from the impressions of the gems in sealing wax. 
These are useful when one has no opportunity of taking casts 
from the gems themselves ; otherwise the sulphur does not 
show the minute details of the intaglio so faithfully as the 
cast in plaster. 

A lump of modelling wax is the indispensable companion 
of every collector in the examination of gems before making 
a purchase or passing judgment upon them, as by its aid 
alone can the work upon opaque substances be accurately 
examined. It is made by dissolving beeswax with one-tenth 
of its weight of tallow, adding a little powdered rosin to the 
melted mixture, and stirring all well together ; when of the 
proper consistency it mil not adhere to the fingers when 
handled. It may be coloured red or black, according to what 
colour is preferred, by adding vermilion or lamp-black to 
the mass when liquid. This composition, when moulded 
between the fingers, readily softens, so as to take the most 
accurate impression from an intaglio previously moistened by 
breathing upon it for a short time. These impressions, if 

2 c 2 


protected from friction, will remain perfect for any length of 
time, whereas those taken in sealing wax waste away with 
the heat of summer. For immediate use modelling wax may 
be made by adding a few drops of turpentine to wax melted 
and coloured to taste ; this answers well enough for a few 
days, before the spirit has all evaporated, when it becomes too 
hard for use. It is, however, an excellent substance for 
preserving impressions in, as it resists the effects of heat and 
light, and looks remarkably well when made up into a series 
of casts arranged under glass. This was the wax employed 
for the mediaeval seals, which have come down to us un- 
injured from very remote times. Our present sealing wax, 
or more properly sealing lac, as the Germans call it, was un- 
known in Europe until brought by the Dutch from India in 
the seventeenth century. Alexander, the prophet of Aboni- 
tichos, used, as Lucian tells us, to take casts of the seals of 
the letters deposited upon the altar of his temple, in a mix- 
ture of quicklime and glue. With this extemporised stamp he 
resealed the letters after having opened them ; and thus was 
enabled to return answers adapted to the questions they con- 
tained, while the letters were returned to his dupes, to all 
appearance unopened. 

Death of Escbyiua, 


Polyphemus. Said. 



This poem was probably composed by the abbot Marbodus 
(Marbceuf), when master of the Catliedral School of Anjou, 
an office he held from 1067 to 1081, in which last year he 
was made Bishop of Rennes. The substance of it is taken in 
part from Pliny, but chiefly from Solinus, of whom he para- 
phrases entire sentences. He also borrows largely from the 
so-called Orpheus, a work composed probably in the third 
century. This acquaintance of Marbodus with a Greek 
author is somewhat at variance with the i)revailing opinion of 
the state of western literature at that period ; but it is evident 
that he both understood that language, and was very proud 
of his knowledge, to judge from the number of Greek words 
he introduces into his text, and his careful interpretations of 
the names of gems derived from the Greek. It is my belief 
that Greek as a spoken tongue must have liugered in the 
south of France long after the fall of the llomau Empire. To 
its very close we find that language still flourishing there ; 
tluis, Ausonius says of liis father, a physician of Bordeaux. 


that he could not express liimself fluently in Latin, but was a 
ready speaker in Greek, 

" Sermone impromptus Latio verum Attica lingua 
Suflfecit culti vocibus eloqiiii." 

All the Gauls of this and later periods whose names are 
not Latin bear Greek cognomina, apparently translations of 
their own Celtic designations, as having generally a sylvan 
or rustic meaning ; as, for instance, Agrius Cimarus for 
Ay pios Xifjiocpof, the wild goat, to be seen on a sepulchral 
tablet at Caerleon, Syagrius, the last Roman prince of 
Soissons ; Drepanius, Staphylius, Aeonia, Calippio, Dryadia, 
Euromius, Talisius, Cataphronia, Melania, Idalia ; these latter 
all relations of the poet of Bourdeaux, Ausonius. Charle- 
magne, though quite illiterate, is said to have understood and 
spoken Greek, which would imply that it was necessary in 
his intercourse with some of his own subjects. In fact, as the 
large Greek cities of Provence, such as Marseilles, retained 
their independence under the Gothic kings to a very great 
extent, the extinction of their cherished language must have 
been both gradual and slow. 

Marbodus indeed ascribes the original of his poem to Evax, 
and gives his dedicatory letter to Tiberius, written in very 
mediseval Latin, which last is evidently a composition of his 
own. But this attribution must be regarded merely as a 
poetical license, to give credit to the work in the eyes of the 
learned of those times ; for he makes no difficulty of men- 
tioning Nero (the sixth from Julius), when sj)eaking of the 
properties of the emerald. Doubtless many ancient authors ' 

Such as Metrodorus, whom he dates, in whicli he defined their 

(juotes by name under " Coral " influence over human destiny, 

and Zachalias of Babylon, who is " gemmis humana fata attribuit." 

mentioned by Pliny as having dedi- xxxvii. 60. 
cated a treatise on gems to Mithri- 


were extant when he wrote besides Solinus and Orpheus, 
from whom he gleaned the rest of the curious superstitions as 
to the mystic and medicinal virtues of gems, in addition to 
those detailed by these two writers. Camillo Leonardo has 
borrowed largely from Marbodus in his treatise on the 
qualities of the gems in themselves, but the latter makes no 
mention in this poem of the virtues of the sigils cut upon 


'I'u*': lore of Evax, rich Arabia's king, 
Addressed to Kero in these lines I sing ; 
Tiberius Nero who, so willed it Fate, 
Next to Augustus ruled the Ifoman state. 
Their dift'erent kinds, their varying hues I teach, 
W'liat land produces, what the power of each. 
Thus while the bulky volume I compress, 
In more commodious form the sense I dress. 
This precious lore I from tlie crowd conceal, 
But to few friends, and those the best, reveal : 
For he that mysteries publishes profanes 
Known to the vulgar secret nought remains. 

10. liCt three at most this sacred volume know, 
A holy number, holy things we show ; 
Who honour heaven and its commands attend, 
Whom manners grave, whom holy lives commend. 
F(jr sure the hidden powers of gems to know, 
NV^hat great eft'ects from hidden causes flow, 
A science this, to be to few confined 
And viewed with admiration by mankind. 
Hence may the healing art new aid derive, 
Taught by their virtue plagiies away to drive ; 
For sagos tell that by creative heaven 

'JO. Distinctive potency to gems is given. 
And hoar experience siirely doth attest 
The native virtue ly eath stone p()ssessed. 


Though in the herb a potent virtue lurks 
Greatest of all that which in jewels works. 


Foremost of all amongst the glittering race 
Far India is the DiainoruC^ native place ; 
Produced and found within the crystal mines, 
Its native source in its pure lustre shines : 
Yet though it flashes with the brilliant's rays 
A steely tint the ciystal still displays. 
Hardness invincible which nought can tame, 
Untouched by steel, unconquered by the flame ; 

30. But steeped in blood of goats it yields at length, 
Yet tries the anvil's and the smiter's strength. 
With these keen splinters armed, the artist's skill 
Subdues all gems and graves them at his will. 
Largest at best as the small kernel shut 
Within th' inclosure of the hazel nut. 
Another stone the swart Arabians find. 
Broke without blood, of less obdurate kind : 
Of duller lustie and of lower price. 
In weight and bulk it yet the first outvies. 
A third gives Cyprus, girdled by the main ; 
The fourth Philippi's iron mines contain : 

40. Yet all alike the obedient iron sway 

As does the magnet, if this gem 's away ; 

For in the presence of this sovereign stone 

Robbed of its force an idle mass 'tis thrown. 

In magic rites employed, a potent charm, 

With force invincible it nerves the arai : 

Its power will chase far from thy sleeping head 

The dream illusive and the goblin dread ; 

Baffle the venom'd draught, fierce quarrels heal, 

Madness appease and stay thy foeman's steel. 

Its fitting setting, so have sages told. 

Is the pale silver or the glowing gold ; 

A.nd let the jewel in the bracelet blaze 

\\ liich round the left arm clasped attracts the gaze. 



.50. Achates' stream, which through Sicilia's phiins 
Winds his soft course renowned in pastoral strains, 
Named from himself the Agate first disclosed 
A jet black stone by milky zones inclosed : 
With figured veins its varied surface strew'd, 
Painted by nature in a sportive mood. 
Now regal shapes, now gods its face adorn ; 
Such the fam'd Agate by King Pyrrhus worn, 
\Vhose level surface the nine Muses graced, 
Kound Phoebus with his lyre in order placed. 
Strange to relate, 'twas to no artist due, 

GO. Nature herself the wondrous picture drew. 
Another Agate yields the Cretan shore. 
As coral red, with gold-dust sprinkled o'er ; 
An antidote against the poisoned draught, 
And for the treach'rous viper's venom'd shaft. 
Whilst on that Agate which dark Indians praise 
The woods arise, the sylvan monster strays : 
Placed in the mouth 'twill raging thirst appease. 
And its mild radiance the tired eyeballs ease. 
One fumes like myrrh if on the altar sti'ewed ; 
Another is besprent with diops of blood : 
Whilst those which, like the comb, with yellow gleam, 
Are most abundant, but in least esteem. 

70. The Agate on the wearer strength bestows. 
With ruddy health his fresh complexion glows ; 
Both eloquence and grace are by it given, 
lie gains the favour both of earth and heaven : 
Anchises' sun, by this attendant saved,^ 
O'ercame all labouis, every danger biaved. 


Not least the glory of the gem renowned 
Within the bully of the ctipun found. 

" A turious i>oiveisiun this of Viij^il's ' Fidus Acliaks.' 


Which, made an eunuch when three years have flown, 
Through twice two more in swelling bulk has grown ; 
Its utmost size no larger than a bean, 
Like purest water or the crystal's sheen ; 

80. Hence Aledorius is the jewel hight, 

For gifts of strength extolled, and matchless might. 
If parched with thirst place this within thy mouth, 
'T will in a moment quench thy burning drouth ; 
Aided by this on many a well-fought day 
Crotonian Milo bore the palm away : 
And many a prince, with laurel on his brow, 
Keturned victorious o'er a mightier foe. 
The weary wretch who in far exile pines. 
Restored to home, with pristine honours shines. 
It gifts the pleader with persuasive art 
To move the court and touch the hearer's heart : 
Th' exhausted frame with youthful vigour filled 
Exults once more with love's high rapture thrilled. 
From this the bride full powerful aid may gain 

90. To bind her spouse's heart with triple chain. 
Borne in the moiith the virtues of the stone 
And all its mighty works are quickly shewn. 


Of seventeen species can the Jasper boast 
Of differing colours, in itself a host. 
In various regions is this substance seen : 
The best of all, the bright translucent green ; 
The greatest virtue is to this assigaied ; 
Fevers and dropsies feel its influence kind. 
Hung round the neck it eases travail's throes, 
And guards the wearer from approaching woes. 
100. Power too it gives when blest by magic rite : 
And drives away the phantoms of the night ; 
But let the gem enchased in silvei' shine, 
And fortify thereby its force divine. 



Fit only for the hands of kings to wear, 
^Vith purest azure shines the Sapphire rare : 
For worth and beauty chief of gems proclaimed, 
And by the vulgar oft Syrtites named. 
Oft in the Syrtes midst their shifting sand 
Cast by the boiling deep on Lybian strand : 
The best the sort that Media's mines supply, 

110. Opaque of colour which excludes the ay a. 
By nature with superior honours graced, 
As gem of gems above all others placed ; 
Health to preserve, and treachery to disarm. 
And guard the wearer from intended harm : 
No envy bends him, and no terrur shakes ; 
The caj)tive's chains its mighty virtue breaks ; 
The gates fly open, fetters fall away, 
And send their prisoner to the light of day. 
E'en Heaven is moved by its force divine. 
To list to vows presented at its shrine. 
Its soothing power contentions fierce controls. 
And in sweet concord binds discordant souls ; 

I'JO. Above all othei*s thin Magicians love, 

\\ hich draws responses from the realms above : 
The body's ills its saving force allays 
And cools the flame that on the entrails preys. 
Can check the sweats that melt the waning force 
And stay the ulcer in its festering course : 
Dissolved in milk it clears the cloud away 
From the dimmed eye and i)ours the perfect day ; 
Kelieves the aching brow when racked with paiu 
And bids the tongiie it wonted vigour gain. 
But he who dares to we^ir this gem divine 
Like snow in j)ertect chastity must shine. 


Ijctweeii the Hyacinth and Beiyl jdaced. 
i;i(i. Willi lustre fail' is the ('nhedvn graced ; 

39(5 MYSTfC VIRTUES. Sect. IV 

But pierced, and worn upon the neck or hand, 
A sure success in lawsuits 'twill command. 
Unlike the Jasper, of this precious stone 
Three hues alone are xinto merchants known. 


Of all green things which bounteous earth supplies 
Nothing in gi'eenness "with the Emerald vies ; 
Twelve kinds it gives, sent from the Scythian clime. 
The Bactrian mountain, and old Nilus' slime ; 
And some from copper mines of viler race 
Marked by the dross drav^m from their matrix base : 
The Carchedonian from the Punic vale 
To name the others were a tedious tale. 

140. From all the rest the Scj^thian bear the palm 
Of higher value and of brighter charm, 
From watchful grj'phons in the desert isle 
Stol'n by the vent'rous Arimaspian's guile. 
Higher their value which admit the sight. 
And tinge with green the circumambient light : 
Unchanged by sun or shade their lustre glows. 
The blazing lamp no dimness on it throws. 
Such as a smooth or hollow s-urface spread 
Like slumbeiing ocean in its tranquil bed, 
These like a miiTor the beholder's face 
Exactly image with reflected rays : 
And thus did Kero, if report say tme, 
The mimic warfare of the arena view. 
But best the gem that shews an even sheen. 
Lustrous with equal never-varying green. 
Of mighty use to seers who seek to pry 

1.50. Into the future hid from mortal eye. 

Wear it with reverence due, 'twill wealth bestow 

And words persuasive from thy lips shall flow. 

As though the gift of eloquence inspiied 

The stone itself or living spirit fired. 

llimg reund the neck it cures the agtic's chill, 

( )r falling sickness, dire mysterious ill ; 


Its hues so soft refresh the wearied eye, 
And furious tempests banish from the sky : 
So with chaste power it tames the furious mood 
And cools the wanton thoughts that fire the blood. 
1 60. If steeped in verdant oil or bathed in wine 
Its deepened hues with peifect lustre shine. 


The Sard and Onyx in one name unite, 
And from their union spring three colours bright. 
O'er jetty black the brilliant white is spread 
And o'er the white diffused a fiery red : 
If clear the colours, if distinct the line, 
\\'hero still unmixed the various layers join, 
Such we for beauty and for value prize, 
Rarest of all that teeming earth supplies. 
Chief amongst signets it will best convey 
170. The stamp impressed, nor tear the wax away. 
The man of humble heart and modest face, 
And i)urest soul the Sardonyx should grace ; 
A worthy gem, yet boasts no mystic powoi-s : 
'T is sent from Indian and Arabian shores. 


Called by the Onyx round the sleeper stand 
Black dreams, and phantoms rise, a grisl}' band : 
\\'hoso on neck or hand this stone displays 
Is plagued with lawsuits and with civil frays ; 
Round infants' necks if tied, so nui*scs shew, 
Their tender mouths with slaver overflow. 
This the Arabian, this the Indian sends, 
And five the sorts to which its name it lends : 
Which name of Onyx, as grammarians teach, 
180. Comes from the usage of the Grecian speech. 
Fur what the name of nails amongst us bears 
Expressed in Greek as Onyr/ics appears; 
Yet if a Sardian on thy finger shine 
'T will quash the Onyx' influence malign. 



The blood-red Sardian to its birthplace owes 
Its name, to Sardis, whence it first arose. 
Cheapest of gems, it may no share of fame 
For any virtue save its beauty claim ; 
Except for power the onyx' spell to break : 
190. Of this old sages five divisions make. 


The golden Chrysolite a fiery blaze 

Mixed with the hue of ocean's green displays ; 

Enchased in gold its strong protective might 

Drives far away the terrors of the night : 

Strung on the hairs plucked from an ass's tail. 

The mightiest demons neath its influence quail. 

This potent amulet, of old renowned, 

Wear like a bracelet on thy left arm bound. 

'T is brought by merchants from those far off lands 

Where Ethiopia spreads her burning sands. 


Cut with six facets shines the Beryl bright. 
Else a pale dulness clouds its native light ; 
The most admired display a softened beam 

200. Like tranquil seas or olives' oily gleam. 

This potent gem, found in far India's mines. 
With mutual love the wedded couple binds ; 
The wearer shall to wealth and honours rise 
And from all rivals bear the wished-for prize : 
Too tightly grasped, as if instinct with ire, 
It bums th' incautious hand with sudden fire. 
Lave this in water, it a wash supplies 
For feeble sight and stops convulsive sighs. 
Its species nine, for so the learned divide, 

210. Avail the liver and the tortured side. 



From seas remote the yellow Topaz came, 
Foimd in the island of the self-same name ; 
Great is the value for full rare the stone, 
And but two kinds to eager merchants known. 
One vies with purest gold, of orange bright ; 
The other glimmers with a fainter light : 
Its yielding nature to the file gives way 
Yet bids the bubbling caldron cease to play. 
The land of gems, culled from its copious store, 
Arabia sends this to the Latian shore ; 
One only virtue Nature grants the stone, 
Those to relieve who under hemorrhoids groan. 


Three various kinds the skilled as Hyacinths name, 
Varying in coloui-, and unlike in fame : 
One, like pomegranate flowers a fiery blaze ; 

220. And one, the yellow citron's hue displays. 
One charms with paley blue the gazer's eye 
liike the mild tint that decks the northern sky : 
A strength 'ning power the several kinds convey 
And giief and vain suspicions drive away. 
Those skilled in jewels chief the Granate prize, 
A rarer gem and flushed Avith ruby dyes. 
The blue sort feels heaven's changes as they play 
Bright on the sunny, dull when dark the day : 
Rut best that gem which not too deep a hue 
O'erloads, nor yet degrades too liglit a blue ; 
But where the purple bloom unblemished shines 

2.'50. And in due measure both the tints combines. 
No gem so cold upon the tongue can lie, 
With greater hardness none the file defy : 
I'ho diamond splinter to th' engraver's use 
Alone its hardened stubbornness subdues. 
The citron-coloured, by their pallid dress, 
Their basei* nature openly confess ; 


With any kind bonie on thy neck or hand, 
Secure from peril visit every land. 
On all thy wand'rings honoiirs shall attend 
And noxious airs shall ne'er thy health offend ; 
Whatever prince thy just petition hears 
Fear no repulse, he'll listen to thy prayei-s. 
Midst other treasures to adorn the ring 
240. This gem from Afric's burning sands they bring. 


Parent of gems, rich India from her mines 
The Chrysoprase, a precious gift, consigns, 
As leaves of leeks in mingled shadows blent. 
Or pui-ple dark with golden stars besprent ; 
But what its virtue, rests concealed in night : 
All things Fate grants not unto mortal sight. 


The Tyrian purple the rich Amethyst dyes. 
Or darker violet charms the gazer's eyes ; 
Bright as the ruby wine another glows, 
Or fainter blush that decks the opening rose ; 
Another yet displays a lighter shade, 
Like drops of wine with fountain streams allaj'ed. 
250. All these supplied by jewelled India's mart. 
Easy to cut, yield to tlie giaver's art : 
The gem, if rarer, were a precious prize. 
But now too common it neglected lies ; 
Famed for their power to check the fumes of wine. 
Five different species yields the bounteous mine. 


The rapid swallow swifter than the airs 

Within her breast the Chelidonian bears, 

A fatal gift, deep in her bowels pent. 

Which with her life is from the owner rent. 

The Chelidonian is of might supreme. 

Though not of those which shoot a bnlliant gleam ; 


Yet many a gem that men for beauty praise, 
Unshapen, small, and dull, its worth outweighs. 

2G0. The feathor'd victims in their bowels stored 

Two different sorts ^the white and red afford : 
The pining sickness feels their influence mild, 
The moonstruck idiot, and the maniac wild. 
With force persuasive orators they arm, 
And grace the hearts of multitudes to charm : 
Wrapped in a linen cloth this present rare. 
Under thy left arm tied ne'er fail to wear ; 
The black, in woollen cloth thus too suspend. 
And bring thy measures to the wished-for end. 
It blunts the threats and cools the ire of kings, 

270. And to the wearied sight refreshment brings. 
This in a yellow cloth of linen laid 
Will banish fevei-s that thy limbs invade, 
Or watery humoui's that with current slow 
Obstruct the veins and stop their healthy flow. 


Lycia her Jet in medicine commends ; 
But chicfest, that wliich distant Britain sends : 
Black, light, and polished, to itself it draws 
If wanned by friction near adjacent straws. 
U'hough quenched by oil, its smouldering embers raise 
Sprinkled with water a still fiercer blaze : 
It ciyes the dropsy, shakey teeth are fixed 
Washed with the powder'd stone in water mixed. 
The fonmle womb its piercing fumes relicA^e, 
Nor epilepsy can this test deceive : 
From its deep hole it lures the vij)er fell, 
And chases fiir away the powei-s of hell ; 
It heals the swelling plagues that gnaw the heart 
And baffles spells and magic's noxious art.. 
Tliis by the wise the surest tost is styled 
Of virgin purity by lust defiled. 
Three days in water steeped, the dmught bestows 
290. Ease to the pregnant womb in travail's throes. 

2 D 



The Magnet gem-crowned India brings to light 

Where lurks in caves the gloomy Troglodyte ; 

Coloui-ed like iron and by nature's law 

Appointed iron to itself to draw. 

The sage Deendor, skilled in magic lore, 

First proved in mystic arts its sov'reign power ; 

Next far-famed Circe, that enchantress dread, 

To help her magic spells invoked its aid. 

Hence 'mongst the Medes hath long experience shown 

The wondrous powers inherent in the stone. 

300. For should'st thou doubt thy wife's fidelity 
Unto her slumbering head this test apply ; 
If chaste she'll seek thy arms, in sleep profound 
Though plung'd : th' adultress tumbles on the gi-ound : 
Hurled from the couch, so strong the potent fume. 
Proof of her guilt, dififused throughout the room. 
If a sly thief slip through the palace door 
And strew unseen hot embers on the floor. 
And powder'd loadstone on these embers spread, 
The inmates flee possessed with sudden dread : 
Distraught with hon-id fear of death they fly 

310. While from the square the vapour moimts on high. 
They fly : within the house no soul remains, 
And copious spoils repay the robber's pains. 
The loadstone peace to wrangling couples grants 
And mutual love in wedded hearts inaplants : 
It gives the power to argue and to teach ; 
Grace to the tongue, pei"suasion to the speech ; 
The bloated dropsy taken in mead it quells, 

320. And sprinkled over bums their pain dispels. 


Whilst rooted 'neath the Avaves the Cental grows. 
Like a gi-een bush its waving foliage shews : 
Tom off by nets, or by the iron mown,. 
Touched by the air it hardens into stone ; 


Now a bright red, before a grassy green, 
And like a little branch its form is seen ; 
Of measure small, scarce half a foot in size, 
A useful ornament the branch supplies. 
Wondrous its power, so Zoroaster sings, 
And to the wearer sure protection brings. 
Its numerous virtues Metrodorus sage 
Has told to mankind in his learned page : 
330. How, lest they harm ship, land, or house, it binds 
The scorching lightning and the furious winds. 
Sprinkled 'mid climbing vines or olives' rows, 
Or with the seed the patient rustic sows, 
'T will from thy crops avert the arrowy hail 
And with abundance bless the smiling vale. 
Far from thy couch 't will chase the shades of hell 
Or monster summoned by Thessalian spell ; 
Give happy opening, and successful end, 
And calm the tortures that the entrails rend. 


From Asia's climes rich Alabanda sends 
340. The Alabandine and its name extends ; 
In fioiy lustre with the Sard it vies 
And leaves in doubt the skilled beholder's eyes. 


Lot not the Muse the dull Carmlian slight 
Although it shine with but a feeble light ; 
Fate has witli virtues great its nature giaced. 
Tied round the neck or on the finger placed. 
Its friendly influence checks the rising fray, 
And chases spites and quarrels far away : 
That, where the colour of raw flesh is found, 
Will stanch the blood fast issiiing from the wound ; 
AVhether from mangled limbs the toiTcnts flow, 
350, Or inward issues, source of deadly woe. 

2 D 2 



The Carbuncle eclipses by its blaze 

All shining gems, and casts its fiery rays 

Like to the burning coal ; whence comes its name,' 

Among the Greeks as Anthrax knowTi to fame. 

Not e'en by darkness quenched its vigour tires ; 

Still at the gazer's eye it dai-ts its fires ; 

A numerous race, within the Lybian gi-ound 

Twelve kinds by mining Troglodytes are found. 


Voided by lynxes, to a precious stone 
Congealed the liquid is Lyncunam grown ; 
360. This knows the lynx and strives with envious pride 
'Neath scraped up sand the precious drops to hide. 
Sui-passing amber in its golden hue 
It straws attracts if Theophrast says true : 
The tortured chest it cures, their native bloom 
Through its kind aid the jaundiced cheeks lesiime ; 
And let the patient wear the gem, its force 
Will soon arrest the diarrhoea's course. 


Chief amongst gems the ^tites stands 
370. Borne by the bird of Jove from farthest lands : 
As safeguard to his nest, and influence good 
To ward ofi" danger from the callow brood. 
Shut in the pregnant stone another lies 
Hence pregnant women its protection prize ; 
With this gem duly round her left ann tied 
Need no mischance affright the teeming bride. 
Sober the wearer too shall ever prove, 
Shall wealth amass, and reap his people's love : 
Victoiy shall croAvn his brows ; his oif spring deai', 
380. Shall healthy live nor fate untimely fear. 
The epileptic wretch, saved by its worth. 
No more shall fall and writhe upon the earth. 


Should'st thou suspect thy friend of treason foul, 
The privy poisoner lurking in the bowl, 
Thus prove his mind : him to thy banquet bid 
And let this stone beneath the dish be hid. 
When, if he harbour treachery in Ms thought. 
Whilst therj the stone lies he can swallow nought : 
Eeniove the gem, delivered from its power 
The tasted meats he'll greedily devour. 
The stone they say is found, with scarlet dyed, 
Hid on the margin of old ocean's tide. 
.'590. In Persian lands, in eagles' nests concealed, 
And by tlie Twins its virtues first revealed. 


Nor must we pass the Selenites by 
Whose hues with grass or verdant jasper vie, 
>Vith the lov'd moon it sympathetic shines, 
Grows with her increase with her wane declines ; 
And since it thus for hcav'nly changes cares 
The fitting name of sacred stone it bears. 
A powerful pliiltre to ensnare the heart. 
It saves the fair from dire consumption's dait. 
400. Long as the moon her wasted orb repairs 
To pining mortals these eifects it bears ; 
Yet ne'ertheless, when Luna 's on the wane 
Men from its use will divers blessings gain. 
This stone, a remedy for human ills. 
Springs, as they tell, from famous Persia's hills. 


Gagatroiuivus, diffeiing in dye. 
Like brindled skin of kids delights the eye. 
Worn by the leader who to battle goes 
Uy sea and land he '11 cnish his vanquished foes. 
'T was thus iVlcides evoiy danger braved 
And scaped imhanned by its protection stived, 
lint lost the talisman (so Si^ges tell), 
410. The mighty victor soon a victim fell. 



When flash the levin bolts from pole to pole, 
When tempests roar, when awful thunders roll, 
From clashing clouds the wondrous gem is thrown 
Hence styled in Grecian tongue the Thunderstone. 
For in no other spot this treasure 's found 
Save where the thunderbolt has struck the ground : 
Hence named Ceraunias by the Grecians all, 
For what we lightning they Ceraunus call. 
Who in all purity this stone shall wear 
Him shall the bolt of heaven ne'er fail to spare ; 
Its presence too protects from all such harm 
His city mansion and his blooming farm. 
420. Nor if he voyage o'er the briny deep 

Shall lightnings strike or whirlwinds whelm his ship. 

Thy foes in law, in battle, it confounds, 

And with sweet sleep thy grateful slumbers crowns. 

Two different species of this potent stone, 

Two different colours, are to mortals known : 

One, like the crystal bright, Germania sends. 

Which with its red an azure colour blends. 

The Lusitanian with the pyrope vies 

In flamy radiance, and the fire defies. 


The Heliotrope, or "gem that turns the sun," 

From its strange power the name has justly won : 

For set in water opposite his rays 

As red as blood 'twill turn bright Phoebus' blaze. 

And, far diffused the inauspicious light. 

With strange eclipse the startled world affright. 

Then boils the vase, urged by its magic power. 

And casts far o'er the brim the sudden shower ; 

As when the gloomy air to rain gives way 

It stonns evokes, and clouds the fairest day ; 

It gifts the wearer with prophetic eye 

Into the Future's darkest depths to spy. 


A good report *t will give and endless praise, 
440. And crown thy honoui-'d course with length of days. 

It checks the flow of blood, the wearer's soul 

Shall laugh at treason or the poison'd bowl. 

Though with such potent virtues grac'd by heaven 

One yet more wondrous to the gem is given. 

This with the herb that bear's its name unite 

With incantation due and secret rite. 

Then shalt thou moi-tal eyes in darkness shroud 

And walk invisible amidst the crowd. 

The stone for colour might an emerald seem, 

But drops of blood diversify the green. 

'T is sent sometimes from Ethiopia's land, 
450. Sometimes from Afric or the Ciy'prian sti-and. 


Experience old the Geranites' praise, 
Though dark of hue, amongst the first doth raise : 
For put this in thy mouth fii"st rinsed and lo ! 
What others of thee think thou straight shalt know : 
Implanted in it is imperious sway 
To make all women to thy wish give way. 
To test its force thy naked body smear 
With milk and honey, and this jewel wear ; 
StUl shall it keep the greedy swanns at bay. 
Nor shall the aiiy host approach their prey : 
400. Eomove tlio stone, instant the hostile brood 

Plunge myriad stings and suck the gushing blood. 


In Corinth's Istlunus springs the Hepluxstite, 
More precious than its brass, and niddy briglit. 
The seething caldion bubbling o'er the blaze, in the stone, its fei-vent fury stays ; 
TamVl by the virtue of the gem, as cool 
It falls a.s water in a ti-anquil pool. 
Nor ilights (tf locitst, nor the sconi-ging hail, 
Nor wliirlwinds fierce sliall thy fair fields assail ; 


Nor falling rust the growing crops shall blight 
That stand defended by its saving might. 
470. Hold to the sun it shoots out fieiy rays 

Dazzling the eye as with the furnace blaze : 
This burning stone sedition's fury channs 
And 'gainst all danger its possessor arms. 
But let this precept in thy mind bo borne 
Eight o'er the heart this mineral must be worn. 


The Ilceniatite ^named by the Greeks from blood 
Benignant nature formed for mortals' good : 
Its st}^tic virtue many a proof will shew 
To heal the tumours that on th' eyelids gi-ow. 

480. And nibbed on darkening eyes it clears away 
The gathering cloud and gives to see the day : 
Eubbed in a mortar with tenacious glaire 
And juice of pomegranates, an eye-salve rare. 
Those who spit blood its healing power will own, 
As those who nnder cankering ulcers groan. 
It stays the flux that drains the female frame, 
And, powdered fine, proud flesh in wounds can tame : 
Dissolved in wine tlie oft repeated dose 
Will stop all looseness that excessive flows ; 
Dissolved in water 't will allay the smart 

490. Of poisonous serpents' bite or aspic's dart. 
If mixed with honey 't is an unction sure 
All maladies that pain the eyes to cure. 
This potent draught, as by experience shewn. 
Within the bladder melts the torturing stone. 
Of red and laisty hue, in Afric found. 
Or ill Arabian, or in Lybian ground. 


Of steely colour and of wondrous might 
Arcadia's hills produce th' Asleston bright ; 
For kindled once it no extinction knows . 
But with eternal flame unceasing glows ; 


500. ITencc with good cause the Greeks Asbeston name, 
Because once kindled nought can quench its flame. 


The mountains of the Macedonian bold 
Within their mines the Pceanites hold, 
Unknown the cause, with imitative throes 
It heaves, and all the pangs of childbirth knows. 
From some mysterious seed the wondrous earth 
Conceives, and in due time excludes the birth ; 
Hence teeming females its protection bless 
In that last moment when their dangers press. 


h'arest the Sagda saw the light of day 
Did it not yield itself a willing prey : 
Sprung from the womb of the remotest deep 
olO. By some strange force it seeks the passing ship 
Cleaves to the keel as to the port she flies, 
(The crew unconscious of their priceless prize,) 
But grasps the timber Avith so fiim a fold 
If f/i((t's not cut, it will not loose its hold. 
Dark green its colour like the verdant Prase, 
Its virtues high the learned Chaldeans raise. 


The Median Stove dug up in ^ledia's plains 
At once a source of health and death contains : 
This in a mort^ir of green marljle brayed 
With woman's milk now first a mother made. 
Will to the blinded eye restore the siglit 
520. Although for many a year denied the ligiit. 

Mixed witli ewe's milk that once has ])onie a male 
It remedies the goiit's tormenting ail : 
It heals tlie liver in the panting breast, 
Or injured reins by racking pains opprest ; 
Store it in glas.s or else in silver pure, 
And taki- it fiisting 't is a sovereign cure. 


But yet if thou to harm thy foeman seek, 
530. With it a deadly vengeance canst thou wreak : 
Do thou a fragment of the mortar take 
And mix with this and both together break, 
Then dropped in water offer it thy foe 
And bid him bathe as with a wash his brow ; 
Foi-thwith eternal darkness seals his eyes. 
Or if he drink, with riven lungs he dies. 
Black is the stone, not so its virtue shews : 
'Tis white to heal us, black to slay our foes. 


No force of blows can thee. Chalazia ! tame ; 
\Vhite as the hailstone and in foi-m the same : 
Which potent nature with such coldness anns 
540, No furnace flame its icy crystal wai-ms. 


True to its name, the Hexacontdlite 
In one small orb doth sixty gems unite ; 
With numerous hues for scanty size atones 
And singly shews the tints of many stones. 
Mid Lybia's deserts parched by burning winds 
The Troglodyte this rainbow jewel finds. 


The Indian tortoise yields a gem fiill bright 
With varying purple, Chelonites hight : 
Placed 'neath the tongue, as learned Magians shew, 
It gives the power the future to foreknow. 
To the sixth hour endures the magic boon 
"Whilst fills her crescent horns th' increasing moon ; 
550. But at new moon the prescient power, they say. 
Lasts from the opening to the close of day. 
When at her fifteenth day she rides through heaven 
The same extent as at her prime is given ; 
But while her narrowing crescent nightly wanes 
Not past the break of day this gift obtains. 


Liko tho Chalazias it tho firo defies 

And cold remains where hottest flames arise : 


Midst precious stones a place the Prase may claim. 
Of value small, content with beauty's fame. 
No virtue has it ; but it brightly gleams 
With emerald gi-een, and well tho gold beseems ; 
Or blood-red spots diversify its green, 
5G0. Or crossed with three white lines its face is seen. 


Crystal is ice through countless ages grown 
(So teach the wise) to hard transparent stone : 
And still the gem retains its native force, 
And holds the cold and colour of its source 
Yet some deny, and tell of crj^stal found 
AVhere never icy "\Wnter froze the gi-oimd ; 
But tnio it is that held against the rays 
Of J^hoebus it conceives the sudden blaze. 
And kiiitllcs tinder, which, from fungus dry 
Beneath its beam, your skilful hands apply : 
Dissolved in honey, let the luscious di-aught 
570. By mothers suckling their lov'd charge be quaffed, 
llien from their breai^ts, as sage .physicians shew, 
Shall milk abundant in rich torrents flow. 


The ashy Galactite, if mixed vA\h mead. 
Has likewise power milk in tlie breasts to breed : 
Yet let tho dame just rising from the bath, 
Before she cats, the strength'ning potion quaff: 
Or let tho perforated stone be stning 
On throiid made from tlio wool of owe with yoimg ; 
Thus, roiind the neck of nursing mother bound, 
It makes her bre;ists witli j)lenteous milk abound. 
Tiud roimd tho tliigli in ])artTirition's ])ains 
580. The trembling wife an lalMnir guins. 


This, mixed with salt and lustral water, bear 
Aroimd thy fuld, ere rhoebus first appear, 
Then thy ewes' udders shall with milk abound 
And murrains fell be banished from thy ground. 
So high the ancients do its virtues raise 
That all the rest combined its worth outweighs : 
Yet, melted in the mouth, with frenzies blind 
And hideous fancies it disturbs the mind. 
From the bmised stone exudes a millty dew 
Of milky savour if report be tiiie. 
Tliis potent gem Egyptian Kilus sends, 
590. Which Achelous by its birth commends. 


Whene'er the savage beast with goring horn 
Or deadly fangs thy tender limbs has torn, 
Mix'd with rose oil th' Orites, black and round. 
An unguent sure, will heal the fatal woimd ; 
Or if through desert wilds thy footsteps stray, 
'Mid tigers fell, 't will turn their teeth away. 
Another, gi'een with spots of white o'erspread. 
Averts all dangers from the wearer's head ; 
Another, yet more famed, its surface shews 
As 't were Avith studs inlaid in bristling rows ; 
A smoothci' face the underside displays, 
Like plate of polished steel it meets the gaze 
600. Wearing this stone a woman ne'er conceives, 
Which of its load the burdened womb relieves. 


Tom from the eyes of the hyajna fell 

The Ilyoeneia, so the ancients tell, 

On mortals can prophetic gifts bestow 

And give the power the future to foreknow : 

Clear to his soul futurity appears 

Who 'iieath liis tongue this potent substance bcai's. 



In Scythia's wilds the Liparea springs, 
Which all the sylvan tribes around it brings ; 
^V^hate'er the huntsmen chase with patient toil, 
010. Nor need they hounds or snares to take tlie spoil. 
Enough 'mid woods this talisman to wear 
The game will rush spontaneous on thy spear. 


As from full sources gush the rapid rills, 
So the Eiihydros ceaseless tears distils : 
Obscure the cause ; for if the substiince floAvs, 
How is 't the stone no diminution knows ? 
Nor jnelts away ? And if external dew 
Sink down within and thus the fount renew, 
W(juld not its stream upon itself retreat 
020. When in the pores f)pposing cuiTonts meet ? 


]>y the lied Sea the swarthy Arabs glean 
Til' 7//,s' resplendent \\\\\\ the Crystal's sheen ; 
Its funn six-sided, full of heav'n's oa\ti light, 
] las justly gained the name of rainboAv bright ; 
For in a room held 'gainst the solar rays 
It i)aints the wall with many-colour'd blaze. 
And where the ciystal its reflection throws 
The heav'nly bow in all its splendour glows. 


Th' Aiidroddiniis, in figure like a die, 
111 wliitcju'ss may with silver's lustre vie : 
Hard as the Diamond, found in shifting sand, 
(kIO. Tossed by the wind along the Red Sea's strand; 
As Magiaus teach endued with mighty power, 
To cool the soul with fury boiling o'er. 



Though from the eyes each ail th' Opthalmius chase 

Yet 't is the guardian of the thievish race : 

It gifts the bearer with acutest sight 

But clouds all other eyes -with thickest night ; 

So that the plunderers bold in open day 

Secure from harm can bear their spoil away. 

The sea-bom shell conceals the Union round. 
Called by this name as always single foimd. 

640. One in one shell, for ne'er a larger race, 

Within their pearly walls the valves embrace. 
Prized as an ornament its whiteness gleams, 
And well the robe, and well the gold beseems. 
At certain seasons do the oysters lie 
With valves wide gaping towards the teeming sky, 
And seize the falling dews, and pregnant breed 
The shining globules of th' ethereal seed. 
Brighter the offspring of the morning dew, 
The evening yields a duskier birth to view ; 
The younger shells produce a whiter race. 
We greater age in darker colours trace. 
The more of dew the gaping shell receives, 

650. Larger the pearl its fruitful womb conceives : 
However favoring airs its growth may raise, 
Its utmost bulk ne'er half an ounce outweighs. 
If thunders rattle through the vaulted sky 
The closing shells in sudden panic fly ; 
Killed by the shock the embryo pearls they breed, 
Shapeless abortions in their place succeed. 
These spoils of Neptune th' Indian ocean boasts ; 
But equal those from ancient Albion's coasts. 


In the Pantheros varydng colours meet, 
GGO. Where black and red, and green and white compete 


Hero rosy light, there brilliant purples play, 
And blooms the gem with varying patterns gay. 
At dawTi of day its potent beauties view 
So shall success thy doings still pursue. 
For all that day, defended by the charm, 
No foe shall e'er prevail to work thee harm. 
All travellers tell how 'midst far India's groves 
Beauteous in spotted hide the panther roves. 
How furious lions dread his piercing cry 
And trembling at the sound in terror fly. 
Marked like the beast that can the lion tame 
670. The spotted gem obtains the self-same name. 


Mid gems Apsyctos is not last in place, 

And sanguine veins its ebon surface grace : 

A pond'rous stone, once heated at the flame, 

The fire concoiv'd scarce seven full days can tame. 


Like tinkling bronze the CJialcophonos rings 
And to the pleader vast advantage brings : 
For chastely worn it gives melodious notes 
And from rough hoai-seness guards their straining throats. 
The stone conspicuous for its sable hue 
680. These gifts bestows if borne witli reverence due. 


The Molochites virtue keeps from hurt 
The infant's cradle, all mischance to avert, 
Lest spiteful witchcraft blast tlic tender frame. 
Virtue with l)eauty joined exalt its fame. 
Opaque of Ixue, with tli' Emeiuld's vivid green 
It clianns the sight, first in Arabia seen. 


Of liunible aspect, but of virtue rare, 
Like olive stones the Tecolifes appear : 


Powdered, in water by the patient quaffed, 
690. The torturing stone dissolves the potent draught. 


Named from the fire the yellow Pyrite spurns 
The touch of man and to be handled scorns : 
Touch it with trembling hand and cautious arm, 
For tightly grasped it bums the closed palm. 


If e'er thou seek where deep the rivers flow 
To force the water sprites the Fates to shew. 
Take the Diadochus within thy hand, 
No gem more potent doth the fiends command ; 
Within its orb to thine affrighted eyes 
Will myriad shapes of summon'd demons rise ; 
But if once brought in contact with a corse, 
Forthwith the stone shall lose its native force. 
700. Like to the Beryl shines the potent stone 

Which shuns the touch of one by death o'erthrown. 


The Dmiysia, black as ebon found, 
AVith niddy spots diversifies its gi'ound. 
In water steeped, fragrant of wine it smells. 
And yet the fumes of wine its force dispels. 
A thing opposed to nature's wonted course, 
Water to wine converted by its force : 
And yet the madness rising out of wine 
Completely vanquished by this gem divine. 


The Chrysolectrus shines with golden rays 
Still verging on the brightest Amber's blaze ; 
710. At early morning pleasing to the eye 

But fading still as Phoebus mounts the sky ; 

Of purest fire its hasty nature made. 

In flames bursts forth if near a fire 'tis laid. 



In. Afric springs the Ch^soprasion bright, 
Which day conceals but darkness brings to light : 
By night a shining fii-e, it lifeless lies 
Like golden ore when day illumes the skies. 
Reversed is Nature's law where light reveals 
Whate'er in darkness shrouding night conceals. 


720. To adorn the finger-ring with inlaid stone 

Was first to men by wise Prometheus shewn, 

W' ho from Caucasian rock a fragment tore 

And, set in iron, on his finger wore. 

Next following ages hooped the precious gold 

And graced the ring ^vith gems of woi-th untold : 

ITien added Art ; thus luxuiy's course unchecked 

The unwonted hand with triple honours decked. 

Now, human fraud, wliich nought tintouched can leave. 

Art aping Nature, eager to deceive, 

730. Has learnt to imitate the jewel true, 

\N' ith lying glass, and thus beguile the view. 

ITcnce hard tlic real gems from false to know 

When pastes with imitative coloiirs glow. 

Their boasted virtues soon as tested fail, 

And hence discredit does the tnxe assail : 

Yet the true gem, by sages duly blest. 

In wondrous works its power will manifest. 

Tlie name of gem of yore from gimi arose. 

For like to gum its lucid clearness shews. 

Those not transparent have been named the " Blind." 

The name of stone is to each sort assigned ; 

Hence, gems describing and their virtues famed, 

The Book of Stones this work is lightly named. 

Gleaned from unnumbered hoards with patient toil. 

Let thin suffice thee with tlie precious spoil : 

Where stones, their titles, coloui-s, virtues rare, 

In sixty chapters duly i-anged appear. 

2 E 



Sect. IV 

Plato, siftnet of Saufeius. Sard. 


We have already noticed how Phny laughs at the " im- 
pudent lies " (infandam vanitatem) of the Magicians of his 
day, who ascribed supernatural properties to a few among 
the precious stones, and to certain figures engraved upon 
them.^ The list of their virtues was considerably augmented 
in the few centuries intervening between him and Solinus, 
who apparently believed in their possessing the numerous 
properties which he details. But the fourteen " ages of 
faith " and of ig-norance, which had elapsed between the epoch 
of Pliny and that of the sage physician of Cesare Borgia, had 
amazingly extended the number of magic and potent gems, 

3 " The lying Magi pretend that 
these gems (Amethysts) prevent 
intoxication, and hence derive their 
name. Moreover, if the name of the 
Moon or of the Sni) he engraved upon 
them, and they be thus worn on the 
neck suspended by the hair of a 
baboon, or the feathers of a swallow, 
they will baffle all witchcraft. That 
they are also advantageous to persons 
having suits to monarchs ; and that 
they keep off hailstorms and fliglits 
of locusts, by the employment of a 
certain prayer which they prescribe. 

To emeralds also they jiromisc 
similar effects, if engraved with 
figures of beetles, or of eagles ; all 
which stories I believe they must 
have concocted out of sheer con- 
tempt for, and in ridicule of, man- 
kind." xxxvii. 40. There can be 
little doubt that in the first sentence 
we should read " numen," instead of 
"nomen," and thus have the 
" figure or symbol of the goddess 
Luna, or of Sol," which occur plenti- 
fully on gems of this date, whereas 
" names " of these deities do vot. 


and, at tlie same time, removed all disposition to sneer at or 
doubt their asserted virtues. Camillo Leonardo, in his 
alphabetical list of precious stones, carefully describes the 
peculiar virtues of each ; of these I shall here give a few of 
the most extraordinary only, as they do not come so directly 
within the scope of this work as the interpretations he gives 
of the intagli engraved upon them. I may notice by the 
way, that his accounts of the gems and their origin are taken 
from Pliny and Solinus, but chiefly from Marbodus, whose 
meaning he often mistakes, and still oftener improves upon. 

Diamond has the virtue of resisting all poisons, yet if taken in- 
wardly is itself a deadly poison, (Thi notion, though quite 
ungrounded, long prevailed. Cellini details at length how his 
enemy P. L. Famese, son of Paid III., attempted to poison him 
in Castel S. Angelo by causing diamond powder to be mixed in 
his salad, and attributes his escape solely to the fact that the 
lapidary employed to pidverize the stone had kept it for himself 
and substituted glass for it. Diamond powder is also enumerated 
among the poisons administered to Sir T. Overburj'^ in the Tower.) 
It baffles magic arts, dispels vain fears, and gives success in law- 
suits. It is of sei-vice to lunatics and those possessed by devils, 
and repels the attacks of phantoms and nightmares, and renders 
the wearer bold and virtuous. 

Ikilcm Iluhy represses vain and lascivioiis thouglits, apjieases 
quarrels between friends, and gives health of body. Its powder 
taken in water cures diseases of the eyes and pains in the liver. 
If you touch with this gem the four corners of a house, orchard, 
or vineyard, they will be safe from lightning, storms, and blight. 

Cnjstal woni by sleepers drives away evil dreams and baffles 
spells and witchcraft : powdered, with honey, it fills the breasts 
with milk. Its chief use is for making cups.* 

This icMiiark- is intorcstiiif;, as vases of rock-crystal has Iwen re- 
slinwini; tin' early jxTiod of the introduced into Italy. 
lu'vival at which the inakiii'j; of 

2 E 2 


Chrysolite takes its name froiu the Greek crisis, gold, and oletus, 
entire, i. e. all golden. The Ethiopian kind is fieiy in the morn- 
ing, golden by day. (Here the modem topaz is clearly intended.) 
Set in gold and worn on the left hand it drives away the demons 
of the night, also terrors and gloomy visions. Its chief virtue is 
to avail against the spells of detestable hags, and to overthrow all 
their witchcrafts. If bored through and strung on an ass's hair 
it is of more potency in expelling devils, and if held in the hand 
cools the burning heat of fevers. 

Garatromeus, a yellow stone, with reddish spots like the skin of 
a roe, has the virtue of making the wearer invincible, wherefore 
Achilles always carried it about wdth him. The people of the 
East make their sword-hilts of this stone, that they may never be 
without it in battle. (This is the Gagat Roma^us, or Greek Jet of 
the Arabians.) 

One of the most wonderful of all was the Liparean stone, 
which gave the power of understanding the language of birds and 
beasts after the perfoiTnance of certain rites, thus described by 
Orpheus (v. C85) : 

" Colon, 

My kindness to requite, a present brought. 

The Liparsean stone with virtues fraught, 

Which erst his sire, directed by my lore. 

Envoy to Memnon, from Assyria bore ; 

More precious far than gold the prize he gained. 

From learned Magians with rich gifts obtained. 

Treasure my words in thy believing heart 

Whilst I my own experience thus impart. 

First shouldst thou to the bloodless altar haste 

On which no living victim must be placed ; 

\Vith pious hymns to radiant Phoebus call. 

And Earth, great Mother, giving suck to all. 

Next melt this stone within the rising flame 

Whose odorous fiimes the long-drawn dragon tame. 

These, as they mark the vapour mount on high, 

Forth issuing from their holes towards it fly,. 

And hastening onward in a long array 

The altar seek nor shun the light of day. 


Tliere let three j'ouths robed in white vestmeutis stand, 

Each bear a sword two-edged in his hand, 

And seize that snake which nearest to the blaze 

Sniffing the fumes his spotted coils displays : 

Then cut his body, as he slaughtered lies, 

Into nine portions all of equal size. 

Three, of all-seeing Sol the portions call. 

And three of Earth, the mother of us all ; 

And three the portions of the goddess dread, 

The omniscient piophetess, th' unsullied maid. 

Next, place the portions in a blood-red bowl 

And add the gift of Pallas to the whole ; 

The ruddy liquor of the jolly god. 

And sparkling salt tb' attendant of our food ; 

And, brought from foieign lands, the pungent spice, 

Kough-coated, black, and of enormous price ; 

All other condiments which sei-ve to excite 

The donnant powers of jaded appetite. 

Whilst seethes the caldron o'er the tripod's flame 

Invoke each godhead by his secret name ; 

Full well the powers above are pleased to hear 

Their mystic names rise with the muttered piayer. 

I'ray that Megaera, aye contriving hurt, 

Far from the bubbling caldron they avert. 

But that the Spirit from the fount of light 

Upon the sacred portioiLs wing his flight. 

When boiled the flesh, the solemn feast prepaie. 

Biit ofl" the tripod each nnist eat his share. 

All that is left, let earth close cover o 'er. 

Then on the hallowed spot libations pour 

Milk, and the ruddy wine, and fragrant oil. 

With these combine the bee-hive's flowery spoil : 

And last with ehaplets woven from the boughs 

Dear to the virgin-goddess croNNii your brows. 

Nor let it shame you, though in open day. 

Stripped of your robes to take your homeward way : 

Nor once turn back as from tlie place ye coni(\ 

Hut with your eyes bent forward liasten home ; 

422 MYSTIC VIRTUES. Sect, n^ 

And if a ti*aveller meet you as ye go, 

Beware no greeting on him ye bestow ; 

But offered to the gods on your return 

Let fragi-ant spices on their altars bum. 

These rites perfonned : all future things I know 

What airy birds by all their warblings show ; 

What beasts of prey as through the woods they prowl 

Denote while answering with responsive howl." 

Lyncurius is of three kinds ; one fiery, like a Carbuncle, another 
dark saffron, the third green. They come from Germany, and 
cure the colic, jaundice, and king's-evil. 

Ligurias is like the Alectorius, and attracts straws. It cures 
pains in the bowels, fluxes, jaundice, and sharpens the sight : 
hence by some physicians it is used in eye-salves. (This name 
is evidently a corruption of Lyncurium, and means some kind of 
Jargoon or Jacinth.) 

Nicolas, if of good colour, has a blue surface, and the under 
part black ; sometimes it is entirely black. Some consider it to 
be a kind of Calcedony. It is said to take its name from the 
Greek (NicoXooe). Its virtue is to render the wearer victorious, 
and beloved by his people. (Here we may notice the early use 
of the name Nicolo for this stone, and its strange derivation from 
the Greek to suit the virtue ascribed to it, as if it meant Victor of 
Nations. It is curious that Camillo, both in this place and in 
speaking of the Sapphire and Turquois, uses flavus as synonymous 
with ccelestis, azure. Hence the German, Blau.) 

Opal is good against all diseases of the eyes, and preserves and 
strengthens the sight. It is not unfitting to ascribe so many 
properties to this stone, which shows itself the partaker of the 
colours and nature of so many different gems. (The most extra- 
vagant laudation ever passed upon any gem is to be found in 
the description of an Opal given by Petms Arlensis, writing in 
IGIO, whose words are as follows : " The various colours in the 
Opal tend greatly to the delectation of the sight ; nay, more, they 
have tlie very greatest efficacy in cheering the heart and the in- 
ward parts, and specially rejoice the eyes of the beholders. One 
in particular came into my hands, in which such beauty, loveli- 


ness, and grace shone forth, that it could truly boast that it 
forcibly drew all other gems to itself, while it surprised, asto- 
nished, and held captive, without escape or intermission, the 
hearts of all who beheld it. It was of the size of a filbert, and 
clasped in the claws of a golden eagle wrought with wonderful 
art, and had such vivid and various colours that all the 
beauty of the heavens might be viewed within it. Grace 
went out from it, majesty shot forth from its almost divine splen- 
dour. It sent forth such bright and piercing rays that it stnick 
terror into all beholders. In a word, it bestowed upon the 
wearer the qualities granted by Nature to itself, for by an in- 
visible dart it penetrated the souls and dazzled the eyes of all 
who saw it ; appalled all hearts, however bold and courageous ; in 
fine, it filled with trembling the bodies of the by-standers, and 
forced them by a fatal impulse to love, honour, and worship it. 
1 have seen, I have felt, I call God to witness, of a truth such a 
stone is to bo valued at an inestimable amount!") 

Obtalmius, said by some to be a stone of many colours, is of 
wonderful virtue in preserving the eyes from all complaints : it 
sharpens the sight of the wearer, but clouds that of the by- 
standers so that they cannot see him, if it be set with a bay-leaf 
under it, and with the proper incantation a most admirable 
property ! 

Okitokias is a smaller stone than the Echites, but like it rattles 
inwardly ; it is smooth to the touch and easily broken. If dis- 
solved in the juice of the herb Ocyma (basil), and the blood of an 
Okiteris (swift), and a head of Omis and a little Avater, this mix- 
ture set in a glass vessel will be able to give a proof of its virtue. 
For if you dip your fingei*s therein and so anoint the strongest 
wood, metal, or stone, you will immediately break it. 

QuiriiiKS is a magical stone found in the nest of the Hoopoe ; it 
has the virtue that if placed on the breast of a person asleep it 
will force him to confess his crimes. 

The origin and the viiiues of the Coral are thus given by 
Orpheus in one of the most poetical passages of his work 
(v. 505) : 

" The Coral too, in Perseus' story famed, 
Against the scorpion is for virfue named ; 


This also a sure remedy will bring 

For murd'rous asps, and blunt their fatal sting. 

Above all gems in potency 't is raised 

By bright-haired Phoobiis, and its virtues praised : 

For in its growth it shews a wondrous change 

Tme is the story though thou 'It deem it strange. 

A plant at first it springs not from the ground, 

The nurse of plants, but in the deeps profound. 

Like a gi'een shnib it lifts its flowery head 

Midst weeds and mosses of old Ocean's bed. 

But when old age its withering stem invades, 

Nipped by the brine its verdant foliage fades ; 

It floats amid the depths of Ocean tossed, 

Till roaring waves expel it on the coast. 

Then in the moment that it breathes the air 

They say, who 've seen it, that it hardens there. 

For as by frost congeal'd and solid grown, 

The plant is stiffened into perfect stone ; 

And in a moment in the finder's hands 

Late a soft branch, a flinty coral stands. 

Yet still the shrub its pristine shape retains, 

Still spread its branches, still the fruit remains. 

A sweet delight to every gazer's eye, 

My heart its aspect fills with speechless joy. 

My longing gaze its beauty never tires 

But yet the prodigy with awe inspires. 

Though to the legend I full credit give, 

Scarce do I hope it credence will receive : 

But yet to men, 1 ween, no lying fame 

Has sung the terrors of the Gorgon's name ; 

No idle tale the feat of Peraeus, high 

On airy Avings careering through the sky. 

Or how the hero slew 'neath Atlas' rocks 

The dire Medusa tressed with snaky locks : 

Monster invincible, with eyes of Hell, 

Fatal to all on whom her glances fell ; 

A\'ho under that intolerable eye 

To marble statues stiffen as they die. 


E 'en Pallas shrunk, indomitable Maid, 

To meet the teiTors of that look afraid ; 

And warned her brother of the golden glaive 

To avert his eyes as he the death-blow gave. 

Hence by a wile he won the monster's head, 

And severed from the neck her serpents dread, 

Ajid stealing from behind, with crafty skill, 

Drew round her neck the curved Cyllenian steel. 

Though slain the Gorgon, yet her face retains 

Its ancient ten-ors, and its force remains, 

And many yet were fated through its might 

The realms to enter of eternal night. 

Dripping with blood the hero seeks the shore ; 

And while he cleanses from his hands the gore. 

Still Avai-m, still quivering, lays his trophy do^vn 

On the green sea-weeds all around him strown. 

Whilst, tired by toil and by his weary way, 

His limbs he strengthens in the cooling sea, 

Pressed 'neath the head the plants upon the shore 

Soaked by the stream, grow drunk with dripping gore. 

The rushing breezes, daughters of the flood, 

Upon the boughs congeal the clotted blood. 

And so congeal they seem a real stone ; 

Nor only seem, to real stone they are grown. 

AV'hat, of its softness though no trace remains, 

The withered plant its pristine foi*m retains : 

Tinged by the blood that from the trophy flows, 

Instead of green, with blushing red it glows. 

Stnick with suii^rise the dauntless hero stares. 

E'en wise Minerva his amazement shares, 

And that her brother's fame may last for a^x* 

Gives lasting virtue to the coral spray, 

Ever its ancient nature thus to change. 

She next endows the stone with influence strange : 

For to the gem protective force she lent 

To guard mankind on toilsome journeys bent : 

NVhethcr l>v laud their weaiy way they keep. 

Or l)rave in ships the peiils of tlie deep : 


Of furious Mars to 'scape the lightning sword, 

Or murderous onslaught of the robber horde : 

Or when vexed Nereus tosses all his waves, 

The potent Coral trembling sailors saves. 

If they with vows the warlike, blue-eyed Maid, 

Invoke, and claim in deep distress her aid. 

The hid pollution which brings ruin down 

On all the house, e 'en to its lord unknoA\Ti, 

All baleful practice wrought by sorceiy dire 

Against thy weal when envious foes conspire ; 

For all these evils by benignant heaven. 

The Coral surest antidote is given. 

Pound this, and mix it when thou sow est thy grain 

It shall avert all damage from the plain : 

The drought which parches with destruction sere 

The milky juices of the swelling ear ; 

The million darts which, flung by driving hail. 

With hopeless wound thy smiling crops assail ; 

Destructive insects too it scares away. 

The caterpillars' troop, the worms' aiTay ; 

The iTist which, falling on thy corn from high, 

Eeddens the ear, and burns its substance dry ; 

The host of flies, the locust's countless swarms, 

E 'en Jove's dread lightnings from thy land it chaims ; 

Such honour pays he to the glorious deed 

Of his great son, and grants the worthy meed. 

And this, returning from earth's furthest shore. 

His choicest boon to man sage Hermes bore : 

But thou, still mindful of the powerful charm, 

Drink this in wine and murderous asps disarm." 

Amber has the same virtues as Jet, but in a higher degree. It 
is a preservative against all complaints of the throat, for which 
reason the ancients made their women and children wear amber 
necklaces. If placed upon the left breast of your wife when she 
is asleep, it will force her to confess all the naughty things she 
has committed. Its fumes drive away venomous animals. If 
you wish to know -whether a woman has been debauched, steep 


amber in water for three days and make her drink the water : if 
she is unchaste she will be immediately forced to void it. 

Selenites, Moonstone, sympathises with the waning moon, its 
colour increasing or diminishing as the moon waxes or wanes. 
During the increase of the moon its virtue is to cure consump- 
tion. During her wane it hath wonderful potency, causing 
people to predict future events. If washed in water and the 
water taken in the mouth, if you think on future events, whether 
they are to happen or not : if they must happen, they will be so 
fixed in your mind, that it will be impossible for you to forget them ; 
but if they are not fated to take place they will immediately 
vanish away from the mind. 

Topazius, a gem of golden colour tending to green, and of very 
gi-eat lustre (the Peridot). The Oriental kind despises the file ; 
the Occidental, of a greener hue, yields to it.' If thrown into 
boiling water the water cools immediately ; hence this gem cools 
lust, calms madness and attacks of frenzy, cures the piles, augments 
wealth, averts sudden death, and gives favour with the great. 

Tarqmis is useful for riders. As long as one Avears it his horse 
will not tiro, nor throw him. It is also good for the eyes and 
averts accidents. 

Jfi/driiius, called also Serpentine, is good against rheumatism 
and all complaints arising from excess of moisture. It restores 
dropsical persons to health, if they stand in the sun, holding it in 
the hand, for three hours, as it makes them discharge all the 
water in the form of a veiy stinking sweat. But gi'cat care must 
be had in using it, as it extracts not merely the foreign moisture 
but also the natural and radical moisture of the body. 'J'akcn 
inwardly it cures the stone, and venomous bites, likewise it 
drives away serpents. 

Zaniemo lazuli, or Zemech, or Lapis-lazuli, called for its beauty 
bipis ccdcstis and stcllafus, as prepared by physicians, cures melan- 
choly. From this also is made the colour called Azuro Ultra- 

Ziazia, so called from the place of its discovoiy, is black, white, 

' This is an exact tUtinition of and ydkiwcr Clirysolite, and tlic 
tilt' (lilloroncc betwicn the harder softer iiml "rcener Peridot. 


and other colours mixed together. It renders the wearer liti- 
gions, and makes him see terrible things in his sleep. 

Camillo, though copying Marhodus, mentions for the first time 
of any author I know, the name Sapphirine as applied to the 
Hyacinth. Like Marbodus, he divides the Jacinthus into three 
classes the Citrini, of lemon colour ; the Granatici, of the colour 
of the pomegranate flower ; and the Veneti, of a sky-blue, which 
feel colder in the mouth than the other two sorts, and are also 
called Water-gems, Aquatici. (The French still call the pale 
Sapphire, Saphir d'eau.) Some also added a variety named Sap- 
phirine ; and this was considered the best, being of a brilliant and 
coenilean colour. The Citrini showed a slight tinge of red. The 
Veneti were the least valuable of all, having a little red mixed 
with a faint lemon colour ; but yet they were the hardest of all, 
and could scarcely be cut by the Diamond. This description shows 
a strange confusion of some sorts of pale Sapphires with Balais 
and Spinel Eubies, Oriental Topazes, and in fact all the varieties 
of the precious Corundum, all added to the blue Hyacinth of the 
Romans, which we see in tliis passage distinguished by the epithet 
Sapphirinus, or azure, which aftei-wards became its sole designation. 


In St. John's vision of the New Jerusalem, the walls of the 
City are built out of twelve courses of precious stones. These 
are not arranged in the order of the gems in the High 
Priest's breastplate, as one would have naturally expected 
from so truly Hebrew a writer, but according to their various 
shades of colour, in the following succession, beginning from 
the foundation : 

1. Jaspis, dark opaque green. 

2. Sapphims, Lapis-lazuli, opaqiie blue. 

a. Chalcedon, an Emerald of a greenish blue. 

4. Smaragdus, bright transparent green. 

5. Sai-donyx, white and red. 
(). Sardius, bright red. 


7. Chrysolite, our Topaz, bright yellow. 

8. Beiyl, bluish green. 

9. Topazion, or Peridot, yellowish green. 

10. Chrysoprasus,' a darker shade of the same colour. 

11. Hyacinthus, Sapphire, sky-blue. 

12. Amethystus, violet. 

This arrangement of colours is not taken from that of the 
rainbow, the order of which is red, orange, yellow, green, 
blue, purple, violet. This minute acquaintance with the 
nicest shades of colour of the precious stones will strike the 
reader with the greater force if he should endeavour to 
arrange from memory, and by the aid of his own casual 
knowledge, twelve gems, or even a smaller number, according 
to their respective tints. He will find his attempt result in 
eiTor, unless he has had a long and practical acquaintance 
with the subject. This image, however, of the Holy City 
built of precious stones is not original, as it is found in the 
prayer of Tobias (certainly a much older composition than 
the Apocalypse, whatever may be its date). In our version it 
stands thus : " Jerusalem shall be built up of emeralds, 
sapphire, and all precious stones ; her walls, and towers, and 
battlements of most fine gold .... The streets of Jerusalem 
shall be paved with carbuncle, beryl, and stones of Ophir." 

St. John frequently alludes elsewhere to the colours of 
gems in a very technical manner. " He that sat on the 
great throne " was like the" Jaspis and the Sardius, and 
crowned by a rainbow like the Smaragdus ; and the light of 
the City is like a " very precious stone, a jaspis crystallized," 
that is, the green of tlic Jasper, brilliant and transparent as 
crystal, by wliicli he probably means to express the true 
Emerald. Sucli allusions, such exact knowledge of points 

* Clnysoim.sns is jirobably an undcrstocKl it, by which substitutiou 
orror for Chrysopaston, a dark blue all the shades of Hue will follow each 

studded with p)ld, as MarlxKlus has other. 


only to be acquired by persons dealing in such articles, or 
otherwise obliged to acquire a technical knowledge of them, 
could not have been found in a Galilean fisherman, unless we 
choose to cut the knot with the sword of verbal inspiration. 
Here then may be another argument in support of the 
opinion that St. John the Evangelist and St. John Theologus 
were two different persons. It is hardly possible that the 
writer could have had in view any tradition derived from the 
Persians (the former masters of his native country), of the 
seven concentric walls of Ecbatana, coloured in the following 
order black, white, red, blue, yellow, silver, gold, which 
probably had reference to the several planets, so important in 
the religious system of the Clialdees. The twelve colours 
were no doubt intended to have some fanciful analogy to 
the names of the twelve tribes ; but Marbodus ingeniously 
applies them to the several virtues of the members of the 
Christian Church in the following poem, of which I give the 
original, as an interesting example of mediaeval Latin verse. 


Prosa de xii lapidibus pretiosis in fundamento Ciclestis Civitatis positis. 

Gives cfelestis patriee Eegi Eegiim concinite 
Qui siipremus est opifex civitatis Uranicas, 
In cujus ediiicio consistit hajc fundatio. 

Sappliinis habet speciem caslosti tlirono similem, 
Designat cor simplicium spe certa pi-estolantium 
Quoiiim vita et moribus refulget et vii-tutibus. 

Jaspis colore viridi pi-sefert virorem fidei, 

Quae in perfectis omnibus nimquam marcescit penitus, 

Ciijus forti prgesidio resistitur diabolo. 

Pallensque Calcedonius ignis habet effigiem : 
SubiTitilat in publico, fulgorem dat in nubilo, 
Virtutem fert fidelium occulte famulantium. 


Smaragdus virens nimium dat lumen oleagimim : 
Est Fides integerrima ad omne bonum patiila 
Quffi nunquam scit deficere a pietatis opere. . 

Sardonj^x constat tricolor, homo fertur interior, 
Quern denigrat hnmilitas, per qiiem albescit castitas, 
Ad honestatis cumulum rubet quoquc mart^Tium. 

Sardius est puniceiis cujus color sanguineus 
Decus ostendit martyrum rite agonizantium. 
Est soxtus in catalogo ; Crucis haeret mysterio. 

Anricolor Chrs^solitus scintillat velnt clibamis. 
Prsetendit mores hominum perfecte sapientium 
Qui septiformis Gratia? sacro splendescit jubare. 

Beryllus est lymphaticus ut sol in aqua limpidus, 

Figurat vota mentium ingenio sagacium, 

Quo magis libet mysticum sacra? quietis ostiiim. 

Topazius quo carior eo est pretiosior ; 
Exstat colore griseo ' nitore et aetherio 
Contemplativae solidum vitoe prsestat oflicium. 

Chrysoprasus pui-pureum imitatur concilium : 
Est intus tinctus aureis miscello quodam guttulis 
Hsec est perfecta Caritas quam nulla stemit feritas. 

Jacinthus est ccenileus colore medioximus, 
Cujus decora facies mutatur xit temperies 
Vitam signat angelicam discretione praditam. 

Ametliystus prsecipuus decore violaceus ; 
Flammas eraittit aureas notulasque purpureas, 
Prtetendit cor liumilium Christo commorientium. 

Hi pretiosi lapides cainales signant homines, 
Colonim est variotas virtutum multiplicitas ; 
His qui cunquo floruerit concivis osso potcrit. 

Jerusalem pacifera hoec tibi STint fundaminea ; 
Felix, Deo et proxima, qua? te darctur anima ! 
Gustos tuanim turrium non dormit in perpetuum. 

' rJrisco for Clirysco, "joldcn. 


Concede nobis Agie Rex civitatis coelicae 
Post cursum vitas labilis consortium in superis, 
Inter sanctonim agmina cantemns tibi cantica. 

The following passages of this author (which are appended 
in the original MS. to the above poem) are curioite, as 
showing that the art of engraving upon gems was still prac- 
tised in his age, the latter part of the eleventh century ; 
unless we suppose that he had transcribed these rules from 
some more ancient writer. 

The Calcedony if blest and tied round the neck cures lunatics. 
Moreover, he that wears it will never be drowned or tempest- 
tossed. It also makes the wearer beautifid, faithful, strong, and 
successful in all things. One ought to engrave upon it Mars 
armed, and a virgin robed, wrapped in a vestment and holding 
a laurel branch; with a perpetual blessing. 

Aristotle, in his book on gems, says that an Emerald hung from 
the neck, or worn on the finger, protects against danger of the 
falling sickness. We therefore command noblemen, that it be 
hanged about the necks of their children that they fall not into 
this complaint, llie Emerald is approved in all kinds of divina- 
tion, in every business if worn it increases its owner's import- 
ance both in presence and in speech. 

A Sard of the weight of twenty giains of barley, if hung round 
the neck or worn on the finger, the wearer shall not have tenible 
or disagreeable dreams, and shall have no fear of incantations or 
of witchcraft. 

The Beryl is a large and transparent stone. Engi'ave upon it 
a lobster and under its legs a raven, and put under the gem a 
vervain leaf enclosed in a little plate of gold ; it being conse- 
crated and worn, makes the wearer conqueror of all bad things, 
and gives protection against all diseases of the eyes. And if you 
put this stone in water, and give this water to one to. drink, it 
cures stoppage of the breath and hiccups, and dispels pains of 
the liver. It is useful to be worn, and he that hath this gem 
upon him shall be victorious in battle over all his foes. It is 
found in India like unto the Emei-ald, but of a paler cast. (I 


may here observe that the lobster, with the bird corniccia beneath 
him, is the Oriental device of a scorpion seizing a bird in his 
claws ; with two stars in the field, one of these intagli, of appa- 
rently Sassanian work on a large Sardonyx, was once in my pos- 
session. The perpetual flow of pilgrims to the East must have 
made these astrological gems familiar to the ecclesiastics of that 

The Sard is good to be worn, and makes the person beloved 
by women ; engrave upon it a vine and ivy twining round it. 

The Casteis (Callais, Turquois) is good for liberty, for he that 
hath consecrated it and duly performed all things necessary to 
be done in it shall obtain liberty. It is fitting to perfect the 
stone when you have got it, in this manner. Engrave upon it a 
beetle, then a man standing under it ; afterwards let it be bored 
through its length and set on a gold fibula (swivel) ; then being 
blest and set in an adorned and prepared place, it will show forth 
the glory which God hath given it. 

I'syche mouniiug ibe flight of Cupid. 


Wo have seen how, in tlio days of Pliny (though he loses 
no o})})()rtunity of laughing at the supei-stition), the Magi 
ascribed extraordinary and sujx^rnatural properties to gems, 
and to various figures engraved uj)on them. As civilization 

2 F 


declined, these notions came more and more into vogue, 
so that even a learned physician, Alexander of Tralles, re- 
commends the wearing of the intaglio of Hercules strangling 
the Nemean lion, as a charm against the colic ; and such 
intagli do occur inscribed on the back with four Ks, to make 
assurance doubly sure. Gnostic stones frequently present 
inscriptions specifying the part of the body they were in- 
tended to protect from malignant influences, as (^vXoc^ov 
vym (TToixayp^ YlpoKkov, "Preserve in health the chest of 
Proclus ; " as well as the others of a more general character 
already noticed, praying Abraxas lao to protect the wearer 
from every evil spirit. A stone thus inscribed was called 
ATTOTsXeCT/xa, " an influence," a word originally signifying the 
influence of the stars on man's destiny ; hence, ^ AwoTEXea- 
/x^Tjxo), the name for astrology in classic writers ; and the 
same word is corrupted into our talisjiian. As the spirits of 
the Gnostic mythology presided over the planets, their re- 
presentations exerted their proper influence on the wearers 
of the gems, and thus the word came to signify exclusively 
the magic stone itself. Marbodus, in the eleventh century, 
has already greatly improved upon Pliny's list of wonder- 
working gems, and their sigilla, or intagli ; but the suc- 
ceeding ages, from the perpetual intercourse of Europeans 
with the Arabian schools, (from which the knowledge of all 
the useful sciences, as medicine, chemistry, and mathematics, 
not to mention astrology and alchemy, was again introduced 
into the West) ; these next four centuries brought the science 
of talismans to perfection, and laid down exactly what was 
the virtue of each particular representation to be found 
engraved on each particular kind of gem. The received 
doctrine on this subject is clearly enunciated by Camillo 
Leonardo, in his Speculum Lapidum, dedicated to Cesare 
Borgia, 1503, of whose Third Book I subjoin a summary, as it 


will frequently serve to explain the legends accompanying 
many antique intagb', set in jewellery during tlie JMiddle 
Ages, as well as the value then placed upon many stones, 
quite irrespective of their beauty or workmanship. These 
*' stones of virtue " were believed to have been engraved in 
the " times of the Israelites," a notion no doubt grounded 
upon the Hebrew words so frequent on the Gnostic intagli ; 
those of the Roman times are only " voluntariae," or fancy 
subjects, and have no other influence than that natural to the 
gem itself. All things material have a proper form, and are 
subject to certain influences ; stones, being material, derive a 
virtue from a specific form, and are likewise subject to the 
universal influence of the planets. Hence, if they are 
engraved by a skilful person, under some particular influence, 
they receive a certain virtue, as if they were endued ^vith life 
through the engraving ; just as man's will is free, yet it is 
drawn by reason to do some determinate thing, to which it 
would not be drawn if reason were taken away. Similarly, 
the virtue of the gem is directed by the engraving upon it to 
a certain detenninate effect, to which it was not directed 
before being engraved. But if the effect intended by the 
figure engraved be the same as that produced by the natural 
quality of the stone, its virtue will be doubled, and the effect 
strengthened. This virtue remains for ever, unless the stone 
bo broken to pieces, and the figure totally destroyed. For 
the engraving, to be efficacious, must be made by " election ; " 
that is, we elect a certain hour in which the influence of the 
particular planet is strongest, under wliich we design to 
engrave tlio stone, and thus, by election, the planetary 
influence is infused into the stone, and continues as long 
as the figure continues. For all astronomers agree that 
the stariy influences acting by election are permanent in 
all things. And Ptolemy sjiys, that virtue infused into a 

2 F 2 


thing at its first origin abides in the thing as long as itself 

Engravings are either Universal, or Particular, or Signifi- 
cative of the virtue of the stone. 

Universal, are such as produce the same effect on whatever 
stone they are cut; such as the Signs of the Zodiac. Thus 
Aries, being of a fiery nature, induces heat on whatsoever 
kind of stone he may be engraved, though tliis effect is in- 
creased or diminished by the natural virtue of the stone itself. 

Particular, are figures of the planets and constellations, 
and also magical figures, since these aU tend to a particular 
or determinate effect. 

Significative figures are of two classes, one denoting the 
nature of the stone by conjecture, the other denoting the 
same virtue, and having also a heavenly influence derived 
from a constellation. For it is indubitable that figures were 
cut on the stones to augment their potency, as well as merely 
to signify the nature of the virtue of the stone. Thus there 
are several kinds of Agates, and on each kind figures are 
found, denoting its specific virtue. Thus the property of the 
Sicilian Agate is to counteract the poison of the viper ; you 
will therefore find engraved upon it the figure of a man 
holding a viper, the quality of the stone being thus denoted 
by the figure it presents. But if the engraving represented 
the Serpentarius (Ophiuchus), a constellation which has the 
virtue of resisting poisons, then, by knowing the constellation, 
you would recognise the virtue of the gem : and besides, its 
power would be doubled by the effect of the engraving upon 
it ; and this rule holds good for all other gems. 

Magical and necromantic figures bear no resemblance to 
the Signs of the Zodiac, or to the Constellations, and there- 
fore their virtues are only to be discovered by persons versed 
in these particular sciences ; yet it is most certain that the 


virtue of tlie figure may be partly learnt from the property of 
the stone. And as the same stone often possesses different 
properties, so figures are found made up of parts of different 
animals, expressive of the various virtues of the gem itself. 
This ajipears on a Jasper of my own, which represents a 
figure with the liead of a cock, a human body clad in 
armour, a shield in one hand, a wliip in the other, and 
serpents instead of legs, all expressive of the various virtues 
of the Jasper, which are to drive away evil spirits, fevers, and 
dropsies, check lust, prevent conception, render the wearer 
victorious and beloved, and stanch the flowing of blood. All 
such figures are of tlie greatest virtue and potency. 


Astrologers divide the Signs of the Zodiac into four 
Trines, each composed of three, agreeing in their active and 
passive qualities. They assign one triplet to each of the 
four elements, as also a lord presiding over each. 

First Trine, of Fire ; Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, belongs to the 
East. Its lords are fe'ol by day, Jupiter by night, Saturn at dawTi. 
Hence a gem engi-aved with any of these signs is good against 
all cold diseases, as lethargy, palsy, and dropsy, and makes the 
wearer eloqiient, ingenious, and cheerful, and exalts him to 
honour and dignity. The figure of the Lion is the most potent 
amongst these, as this sign is the house of the Sun. 

Second Trine, of the Earth ; Taurus, Virgo, Capricomus, 
belongs to the South ; of a cold and dry nature. Its lords are 
Venus by day, Luna by night, IMars at dawn. These figures are 
good against all liot and moist diseases, such as quinsy and cor- 
ruption of tlie blood. Their wearers are inclined to rural occu- 
pations and the laying out of gardens and vineyards. 

" Tliis is an iii;j;cnious cxplauation of the Chimerae, or grylli, which 
have been ah-eudy described. 



Sect. IV. 

Third Trine, of the Air ; Gemini, Libra, Aquarius, belongs 
to the West. Its lords are Saturn by day, Mercury by night, 
Jupiter at dawn. Hence a gem engraved with one of these 
signs is good against all cold and dry complaints depending on 
a melancholy humour, such as ague, hydrophobia, and loss of 
memory. From the nature of the lords of this triplet, its wearers 
are inclined to justice, friendship, concord, and the observance 
of the laws. 

Fourth Trine, of the Water ; Cancer, Scoi-pio, Pisces, belongs 
to the North ; of a cold and moist nature. Its lords are Venus 
by day. Mars by night, Luna at dawn. From its cold and moist 
complexion it is good against all hot and dry diseases, such as 
consumption, inflammation of the liver, and bilious complaints. 
Its wearers are inclined through the nature of its lords to fickle- 
ness, injustice, and lying, and it is said that Scorpio was the 
sign of Mahomet. (When Camillo was writing this he must 
have smiled inwardly at the thought that this Trine was cer- 
tainly the ruling influence over the career of his redoubtable 
patron, the Lord of Komagna.) 

Pbenician Sphinx. Spotted Onyx. 


1 . Saturn, engraved on a stone, is an old man with a not very 
bushy beard, seated, and holding a scythe. If this figure be 
found on a stone of the same nature as Saturn, it renders the 
wearer powerful, and his power will go on increasing. 

2, Jupiter is a man seated on a throne, holding in one hand a 
wand, in the other a globe, or an idol, or a crab, or a fish, and 
an eagle at his feefc. Magicians figure him difi'erently, with a 


ram's head and slender body, and wrinkled legs. If fonnd on a 
gem, especially a Kabres (a kind of crystal), it secures success 
in one's wishes, procures love, and exaltation to honours. 

3. Mars is figured on gems in a variety of ways, sometimes 
holding a lance, sometimes a standard, also on horseback, but 
always in armour. It makes the wearer bold and successful in 
whatever he undertakes. 

4. Sol is represented as the sun with rays, sometimes as a man 
with long hair seated on a throne, sometimes in a quadriga, sur- 
rounded by the Signs of the Zodiac. It makes a man powerful, 
fit to command, and fond of hunting, and lucky in getting 

5. Venus, a woman in long robe and stole, and holding a laurel 
branch. It gives lightness in action, success in business, pro- 
tects against fear of drowning, and produces authority. 

6. Mercury, a slender man with a fine beard, but sometimes 
without one, with winged sandals and caduceus, often a cock at 
his feet, or a serpent beneath them. Its virtue increases know- 
ledge and eloquence, and is of great benefit to traders. 

7. Luna is variously figured, sometimes as a crescent, less than 
the half; sometimes as a maid in a car with horses, and a quiver ; 
or a nymph with quiver, and hounds following a stag. This 
imago gives success in embassies, and speed and facility in the 
execution of all business. 

8. The Bear is represented by two bears entwined by a ser- 
pent, and is of a composite nature, for the Greater Bear belongs 
to Mars and Venus, the Lesser to Saturn, the Serpent to Saturn 
and Mars. This engraving makes the wearer cautious, crafty, 
and powerful. 

9. The Crown is figured as a royal crown with many stars, and 
sometimes as the crowned head of a king. It is placed in the 
North, in the sign Sagittarius, and is of the nature of Venus and 
Mercury. It gives success and honour in kings' courts. 

10. Hercules, a man killing a lion; sometimes a man with a 
lion's skin in his hand, or on his shoulders, with a club. It is 
placed in the North, in the Scorpion, and is of the nature of Mer- 
cury. If cut on a stone of similar virtue, such as the Agate, it 
gives victory in pitched battles. 


11. Swan, or Hen, is the figure of a swan, with wings spread 
and neck bent back. Its place is the North, and its nature that 
of Venus and Mercury. It makes the wearer beloved by the 
people, augments wealth, and cures palsy and ague. 

12. Ceplieus, a man girt with a sword, and with his hands and 
legs stretched out, is held by Aries, and is placed in the North. 
It has the nature of Saturn and Jupiter, makes the wearer cau- 
tious and prudent ; and placed under the head of a sleeping 
person makes him see delightful visions. 

13. Cassiopea, a woman seated in a chair with her arms ex- 
tended in the form of a cross, or sometimes with a triangle upon 
her head. It is situated in the North in the sign Taurus, and 
has the nature of Saturn and Venus. If cut upon a proper stone 
it produces health, restoration from fatigue, and causes refreshing 

14. Andromeda, a virgin with loose hair and hands hanging 
down, is contained in Taurus in the North. It is of the nature 
of Venus, and has the virtue of appeasing quairels between mar- 
ried people. 

15. Perseus, a figure holding in one hand a sword, in the 
other the Gorgon's head, is placed in the northern part of 
Taurus. It has the power of Saturn and Venus, and defends not 
merely the wearer, but the place he is in, from lightning and 

16. Serpentarius, a man encircled by a serpent, and holding its 
head in one hand and tail in the other, is situated in Scoiijio in 
the North, and is of the nature of Saturn and Mars. It is good 
against poisons and the bites of reptiles, and steeped in water 
causes one to cast up the poison he may have swallowed without 
any injury. 

17. The Eagh, or Falling Vulture, is the figure of an eagle 
flying with an arrow in his claws : placed in Cancer in the 
northern part. It is of the nature of Jupiter and Mars ; but the 
arrows are of Mars and Venus. The virtue of this figure is to 
preserve the ancient honours of the wearer and to make him 
gain fresh ones. 

18. The Dolphin is the figure of a hump-backed fish, in the 
sign Aquarius, in the North ; having the nature of Saturn and 


Mars. If tied to a net it causes it to be filled with fishes, and 
gives good luck in angling. 

19. Pegasus, a winged horse ; or the forepart of one with wings 
and without a bridle : placed in Aries, is of the nature of Mars 
and Jove, and gives victory in battle. If hung round a horse's 
neck, or put in the water he drinks, it will protect him from 
many diseases. 

20. Cetiis, the figure of a big fish with bent tail and wide 
mouth, placed in Taurus in the South, is of the nature of 
Saturn. If cut on a stone, with a large crested serpent with a 
long mane above it, it gives good luck at sea and restores lost 

21. Orion, a man in armour or without, with a sword or a 
praning-hook in his hand, placed in Gemini in the South, is of 
the nature of Jove, Saturn, and Mars. It gives the wearer 
victory over all his enemies. 

22. The Ship, with lofty prow and swelling sail, both with and 
without oars ; placed in Leo in the South, is of the nature of 
Saturn and Jove, and protects from danger or loss at sea. 

23. The Bog, Alabor, a figure of a greyhound with curled 
tail, in Cancer in the South, of the nature of Venus, gives the 
power, they say, of healing those lunatic, raving, and possessed 
by devils. 

24. The Hare, a figure of a hare running, in Gemini in the 
South, has the nature of Mercury and Saturn, and defends against 
the wiles of the devil ; and protects the wearer against being 
hurt by any evil spirit. 

25. Centaur, a man with a bull's head, holding in the left 
hand a spear resting upon his left shoiilder, with a hare hanging 
from it. In his right ho holds a little beast, back do^vnward8, 
witli a kettle hung to it. Its place is in Libra in the South, and 
it is of the nature of Jupiter and Mars, and has the virtue of 
keeping the wearer in peii^etual health ; whence some fable that 
a Centaur was the preceptor of Achilles, because he alwaj's 
carried about him the engi-aving of a Centaur upon a stone. 

20. The /hg, Alubor, is the figure of a dog seated; in Cancer 
in the South. It is of the nature of Jupiter, and protects from 
dropsy and the bites of dogs. 



Sect. IV, 

27. Thuribky or Well, is the figure of an altar (or well), with a 
fii'e burning upon it. Its place is in Sagittarius in the South. 
It has the nature of Venus and Mercury, and makes the wearer 
able to call up spirits, to converse with them, and have them to 
obey him. It is also said to endow the wearer with perpetual 
virginity, inasmuch as it induces chastity. 

28. Hydra, is the figure of a serpent having an urn about the 
head and a raven about the tail. Placed in Cancer in the South. 
It has the nature of Saturn and Venus, makes the bearer rich, 
and defends against all noxious heat. 

29. Southern Crown, is like a crown imperial, placed in Libra 
in the South. Of the nature of Saturn and Mars, its virtue lies 
in augmenting riches and making the man cheerful and merry. 

30. Charioteer, the figure of a man in a chariot, holding a goat 
on the left shoulder. Placed in Gemini in the North. It has the 
virtue of Mercury, and gives success in hunting. 

31. Banner, the figui*e of a banner spread out on the top of a 
spear : is placed in Scorpio in the South, and gives victory in 

Silenus placing a crater on its stand ; Koman, Sard. 


Having thus gone through the astronomical figures, we 
give a list of those for whose effect no reason can be assigned, 
but which rest on the authority of various learned doctors. 
Thus Eagiel, in his " Book of Wings," a work indispensable 
to all students of magic, ascribes the greatest potency to the 
following figures, if observed and kept with due reverence. 

1, Dragon, cut on a Euby or stone of like nature, has the 


power to increase the goods of this world, and to give cheerful- 
ness and contentment. 

2. Falcon, on a Topaz, gives favour with kings, princes, and 

3. Astrolabe, on Sapphire gives wealth and the gift of prophecy. 

4. Lion, on Garnet presei-ves in wealth and honour, and from 
danger on a journey. 

5. Ass, on Chrysolite gives the power of prognosticating future 

6. Earn, or Bearded Man's head, on Sapphire defends from 
many infirmities, from poison and oppression, 

7. Frog, on Beryl reconciles people at variance if you touch 
them with it. 

8. Camel's Head, or the Heads of Two Goats among Myrtles, 
cut on Onyx has the power of convoking and constraining demons, 
and makes one see temble things in sleep. 

9. Vulture, on Chrysolite has power over demons and winds, 
and defends places from them, and from the attacks of evil spirits, 
who are obedient to the wearer of the stone. 

10. Bat, on Heliotrope gives power over demons, and is useful 
in incanttitions. 

1 1. Griffin, on Crystal has the greatest virtue to fill the breasts 
with milk. 

12. Man well dressed and holding something pretty in his 
hand, on Carnolian has the virtue to stop the flow of blood. 

1 3. Lion, or Sagittarius, on Jasper is good against poison and 

14. Man aimed with bow and arrow, on Iris protects from 
harm the wearer and his abode. 

15. Man with sword in hand, on Canielian protects the weai-er 
from witchcraft and the place he is in from lightning and 

16. Bull, on Pnuso is good in working of spells, and gives 
grace in tlio Magistcria (proceedings of Alchemy). 

17. Hoopoe, with the herb dragon in front, on Beryl has the 
virtue to evoke the water-spirits and to force them to speak. It 
also can cull up the dead of your acquaintance and oblige them 
to give answers to questions. 


18. Swallow, on Chelonite, gives peace and concord. 

19. Man, with right hand raised to heaven, cut on Calcedony 
gives success in law-suits, and i:)rotects from danger on a journey. 

20. Names of God, cut on Thunderbolt, preserve places from 
tempest, and give power and victory over one's enemies. 

21. Boar, on Amethyst puts demons to flight and preserves 
from intoxication. 

22. Aimed Man, on Magnet assists in incantations, and gives 
victory in war. 


Chael, a most ancient doctor of the Children of Israel in 
the Wilderness, saw and engraved many figures after the 
figm-es of the signs and stars, and composed the following list 
of their powers. Blessed be the Lord, who hath given to 
the world such virtues for the safety of the human race. 

1. Man, with long face and beard, and eyebrows raised, sitting 
behind a plough, and holding a fox and a vulture, with four men 
lying on his neck : such a gem being placed under your head 
when asleep, makes you dream of treasures and of the right 
manner of finding them, and the water in which it is steeped 
cures all diseases of cattle. 

2. Man armed with sword and shield, trampling upon a dragon, 
if cut on red Jasper and hung round the neck, gives victory in 
battle, especially on a Tuesda}'. 

3. Horse, with crocodile over him, on Jacinth gives success in 
lawsuits ; but ought to be set in gold, as gold increases its virtue. 

4. Man seated, and a woman standing before him with her 
hair loose hanging down to her loins, and the man looking up- 
wards : if cut on Carnelian has the virtue that whoever are touched 
therewith they will be led to do the will of him that toucheth 
them. Under the stone, when it is figured, a little terebinth and 
ambergris ought to be put. 

5. Horse foaming and at full speed, with a rider holding a 
sceptre, cut on Haematite gives the power of reigning and the 
recovery of lost favour ; and must be set in an equal weight of 
gold and silver. 


6. Man seated, with a lighted candle in his hand, on Chrysolite 
makes the wearer rich ; and should be set in the finest gold. 

7. Stag, Hunter, Dog, or Leopard, on any stone, have the 
virtue to curb demons, lunatics, and madmen, and those that war 
in the night season. 

8. Woman, holding a bird in the one hand, in the other a fish, 
has the virtue of taking birds and fishes. 

9. Horned Beast thus formed : the fore part of a horse con- 
joined with the hinder pai-t of a goat, on any stone, is good in the 
breeding of cattle, and must be set in lead. 

10. AVoman with trumpet, on horseback, or Soldier with a 
horn ; on any stone, gives good luck in hunting. 

11. Man kneeling and looking back, and holding a cloth, is 
lucky for buying and selling. 

12. Vulture with a branch in his beak, cut on Pyrites and set 
in a silver ring : if you carry this with you, you will be invited 
to many feasts ; and being there all persons will gaze at you, 
and leave off eating. 

13. Scorpion and Sagittary fighting together, cut on any stone : 
if you make an impression in wax of it, and touch therewith 
persons at variance, you will restore them to concord. It must 
bo set in silver. 

14. Kam and Lion: half-figure, if cut on any precious stone 
will pacify persons quarrelling if they be touched therewith. 
This also must be set in silver. 

15. Woman, the upper part of the body, the lower part a 
fish, holding a mirror and a branch in her hands : if cut on a 
Jacinth, set it in a gold ring and keep it on your finger : when 
you wish to become invisible, turn the bizzle of the ring round 
towards the palm of your hand, shut your hand and you will 
become invisible. 

16. ]\Ian in aimour, having in his right hand a cross with 
stars, on any precious stone, is good for the safeguard of fruits 
and harvests, and protects places from damage by storms. 

17. Basilisk or Syren, half woman, half a serpent; on any 
precious stone has the power of putting to flight all venomous 

18. Basilisk fighting with a Dragon, and above them a man's 


head, on Camelian, and worn round tho neck, gives the power of 
overcoming all beasts both of land and sea. 

19. Man seated, and of bloated figure, with another man well 
clad, holding in one hand a cup, in the other a branch; if cut 
on Jet will cure all fevers, if worn for three days. 

20. Man with bull's head and eagle's legs ; cut on any stone, 
and carried about with you, will hinder people from speaking 
ill of you. 

21. Man of great stature cut on the Diadochus (a sort of Beryl), 
holding in his right an obolus, in his left a serpent, with the 
sun above his head and a lion beneath his feet ; set this in a lead 
ring, with a little wormwood and fennel under it ; carry this 
with you to tho banks of a river, and call up the evil spirits 
and you shall receive answers to all your questions. 

22. Man with broad shouldei-s and thick loins, standing, and 
holding in his right hand a bundle of herbs ; engraved on green 
Jasper is good against fevers ; and if a physician carries it about 
with him, it will give him skill in distinguishing diseases and 
knowing the proper remedies. It is also good for hemorrhoids 
and instantly stops the flow of blood. 

23. Sea-turtle, if cut on the stone of which touchstones are 
made, prevents the wearer from being injured by any one, and 
makes him beloved by his elders and his superiors. 

24. Aquarius, on green Jasper, gives good luck in buying and 
selling, and affords good counsel to traders. 

25. Bird with a leaf in its beak, and a man's head looking at 
it, cut on Jasper ; set this in gold and carry it about with you, 
and you shall be rich, and worshipful in the sight of all men. 

26. Jupiter seated on a chair with four legs, and four men 
standing before the chair; the hands of Jove raised towards 
heaven, and a crown upon his head ; if cut on Jacinth and set in 
gold and worn, or even a wax impression hung around the neck, 
it shall obtain for the wearer whatever he may ask from 
princes and wise men. 

27. Man with lion's head and eagle's legs, and below him a 
two-headed dragon with tail extended, and in his hand a staff, 
with which he smites the dragon's heads : this engraved on 
Crystal, or any precious stone, and set in aurichalcum (red 


gold), with mnsk and ambergris under the stone; whoever 
carries about with him such a gem, all people of both sexes will 
incline to him, the Spirits shall be obedient unto him, he shall 
augment his substance and gather together great riches. 

28. Man seated on an eagle, with a wand in his hand ; if cut 
on Ilephaestite, or on Crystal, must be set in a brass or copper 
ring. Whoso looketh upon this stone on a Sunday before sun- 
rise shall have the victory over all his enemies. If he look 
upon it on a Thursday all men shall obey him willingly. But 
the wearer must be clothed in white garments and abstain from 
eating pigeons. 

29. Man on horseback, holding a bridle and a bent bow; en- 
graved on Pyrites makes the wearer irresistible in battle. 

30. Woman with her hair hanging loose over her breasts, and 
a man approaching and making a sign of love to her ; if cut on a 
Jacinth or Crystal, must be set in gold, and put under the stone 
ambergris, aloes, and the herb called polium : him that carrieth 
this stone in a ring all shall obey ; and if you touch a woman 
with it she shall do your will forthwith. When you go to sleep 
put this under your head, and you shall see whatever things 
you desire in your dreams. 

31. Man seated on a fish, and on the man's head a peacock, 
engraved on a red stone : if you put this under the table, no man 
that eatcth with his right hand shall be able to satisfy himself. 

32. Man, naked, with his arm round the shoulders of a maid 
whose hair is gathered round her head, and with his other hand 
upon her breast, the man looking into her face while she looks 
dowai upon the ground ; cut on any stone, and set in an iron ring 
and under the stone a bit of the tongue of a sparrow, of a hoopoe, 
alum, and hinnan blood in equal quantities, renders the wearer 
invincible by man or beast, and cures epilepsy. Also red wax 
stamped with it and hung round a dog's neck will prevent him 
from barking. 

33. Man holding flowers ; engraved on Cornelian, and set in a 
tin ring niside on a Monday or Friday, at the first, eighth, or 
twelfth hour : touch whomsoever you will with this ring, and he 
shall obey you. 

34. Man, bearded, with long face and arched eyebrows, sitting 



Sect. IV. 

upon a plough, between two bulls, with a vulture on his hand, 
has virtue in the planting of trees and the finding of hid treasure, 
drives away serpents, and delivers from the fear and troubling 
of evil spirits. It must be set in an iron ring, and so worn. 

35. Man holding a hook over his head, and under his feet a 
crocodile, set in a leaden ring with a little of the herb squill 
under the stone : whoever carries this gem will be secure from 
robbers on a journey. 

36. Man holding a sword, and seated on a dragon, cut on 
Amethyst : being set in an iron or leaden ring, and worn on the 
finger, all spirits shall be obedient unto him, shall reveal the 
place of hidden treasures, and shall answer all his questions. 

37. Eagle standing, engraved on Ethica (setites), being set in 
a lead ring gives good luck in fishing. 

38. Man standing, and holding a spike (dart) ; engraved on 
Onyx makes the wearer to be honoured by all lords and princes. 

39. Hare, on Jasper, preserves the wearer from the shade of 
demons, so that it hurts him not. 

40. Man, carrying a palm, on any gem, makes the wearer 
agreeable to princes and great men. 

Farthian king, between two crowned asps. Sard. 

There is a Rabbinical legend that Moses engraved the 
names of the tribes upon the precious stones of the High 
Priest's breastplate, by means of the blood of the worm 
Samir, a liquid of such wonderful potency as immediately to 
corrode and dissolve the hardest substances. Solomon, there- 
fore, when about to build his Temple out of stones upon which 
no tool was to be lifted up, was naturally desirous of obtaining 


a supply of this most efficient menstruum, the source whence 
Moses liad obtained it having been lost in antiquity. He, 
therefore, had recourse to the following ingenious expedient : 
he inclosed the chick of an ostrich, or, as some say, of a 
hoopoe, in a glass bottle, and placed trusty persons to watch 
it. The parent bird, finding all her efforts to liberate her 
young in vain, flew off to the desert, and returning with the 
miraculous worm, by means of its blood soon dissolved the 
glass prison, and escaped with the captive. By repeating 
this process as occasion required, Solomon obtained the 
needful supply of this most useful solvent. 

This legend is entirely based on the fact of the Smir, or 
Smiris (emery) used by the antique engravers ; the name 
Samir being merely the Hebrew form of the Greek word. 
Hence, tlie fanciful rabbis having heard of the smir as the 
indispensable agent of the gem engraver, without further 
inquiry invented this ingenious legend as a most satisfactory 
solution of the question. Tliey may, however, have been 
influenced by some faint tradition derived from Egypt, as 
to the existence of some solvent capable of rendering the 
liardest stones easy to be worked upon ; a secret which, as we 
have already noticed, there are some grounds of believing 
wjis possessed by the ancient Egyptians. 


In looking over the foregoing list we recognise, as might 
naturally be expected, many of the usual Gnostic types, as in 
the " IMan witli vii)ers for legs " tlie Pantheistic deity 
Abraxas ; the " Wiuged Man upon a serpent," probably 
the Athor or Sate of the same class; as is likewise the 
" jMan stiinding on a serpent and holding its head in his 
hand." The " Names of God " on a gem must mean the 

2 G 


invocations usually occurring on the reverses of these stones. 
It will be also observed how large a proportion of these 
potent sigils are specified as occurring on Jasper, a stone 
which the slightest acquaintance with these intagli shews to 
have been the favourite material for the talismanic engravings 
of the Lower Empire. 

There is, however, an omission of one class of subjects 
from the list which appears at first extremely unaccountable ; 
a class too which one would have thought the most likely 
to strike the fancy of the mediaeval astrologer or alchemist, 
as fraught with the deepest mysteries of antiquity. These 
are the so-called chimerae or monsters, made up of the parts 
of various animals united into one consistent whole, which 
represents the outline of a bird or horse ; and usually (how- 
ever various the manner of combination) composed of nearly 
the same elements : the ram's head, Silenus' mask, elephant's 
trunk, rabbit, cornucopia, and lizard. In fact, since the 
Revival, these very stones have been commonly looked upon 
as amulets, and are still frequently described in catalogues 
as " Basilidan Gems," although in reality they have no con- 
nexion with that family ; a point which their good and early 
style of work would alone be sufficient to prove, not to men- 
tion the invariable absence of the peculiar legends accom 
panying the sacred emblems of those religionists. But as we 
cannot suppose that the mediaeval doctors were influenced 
by any such archaeological motives in their distinction between 
the potent and magical, and the merely fanciful or, as they 
termed them, "voluntary" designs of ancient artists, there 
must have existed some well grounded reason for rejecting 
engravings, the very appearance of which is the perfection of 
all that is mystic and magical. Can it be that at the close 
of the Empire, when gems began to be prized for their 
supernatural properties alone, a tradition still existed that 


these well-defined subjects were mere grylli or caprices of 
the artist's fancy ? 

It will also be remarked that many of these talismanic 
figures have a real or supposed relation to the various Signs, 
and Constellations from which they derived their virtue; 
whilst others represent the ancient gods who were still 
believed by the astrologers to rule the planets in the character 
of Genii, although the unaccommodating orthodoxy of the 
age had summarily converted them into the demons of the 
new Tartanis. 

The origin and invention of these Sigilla were naturally 
assigned to the ancient Israelites, on account of the numerous 
Hebrew words and titles of the Deity that occur on the 
Gnostic intagli, which the medieval adept very consistently 
inferred could not have been the work of a race so degraded 
as the Jews had become, after that the sceptre had departed 
from Israel. It is very amusing to notice the curious inter- 
pretations put by these writers upon many of the common 
representations of ancient mythology, as on the group of 
Hercules and lolo, and of Hercules and the Hydra. The 
" King on a chair, his hands outstretched, and borne up by 
four figures," is the j\Ianichean Ormuzd, supported by the 
angels of the elements : a type not unfrequent on Gnostic 
gems. The Lancer also is a favourite late Persian subject, 
whicli often boars the legend of " The Seal of God." But it 
is needless to point out more instances of the original mean- 
ing of th(^sc common subjects : the odd interpretation of 
niiiny of tliom by the mediaeval sages will amuse the reader 
who liiis any knowledge of antique gems ; and this has been 
my chief motive for transcribing a portion of the somewhat 
tedious catalogue of the worthy physician of Pesaro." 

' TIm^ Ortocidcs Sultans of Aniida i>f Irak, jnit on the olivcrso of their 
and Mardin, as well as {\\v Atal)t\!^]is coins tlic tyix-s uf the reverses of 

2 a 2 


It will be noticed that the doctors who so exactly laid 
down the precise influence of each sigil and gem have left 
themselves a loophole for escaping whenever the promised 
result failed to follow their prescriptions : for the stone was to 
be worn " in all honour and purity," and thus any miscarriage 
could always be ascribed to the wearer's own transgression 
of the necessary conditions of success. 

Strange to say, the sole nation of the present day, amongst 
whom a belief in the virtue of magic stones still exists, are 
the Irish; who place the greatest faith in the medical 
properties of certain round pebbles which have been pre- 
served from time immemorial upon the altars of certain 
chapels. The water in which these stones have been steeped 
is considered a sovereign remedy for all the diseases of 
cattle. But, consistently with the respective degrees of 
civilization of the two races, the gem of the Italian astrologer 
engraved with the mystic sigil, which aided and multiplied 
its native potency, is replaced among the Celts by a round 
pebble of the most ordinaiy quality, with nothing but 
antiquity and faith to recommend it. A ball of crystal was 
lately in the possession of the chief of a Highland clan, 
which was famed for possessing the same virtue, and which 
had been for unknown ages in the hands of the same family. 
Such crystal balls are sometimes found in ancient tombs: 

Greek, Roman, and Sassanian me- and vvitli the legend VICTORIA, 
dais, evidently selected as figures CONSTANTINI. AVG. The inge- 
possessing some talismanic virtue ; nious Arabs had doubtless inter- 
and copied as literally as the skill pretcd these, to them mysterious 
of the barbarous die-sinker would devices, as symbols of mystic im- 
allow. Thus a piece of Faker- port, according to the same rules as 
Eddin, who reigned in the early they, and the doctors of the West 
part of the twelfth century, bears on after their guidance, adopted in their 
its obverse an exact copy of a explanation of the purpose of en- 
reverse of Constantine, a Victory graved gems, 
holding a tablet inscribed VOTXXX, 


we have seen that Orpheus ascribes great efficacy to their 
presence at sacrifices ; doubtless they were interred witli 
the corpse as a propitiation to the deities of the Shades. 
Dr. Dee's divining ball, so famous in the seventeenth century, 
and now in the British Museum, was probably a sphere of 
this class, which had accidentally come into the possession of 
that " egregious wizard." 

I have seen two spherical gems of Koman date which must 
have been made for some magical use, as not being perforated 
they could not have been intended for ornaments, for which 
also their size and weight rendered them inappropriate. 
The first, a ball of red Jasper, 1|^ inch in diameter, was 
engraved with a small medallion containing various sjTnbols ; 
tlie second, formed of green Jasper (in the Herz Collection), 
had on the centre an engraving of Osuis and Isis, inscribed 
* A, probably for Pharia (compare the Isis Faria of the coins 
of Julian), and tJiis was surrounded by twelve intaglio busts of 
deities, of very good execution. The Sphere was one inch in 
diameter. We perpetually meet in the poets with allusions to 
the lvy%, Ilhombus, Turbo, or magic wheel used by the ancient 
witches in their operations, and more especially figuring fore- 
most in the list of philtres as possessing the power of in- 
spiring love when spun in one direction, and of freeing the 
heart from its spell when made to revolve in the opposite one, 
as appears from Horace's prayer to Canidia : 

" Kotro potenten, retro, solvo turbinem." 

" Ecverso thy magic wheel and break the spell." 

The Crystal Spheres now under consideration may have been 
the very instruments referred to by the poet : at least that 
employed by tlie famous sorceress Nico is expressly described 
as cut out of Amethyst in the dedicatory inscription given 
in the Anthology, v., 205. 


" That magic wheel which power to Nico gave 
To draw the lover o'er the distant wave, 
And from her couch, half willing, half afi-aid. 
At dead of night to lure the trembling maid, 
Cut in bright Amethyst by a skilful hand, 
And nicely balanced on its golden stand. 
Lies sti-ung on twisted wool of purple sheen 
A grateful offering to the Cyprian queen : 
Which erst the sorceress from Larissa brave, 
A precious keepsake, to her hostess gave." 

Damis saw four luyyss suspended from the dome of the judg- 
ment hall of the Parthian king. They were called " Tongues 
of the Gods," and placed there to remind him of Nemesis, 
and repress his pride. These may be supposed to be golden 
images of Ferouers, or Protecting Genii, of the Magian re- 
ligion, for this term is used as synonymous with the Platonic 
" Ideas " in the Zoroastrian oracles 

Noou/xcj'at Ivyyes TrarpoOfv voOV(ri Kai avrai. 

For the Ferouers are the Ideas conceived in the mind of 
Ormuzd previous to, and the Architypes of, the visible 

Indian Sacred Bull, with Pehlevi legend. Calcedony. 


Before we quit the subject of Magic Spheres we must not 
forget the famed Ovum Anguinum of the Druids, especially 


as it is the present practice to call by tliat name the large 
beads of variegated glass so frequently found in this country, 
although these are in reality nothing more than the central 
ornaments of Roman, British, or Saxon necklaces. Very 
diiferent was the true Ovum Anguinum which Pliny had 
seen worn as a badge of office by a Druid. He describes it 
as round, of the size of an apple, enclosed in a cartilaginous 
crust and covered with protuberances like the suckers on the 
arms of a cuttle-fish. It was evidently some natural pro- 
duction, not an ornament made by art, and the description 
of it resembles more that of a large echinus than anything 
else ; could it have been some fossil species of that shell ? 
The legend told by the Druids of its production was, that at 
a certain season an innumerable host of snakes collected 
together, and intertwining with each other produced from 
their collected foam this substance, and bore 

" Tho mystic eg<^ aloft in air ;" 

wliere it was necessary to catch it in a cloak before it fell to 
the ground, otherwise it lost its virtue. The captor was 
immediatcily pur.^iicd by the whole troop of serpents until 
he could cross a running stream, and unless enabled by the 
swiftness of his steed to escape his followers, woe unto him ! 

" All Tam, ah Tain, thou 'It get thy fairing, 
In hell they '11 roast thee like a herring." 

The possession of this wondrous egg was supposed to give 
success in lau-suits. To Pliny's own knowledge, a Gallic 
kniglit wlio liad carried one in his bosom during the hearing 
of his cause, jirobably before the emperor himself, was 
execut(Hl for this attempt to pervert justice, by order of that 
" wisest fool " Chuidius Cfestir. The opinion that tliis amulet 
was some sort of ecliinus is in some measure supported by 


the fact, that a variety of tin's shell is still popularly called 
the Mermaid's Egg. 

Tliough we are thus obliged to degrade these large paste 
beads from their sacred character of Druidical insignia, we 
must still award them the merit of being frequently extra- 
ordinary specimens of the taste and skill of the Gallic or 
British workers in glass. Some exhibit the most vivid 
colours, arranged in elegant wavy patterns equal to any pro- 
ductions in a similar style by the factories of Murano : others, 
probably intended to be worn on the little finger, are thick 
rings of blue or green glass, with small spheres of spiral and 
different coloured tlireads, like variegated snail shells, stuck 
on the outer circumference at regular intervals. Others 
again are merely circles of a bluish green glass, or of a 
vitrified clay. It is curious that whenever discovered in 
modern times they have always been regarded by the pea- 
santry as amulets productive of good luck to the wearer. 

This famous talisman of the Druids has a singular analogy, 
both in name and in its reputed virtues, to the " Ophites " 
or Serpent-stone of the Asiatic Greeks, of which Orpheus 
sings (v. 355). 

" To him ^^ had Phoebus giv'n the vocal stone, 
Hight Sideritis, for true answers known ; 
The ' Living Ophite' some the wonder call, 
Black, hard, and weighty, a portentous ball. 
Around the stone, in many a mazy bend, 
In wrinkles deep the furrowed lines extend. 
For thrioe seven days the mighty wizard fled 
The bath's refreshment and his spouse's bed ; 
For thrice seven days a solemn fast maintained, 
No flesh of living thing his strength sustained. 
Then in the living fount the gem he laves, 
And in soft vestments like an infant swathes ; 

'" Heleuus. 

Sect. IV. MAGIC RINGS. 457 

As to a god he sacrifices brings, 

And potent spells in mystic murmurs sings, 

Till, moved by oifered prayer and mighty charms, 

A living soul the prescient substance warms ; 

Then in his arms he bears the thing divine 

Where kindled lamps in his pure mansion shine ; 

And as her infant son a mother holds, 

So in his arms the talisman he folds. 

And thou when thou wouldst hear the mystic voice, 

Thus do ; and in the wondrous charm rejoice. 

Fov, when thou long hast dandled it on high, 

'T will utter forth a faint and feeble cry 

Like to a suckling's wail, when, roused from rest, 

It seeks refreshment from the nurse's breast. 

But with courageous heart perform the rite 

Lest thou the anger of the gods excite, 

If from thy hand, unnerved by sudden fear, 

Down to the ground thou dash the vocal sphere. 

Be bold, and dare the oracle to test, 

A true response 't will yield to each request. 

Then having bathed it hold it near thine eye, 

And mark in wondrous mode its spirit fly.' 

Through this the Trojan to the Atridaj bold 

The comino; ruin of his race foretold." 


Tlio Gnostic rings of stone covered with incantations, 
already described, remind us of the Magic Rings mentioned 
by Clemens Alexandrinus, who quotes Aristotle to tlie effect 
that " Execestus, tyrant of the Pliocians, used to wear two 
encliauted rings, by the clinking of wliicli against each 

' One mij^lit almost conchulo fruiii bcc.iuse, when stceiiod in water, it be- 

tliis lino that the stone was the Ily- conies hrijilit and oiialescent, though 

(hopliane, or Ocuhis Minidi, of won- natnraliy dari< and dull. 
(lei I'ul re]mtation in tlio Middle Ages, 


other he used to discover the fitting season for his enter- 
prises ; he nevertheless perished by assassination, though 
previously warned by the magic sound." Lucian, in the 
* Philopseudes,' makes Eucrates say, " Is Ion then the only 
person that has seen such things? Have not many other 
persons also met with spirits some by night, some by day ? 
I, for my part, have seen such, not once only, but thousands 
of times. And at first indeed I used to be alarmed at them, 
but now, from constant habit, I do not seem to myself to see 
anything extraordinary in such apparitions, especially now 
ever since the Arabian gave me the ring made out of the 
iron nails got from crosses, and taught me the incantation of 
many names." A clear allusion to tlie practice of the 
Gnostics, whose amulets are covered with long strings of 
Coptic and Hebrew titles, addressed to the spirits presiding 
over the several planets. Orpheus also says (720) that the 
gods are well pleased when addressed by their secret names 
during the sacrifice offered to them. I have already quoted 
Caylus' description of the gold ring (probably the ornament 
of some French Manichean of the twelfth century), com- 
pletely covered with Gnostic formulae. I have myself seen 
a broad ring of pure gold, probably of Indian origin, and 
evidently of considerable antiquity ; the outer circumference 
of which bore in relief the hieroglyphics of the Signs of the 
Zodiac; executed in a most ingenious and artistic style. 
This ring had doubtless been the distinctive badge of some 
high astrologer of the olden time. Lofty too must have been 
the station (considering the immense value of the gem in 
mediaeval times) of the wearer of the large opal set in another 
cabalistic gold ring, with shank covered with astrological 
figures and the usual legend adros madeos, &:q. 



Aristophanes, long before this, had humorously alluded to 
tlic practice of wearing rings as charms against evil sjiirits 
and serpents, in the reply of the honest man to the common 
informer : Plutus, 883. 

" I care not for thee : for I wear a ring 

For which I paid one dracluna to Eudemus. 
But 't is no charm against tli' informer's bite." 

And Antiphanes in Athenseus ill., 96, speaks of another kind 
exactly answering to the galvanic rings of to-day, a preserva- 
tive against all manner of aches and pains : for the miser is 
introduced saying 

" In a kettle, 
Beware lest I see any one boil water. 
For I've no ailment : may 1 never have one ! 
But if perchance a griping pain should wander 
^Vithin my stomach or around my navel, 
I'll get a ring from Phertatus for a drachma." 

Alexander of Tralles recommends from his own practice, as a 
sure preservative against the colic, an iron ring, with this 

figure T/\Y on tlie face, and cut with eight sides, on which 

nuist be engraved the words, two syllables on each side, 

" (j)(vy (pfvye lov x'^^V V KopvdaXos (T( ^rjTtt. 

" Fly, fly, IIo ! bile, tlie lark is after thee." 


Planetary rings, to which wonderful virtues were ascribed 
in the ^[i(Ulle Ages, were formed of the gems assigned to the 
several i)huu'ts. each set in its appropriate metal, in the fol- 
lowinii: nmnncr : 


Sun ; Diamond or Sapphire, in a ring of gold. 

Moon ; Ciystal, in silver. 

Mercury; Magnet, in quicksilver (how fixed ?) 

Venus ; Amethyst, in copper. 

Mars ; Emerald, in iron. 

Jupiter ; Cai'nelian, in tin. 

Saturn ; Turquois, in lead. 


These jewels, so often mentioned by our early poets, were 
formerly used very generally as love pledges and betrothal 
rings. The name is a corruption of Juraelle, or Twin, as they 
are formed of two flat hoops of gold, the one fitting nicely 
inside the other and kept in its place by a projecting rim on 
the edge of the exterior circle : so that both form apparently 
but one body. On each is engraved a name, or sometimes 
one line of a distich in old French :^ the two hoops could be 
separated and worn singly, and thus could serve as cre- 
dentials to the bearer, as well as for their original desti- 
nation. The names found on them are those of the parties 
between whom they were interchanged ; thus the denoue- 
ment of Dryden's ' Don Sebastian ' turns upon a ring of this 

" Those rings, when you were bom and thought another's, 
Your parents glowing yet in sinful love 
Bade me bespeak : a curious artist wrought them, 
With joints so close as not to be perceived, 
Yet are they both each other's counterpart. 
His part had Juan inscribed and hers had Zayda ; 
You know these names are theirs ; and in the midst 
A heart divided in two halves was placed. 

* " The posy on a riuji.," Shakcspear's synonym lor something utterly trite 
and commonplace. 


Now if the rivets of these rings inclosed 
Fit not each other I have forged this lie, 
But if they join you must for ever part." 


The long list of the magical properties of gems and of the 
figures engraved upon them, believed in as indisputable 
truths during the times of the Lower Empire and of the 
IVIiddle Ages, may be fitly concluded by the following curious 
account of a mode of ascertaining the future by means of a 
ring, a species of divination called Dactyliomancy. It is the 
confession under torture of Hilarius and Patricius, accused 
of conspiring to raise to the Empire a certain Gaul, Theodonis, 
in the reign of Valens, a.d. 371. 

" We constructed, illustrious judges, this ill-omened little 
table which you see before you, out of twigs of bay tree, 
under direful auspices, after the pattern of the Delphic 
tripod. And after it had been consecrated according to the 
rites prescribed, by the repetition of mystic verses over it, 
and by many and tedious ceremonies, at last we put it in 
motion. Now the method of using it whenever it was con- 
sulted on matters of secrecy, was the following: It was 
placed in the middle of the house (which had been previously 
purified by burning Arabian incense in all parts), with a 
round dish placed purely upon it, which was composed of 
various metals combined together : on the outer edge of the 
rim of this dish the twenty-four letters of the alphabet were 
skilfully engraved, at equal distances from each other. Then 
one of us clotlu-d in a linen garment, with linen slippers on 
his feet, a fillet round his head, and a branch of a fruit tree 
in his hand, stood over this tripod according to the mystic 
science, having first propitiated by the proper form of in- 
cantation the deity that is the author of the knowledge of 


the future ; while he balanced over the tripod a ring tied 
to a very fine thread of Carpathian flax, and consecrated by 
magical ceremonies. This ring, striking in its vibrations at 
regular intervals against the single letters that attracted it, 
formed heroic verses, in answer to our questions, composed 
perfectly as to metre and numbers, such as the Pythian 
oracles we read of or the responses given at Branchidse. 
Thereupon, just as we were enquiring who should succeed 
the present emperor ; inasmuch as the answer returned was 
that he would be a prince in every respect perfect, and also 
as the ring while swinging to and fro had touched the two 
syllables e e o, with the final addition of another letter ; one 
of those present exclaimed that Theodoras was meant by the 
inevitable appointment of Destiny. Nor was the inquiry on 
the subject any further pursued, we all being quite satisfied that 
he was the man about whom we were consulting the oracle. 

" When he had thus distinctly laid the account of the whole 
affair before the eyes as it were of the judges, he added out 
of consideration for him that Theodorus was entirely ignorant 
of the matter. After which, being asked whether they had 
learnt beforeliand from the oracle which they had employed 
the fate that awaited themselves, they disclosed those well 
known verses clearly announcing that this enterprise of 
prying into things too high for them would be fatal to the 
inquirers, and that speedily : but yet that the Furies demand- 
ing fire and slaughter, threatened also the emperor and their 
judges ; of which it will suffice to quote the three last verses : 

' Not unaveng'd, seer, thy blood shall flow% 
Tisiphone prepares the fatal blow 
For thy fell judges ; all on Mnnas' plain 
A'ila Kar ! by fire devouring slain.' 

Having repeated which, they were cruelly torturod with the 
pincers, and then carried off in a fainting condition." 

Skot. IV. THE TOAD-STONE. 4fi3 

It may be observed here that the mysterious words '* Aila 
Kar " are either Sclavonic a language often appearing in 
the oracles of Byzantine date (see that given by Procopius as 
predicting the death of Mundus and his son) or else they 
may contain the Greek numerals giving the date of the event 
foretold. This took place a.d. 378, for Valens having been 
wounded by an arrow in a battle with the Goths, was carried 
by his officers into a cottage near tlie field, the door of which 
the enemy not being able to force piled straw against the 
building and consumed it, with all who were inside. 

Tliis mode of divination is now degraded to the humble 
office of ascertaining the time of day : a wedding ring, or a 
coin suspended from a thread passing over the ball of the 
tliumb, and held within a glass tumbler, the hand being sup- 
ported steadily about a foot above it, soon begins to vibrate 
from the action of the pulse, and the strokes against the in- 
side of the glass will be equal in number to the nearest hour, 
whether past or coming. I have myself tried this experi- 
ment, and often fomid it to succeed in a most extraordiuaiy 


A notion prevailed, botli in tlie Middle Ages and down to 
a reccMit period, that 

" tho toad, ugly and venomous, 
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head." 

Camillo Leonardo describes tlie stone under the names of 
l)(jrax, Nosa, and Crapondinus, and as being found in the 
brain of a toad lu nvly killed. He says that there are two 
kinds, the whiti^ which is the best, and the dark of a bluish 
tinge, with the figure of an eye upon it : and if swallowed, 
it is a suro autidott* against poison, in its passage through the 


bowels driving out all noxious matters before it. It was also 
good for complaints of the stomach and kidneys, even when 
merely worn set in a ring. Vossius De Physiologia Christiana, 
VI., 19, asserts of it that the Bufonites or Toad-stone is 
accustomed to be taken in drink before meals to baffle the 
effect of poison. It is said to burn the skin of the finger at 
the very presence of poison, if worn in an open setting in 
a ring. Chinese porcelain at this period (the time of its 
first introduction into Europe), was believed to fly to pieces 
if a poisoned liquid were put into it. Erasmus in his 
' Peregrinatio Religionis ergo,' thus describes a famous Toad- 
stone placed at the feet of the statue of Our Ladye of Walsing- 
ham. "At the feet of the Virgin is a gem to which no 
name has yet been given amongst the Greeks or Eomans, 
but the French have styled it after the toad, inasmuch as it 
represents the figure of a toad so exactly, that no art of man 
could do as well. And the wonder is so much the greater, 
that the stone is very small : the figm'e of the toad does not 
project from the surface, but shines through as if inclosed in 
the gem itself. And some, no mean authorities, add that 
this kind of gem being put into vinegar the toad will swim in 
it and move its legs." ^ 

Some of these Toad-stones, set in their original rings, are 
still preserved, but the gem appears at present to be nothing 
more than a common black pebble. I am not aware if any 
substance of a stony nature is ever now discovered within the 
head or body of the toad. Probably the whole story origi- 
nated in the name Batrachites (Frog-stone as well as Toad- 
stone), given in Pliny to a gem brought from Coptos, and so 
called from its resemblance to that animal in colour. Of 
this there was also an ebony, and a reddish-black variety. 

* This was probably a lump of amber inclosing some large insect. 


Pliny, however, says nothing of its being found inside the 
toad, nor does he mention its medicinal virtues ; but the 
name alone was sufficient to induce the fertile imagination of 
the mediasval doctors to invent all the other particulars. 
He does indeed specify several gems as being found inside 
various animals: such as the Bronte in the head of the 
tortoise, and supposed to have the property of extinguishing 
fires caused by liglitning ; the Cinaedia in the head of the 
fish so-called, a transparent stone, which by its change from 
a clear to a turbid colour foresliewed a coming storm at sea 
(a useful marine barometer) ; the Chelonites of a grass 
green colour, and found in a swallow's belly, which being 
set in an iron ring possessed wonderful power in magic ; the 
Draconites, a brilliant white gem, wliich must be cut out of 
the head of the serpent when alive, otherwise it loses its 
lustre, for which reason the Indians strewed the ground with 
an opiate, in order to catch the dragon asleep and so safely 
extract the prize ',* the Hya3nia existing within the eye of the 
hyaGua, and which placed under the tongue conferred the 
gift of prophecy ; and lastly, the Saurites procured from the 
bowels of a green lizard, dissected by a knife made of a 
sharp reed. The Scorpius and the Echites (Viper-stone) are 
praised as antidotes by Orpheus : 

* I'liilost. III. 8. " Those drajions iiirai him as he Vws, cut oft" his head 

are taken thus : havin-^ woven letters witli their axes, and make prize of 

of <io\d into a sc^irlet rohe, tliey lay the <j;ems within it, for in tlie heads of 

it iK'fore the den ; but first of all these mountain-dra<?ons are secreted 

mai^ically infuse a soi^rific ix>wer gems bright-coloured to tlie eye and 

into these letters ]>y which the dragon reflecting all kinds of hues, of virtue 

has his eyes overcome, having no moreover indescriliable like the 

jKiwer to turn them away. They famous ring of Gyges. Often too 

also sing over him many charms of dcx's the dragon seize the Indian, 

their mystic art, by which he is axe, charm, and all, and escape with 

drawn forth, and jmtting his neck him into his den ; all but making 

out of his den falls asleep upon the the mountain tremble." 
letters. Then the Indians falling 

2 H 


" Named from the Scorpion fell, the potent stone 
To huge Orion was, I ween, unknown ; 
Else had he, tortured by the fiery pain, 
Given all his stars the remedy to gain." 

Favourite RacthorRf^, Syodu.^. .Tacioth. 


Books treating upon antique gems, either generally or else 
of particular examples, are very numerous in Italian and 
German. A few also exist in French, but none that I am 
acquainted with in the English language, with the exception 
of a series of articles headed " Old Rings," which appeared 
in 'Eraser's Magazine' for 1856, in which the subject of 
the rings themselves was most amply and learnedly dis- 
cussed, and then followed a series of excellent disquisitions 
upon the several species of gems known to the ancients. The 
design is cleverly carried out, and gives a vast amount of 
information in a very entertaining style. It would be a great 
service to English collectors if these papers were republished 
in a separate form^ to supply in some measure the total 
deficiency of English works upon this subject a want which 
I have endeavoured to meet in some degree in the foregoing 
pages. I subjoin a few remarks on the treatises in different 
languages which I have myself perused, and of which I have 
availed myself in tlie compilation of this work : 


1. The * Apistopistus ' of Macarius (Canon L'Heureux), 
with Appendix by Chiflet, 1610; an excellent and rational 
work for so early a period, treating exclusively of Gnostic 
gems, with a profusion of admirably engraved plates of the 
intagli. It contains everything that can be discovered in 
ancient writers relative to this mysterious subject, and is 
much more intelligible than Matter's ' Histoire Critique du 
Gnosticisme,' which treats upon the same class of representa- 
tions, although he appears to have borrowed largely from 
Macarius. The plates of the intagli are very correct, and 
though so early may be reckoned among the best of the kind, 
having been drawn from the originals by Jacques Werde, a 
military engineer and a clever draughtsman, with a taste for 
antique art. 

2. Mariette's * Pierres Gravees ' is a description of the best 
gems in the French Collection. The Introduction contains a 
large amount of useful information with respect to gems and 
tlie processes of the glyptic art, together with a clear and 
complete summary of all that is known about the most emi- 
nent gem-engravers of all countries who have flourished since 
the Ilevival. Mariette, however, does not appear to have 
possessed much practical acquaintance with gems themselves, 
and often makes many assertions that cannot be substan- 
tiated ; but in spite of this defect, his book is the best manual 
that I have met with. Another recommendation of the book 
is the groat number of plates of gems contained in it, which 
however are too much in the loose and flowing style of the 
last century (published 1750) to give a very accurate idea of 
the originals. 

3. Winckelmann's ' Catalogue of Stosch's Gems ' is doubt- 
less the best work on the subject ever written, as far as the 
plan allows ; for in addition to a most learned and interesting 
elucidation of the subjects of the intagli, he incidentally gives 

2 H 2 

468 MYSTIC VIRTUES. Skct. 1Y. 

much information relative to the science itself, so that the 
work is not a dry catalogue, but rather a series of disser- 
tations on matters relating to art, history, and antiquities. 
It is of the utmost value to the collector of gems, in 
consequence of its containing so extensive a series of sub- 
jects, Stosch having admitted into his collection not merely 
antique pastes, but also modern ones of all the celebrated 
intagli existing in other cabinets, to make his list of repre- 
sentations as complete as possible. Hence any uncommon 
design that may occur on a gem will be likely to find 
an explanation in Winckelmann's description of something- 
analogous amongst the endless varieties brought together 
by Stosch. 

4. Mawe 'On the Diamond' gives brief but very clear 
descriptions of the various kinds of precious stones in use at 
the present day.^ 

5. Caylus' ' Eecueil d'Antiquites ' is valuable for the nume- 
rous engravings it gives of antique rings in all metals, 
very accurately represented by the pencil of that enthusi- 
astic antiquary himself. But the camei and intagli, of which 
he presents many plates, are somewhat rouglily executed, 
and his explanations of them often erroneous ; but yet, from 
the great variety of subjects described, they are still of con- 
siderable value. Many of his drawings of gems are of great 
interest, as representing stones still preserved at the time he 
was writing (1758) on the old plate and jewellery of the 
sacristy of Troyes Cathedral. 

6. Lessing's ' Antiquarische Briefe ' contain a series of dis- 
quisitions on various branches of the glyptic art, full of in- 

* A very unpretending old - fa- the best popular description of stones 
shioned book, Binglej^'s 'Useful and minerals of any that have ever 
Knowledge,' gives in its third volume come in my way. 


formation conveyed in a most amusing and piquant style, in 
the form of criticisms on a work on gems published by an 
unlucky pretender, Dr. Klotz, whose ignorance he playfully 
exposes, displaying at the same time his own knowledge. 
More may be learnt from tliese letters, by the student of 
this science, than from any author I have met with, 
always excepting Winckelmann, who however deals more 
with the subjects of the gems, whilst Lessing treats more 
of the technical portion of the art, so that the two com- 
bined form a complete manual for the amateur. As might 
be expected in a German author, Lessing displays now and 
then some very odd crotchets, apparently recommended to 
him by their very absurdity, as for instance when he de- 
rives the name Cameo from gemma onychina, and a few 
similar flights of imagination. 

7. The ' Catalogue des Artistes de I'Antiquitj,' by the 
Count de Clarac (1848), contains, in the Introduction, a very 
good sketch of the history of the art, as well as useful re- 
marks upon the mechanical processes employed in it. His list 
of artists' names is of great value, as he gives a minute de- 
scription of the gems bearing their signatures, and specifies 
tlie collections in wliich they at present exist, thus supplying 
a safeguard against copies. 

8. Kaspe, ' Catalogue des Imprcintes des Pierres Gravces.' 
After Stosch's death in 1757, Tassio, a London gem-engraver, 
obtained all his sulphur casts, and from these made sets of glass 
pastes. These are in truth very i)oor, both in colour and iu 
finish, and bear but little resemblance to real stones. The 
total number of antique and modern amounts to 15,833. They 
are catalogued and described by Kaspe, whose remarks are 
usually very sound and of great utility to a collector; and the 
anangenient of his matter is very convenient for reference. 
The [thites are however so badly executed and incorrect, 



Sect. IV. 

being taken from the pastes and not from the original, as to 
be entirely useless.^ 

9. Millin * Sur I'Etude des Pierres Gravees ' is little more 
than the skeleton of a manual, very well planned, but not car- 
ried out in any single department, having evidently been 
composed in great haste. The object of the present Treatise 
has been to supply flesh to the bones of Millin's skeleton, the 
outline of which I have in great measure kept in view in the 
arrangement of the preceding articles. 

The two last volumes of the 
Museum Florentinum, by the Ab- 
bate Gori, give very faithful engrav- 
ings of all the most important gems 
contained in the Collection pre- 

served in the gallery of the Uffizi ; 
and therefore will be found of the 
greatest service to the collector in 
identifying the subjects of obscure 

comu fuiicbat Somnus inaui. 

Eeaib, iu a ilounineut : Cameo. Onyx. 


Instruments of the ancient Engravers, p. 107. 

In' the attempts to engrave figures upon stones to be 
used as seals we may conclude from the common analog;y' of such 
processes that the tools first employed were the splinters of flint 
or Obsidian of which all their other cutting implements were 
formed, and which continued, long after the use of metal had 
become general, to furnish the cheaper and easilj'-lost class of 
articles, such as arrow-heads, &c. The words of Herodotus de- 
scribing those of the Ethiopians in Xerxes' aiTuy are, " arrows 
headed with a stone brought to a point, the same sort by means 
ot which they engiave their seals." Now, inasmuch as every art 
known to this barbarous people must have been introduced 
among them from their neighbours the Eg}-ptians, and all 
remains both small and great in Ethiojua plainly discover an 
Egyptian origin, their signets, likewise, could hardly have 
diil'ered from those of their instructors in all the arts, as innu- 
merable specimens sufliciently prove. Hence we may conclude 
that all the scarabs so plentiful in Steaschists, Syenite, and other 
soft stones, weie worked out by means of flint-flakes fashioned 
into rude graving tools and mounted in handles, as the diamond- 
splinters subsequently were. In addition to this instrument the 
softness of the stones worked upon would allow the engravings 
to be executed by means of a narrow bronze chisel, which an 
examination of the cutting of the intaglio will often indicate as 
tlie sole tool employed, the lines and hollows having evidently 


been scooped out by some such tool, not scratched into the stone 
by the fine edge of a flint-flake. The same observation applies 
equally to the first essays of the Assyrians in this line, for the 
cylinders assigned to the earliest times of that monarchy are 
almost invariably made out of green Serpentine, a stone readily 
worked by a metal chisel. In addition to this, the engravings 
upon them are though the outline is often correct and spirited 
enough ragged and deeply cut, and evidently chiselled into 
the mass by a cutting tool of metal ; neither being scraped out 
by a sharp point, nor ground out by attrition with a hard powder, 
processes of which iinmistakeable traces remain in all intagli 
executed by the more recent methods, hereafter to be discussed. 
The discovery of these improved processes must with certainty 
be assigned to the Assyrian engi-avers of the age of Sargon (b.c. 
729), or a little earlier ; for, besides the numerous specimens 
extant of designs in the taste of this period cut on cylinders of 
Crystal, Agate, and Onyx, that in Amazon-stone ascribed, with 
much probability, to Sennacherib himself shows that the 
mechanical part of the art had been already perfected, which 
supposes the practice of many years ; for the execution of this 
intaglio would stand a comparison with any gem in the similar 
taste of the archaic Greek school. Now it is certain that no 
Egyptian scarabs in " hard stones " are of anythmg like this 
antiquity, for all such discovered amongst Assyrian remains 
numerous though they were (as at Arban) are all of the soft 
stones already mentioned. The very royal signet of Sabaco is 
shown by its impression upon the same seal as that of Senna- 
cherib to have been in metal (gold no doubt), like the famous 
one of the Meyer Collection ; whilst that of the Assyrian king's 
was evidently from a well-cut intaglio in hard stone. Theophras- 
tus (On Stones, chap. 44) states that the best sort of the stone 
used by the Greeks for gem-engraving came from Armenia. The 
Armenian mountains supplied the Assyrians with their building- 
stones, metals, and gems, and at the same time, no doubt, with the 
means of working upon the latter ; and probably a happy accident 
soon revealed to some observant eye amongst the numerous signet- 
makers of Nineveh the property of the emery-stone to bite into 
the very hardest gems then known to them. From Nineveh to 

App. instruments of the ancient engravers. 473 

Babylon the transition of the discovery was rapid, and thence, 
through the Phenicians, it became diffused throughout Asia 

All the operations hitherto considered were effected upon the 
surface of the intended signet by a scratching out or filing into 
the substance the scalptura of the Roman writers. The exact 
mode of applying the piece of emery has, unluckily, not been 
handed down to us by any author. Theophrastus, in the chapter 
just quoted, says, "And again, the stone with which they 
engrave signet-stones is the same as that of which whetstones 
are made, or similar to it, and the best is brought from Armenia." 
This very chapter (44), in which he had given some details as to 
the process, is unhappily one of the most defective in his trea- 
tise ; but he appears to express his surprise that the material in 
question was capable of being split up and shaped by a steel 
tool and yet could bite on a gem that steel would not touch. 
I'liny (xxxvi. 10) has, " For polishing marble statues, and even 
for engraving and filing down gems, the Naxium (emery) long 
held the first rank : thus are termed the whetstones (cotes) pro- 
duced in the isle of Cyprus. Afterwai'ds those brought from 
Armenia bore away the palm." Again (chap. 47), when enume- 
rating the whetstones used for steel tools, he mentions the Naxian 
as the most in repxite of those used with water, until afterwards 
surpassed by the Armenian. Again (in xviii. 67, 5) he speaks 
of these water- whetstones acting upon the scythe-blade after the 
manner of a file. Dioscorides, writing in the first century, says, 
the " Smyris is a stone with which gem-engiavers polish their 
gems." He also speaks of " the substance rubbed off a Xaxian 
whetstone from tlie steel shai-pened against it" (v. 105, 107) ; all 
showing the use of a piece of emery to sharpen steel tools. All 
these expressions demonstrate that the emery still the chief 
export of Xaxos was employed in gem-cutting not merely in 
powdei", as at present, applied to the point of a drill but in a 
solid piece, shaped into a convenient form, and working after tlie 
nuinner of a file upon the gem. Another reason this for tlie 
ancient preference for highly convex ring-stones, a foim to which 
anything in the shape of a file could be much more conveniently 
applied than to a plane surface. The use of the diamond has 


already been discussed (p. 105). It could not, however, have 
been known until late in the Greek period, when the trade with 
India had been opened, and no traces of it are to be discovered 
on the intagli now under our consideration. Thus far notice has 
only been taken of the means of gem-engi-aving consisting in 
cutting or scratching instruments ; but another invention, much 
more expeditious in its operations, remains to be considered the 
drill, the terebarum fervor- of Pliny, and the drepano of the Quattro- 
Cento engravers. The use of the drill in its primitive form vasiy 
be detected in those earliest implements of mankind, the stone 
axes and hammers, to be seen in all collections of Celtic antiqui- 
ties ; that is to say, in those of the improved type, bored through 
with a hole for a handle. This hole must have been made by 
turning rapidly and continuously a stick upon the same spot, 
constantly supplied with sharp sand and water. This rude in- 
strument may also have been turned by means of a bow, a con- 
trivance which would easily suggest itself to the mind of any 
ingenious savage, as calculated to produce a much more rapid, 
as well as more steady, motion of the stick, besides saving the 
vast labour and time wasted in keeping it revolving by the un 
aided hand alone. The form of these orifices plainly indicates 
the means by which they were sunk, the openings being much 
wider on each side than in the centre, owing to the unsteady 
action of the primitive drill. This powerful agent once obtained, 
improvements upon it were easy ; and by substituting a bronze 
wire and emeiy powder for the stick and sand the Assyrian 
gained a.t once an implement capable of piercing speedily the 
hardest of the gems with which he had to do. Another proof 
that the use of emery for this purpose was the discovery of the 
Assyrian engravers may be found in the name by which it was 
known to the Greeks, their smyris being merely the Chaldean 
smir slightly modified.' Though the early Assyrians made but 
little use of the drill in sinking the intagli on the outside of 
their cylinders, yet the holes passing through their length, as 
well as those through the sides of their conical seals, show by 
their accuracy the expertness already attained by the workmen 

' Hence our emery, from emeril, esmeril, smeriglio. 


in the use of this implement. In the cylinders, indeed, the per- 
forations are of considerable size to admit the soft and thick cord 
that tied them round the wrist, but the holes through the seals 
are often fine as a thread, and drilled with an evenness that it 
would puzzle the best German lapidary to equal. The same may 
be said of the holes traversing the Etruscan scarabs, usually very 
accurately and truly bored. As before observed, the intagli also 
upon these scarabs are entirely sunk by means of a blunt drill 
ending in a hemispherical point. The hollows made by this 
button sunk to various depths, and brought into contact or over- 
laying each other, produce the rude figures of men and animals 
that adoiTi fully three-fourths of the scarabs termed Etmscan ; 
and but rarely in this class is the outline assisted by the use of 
the diamond-point or any sxich scratching instrument. 

As regards the action of the drill, the metal point does not 
immediately come in contact with the gem, but serves as a ve- 
hicle in which the excessively hard particles of the emery imbed 
themselves, and thus present a perpetually renewed cutting sur- 
face to the stone on which it is brought to bear. This is the 
meaning of Pliny in saying that "some stones cannot be cut at 
all by steel, others only by a blunt steel tool (though all can by 
the diamond) ; in the latter, however, the rapid revolution of the 
drill is of the greatest efficacy" (xxxvi. 7G). The Phenicians 
learnt the art from their Assyrian masters, and soon diffused it, 
with its processes, through all the regions where they had 
colonies. This nation, placed midway between the two great 
foci of civilization, and in constant communication with each, 
lost no time in adopting every discovery amongst either people 
that recommended itself to their taste, and thiis we find them 
adopting the form of the scarab from the Egyptians, but the 
hard stones to cut them in from the Assyrians, together with the 
jsiiperior style of intaglio which the newly-discovered method 
liad enabled the latter to produce. Hence was communicated 
both the form of the signet and the means of engraving it to the 
Etruscans, unless we suppose which is more probable that 
tlie pic'dominant caste introduced these, with other arts, from 
Asia Minor wlicu Ihcy first settled as colonists in Centml Italy. 
These drill-woiked intagli must have been finished oft' with the 


utmost rapidity, to judge from the thousands now extant ; yet 
how small a portion these of what still remains beneath the soil 
entombing the cities of their ancient wearers. The designs 
were added upon the bases of the scarabs often, it would appear, 
as mere ornaments, and not for signets, for the scarabs strung on 
necklaces are equally adorned with engravings as those set in 
swivel finger-rings. 

Dagon : Ptienician Scarab, Green Jaspei'. 

Sassanian Alphabet, p. 141. 

The earliest form of this alphabet is met with on the coins of 
the Arsacidse whenever the Greek language is not used for the 
legends and had currency in but two localities, the region 
around Persepolis, where it forms the original text and occupies 
the post of honour in the explanatory inscriptions cut upon the 
numerous rock-sculptures there ; and, secondly, about Shahrzor, 
in the bilingual inscriptions upon the fire-temples. Thus it 
appears to have been current under the Pai'thian empire through- 
out the provinces of Kurdistan, Khuzistan, and Fars (Persia 
Proper), and to have had a Mesopotamian or Babylonian source, 
and thus a common origin with the modern Hebrew, from which 
it only differs in a few forms (see Thomas, Num. Chron. xii. 93). 
This alphabet is usually termed the Parthian, but can claim no 
special Parthian attribution, any more than the Bactrian Pali on 
their contemporaneous Indian currencies or the Greek on their 
Asiatic. It is also termed Fersepolitan, but ought more justly to 
be called Chaldee the designation bestowed upon the identically 
same character, the square Hebrew. The only Sassanian king 
who uses this character on his coins is Ardeschir I,, of whom a 
very clearly- struck silver piece is figured in the Xum. Chron. 
XV. 180. Of gems bearing inscriptions in this early letter I have 
only met with a single example an Amethyst of middling size 

App. SASSANIAN alphabet. 477 

where it encircles a king's head with flowing hair and long 
beard a portrait of the customary Arsacid type but the name 
as yet iindeciphered. The extreme rarity of gems of this 
dynasty has been already noted. Another example, however, I 
have lately discovered among the Ilerz intagli a Sard with 
a regal portrait, but of the rudest work. 

The second form of alphabet is found holding the inferior 
place in the inscriptions of Nakshi-Eoustan ; and is exclusively 
adopted on the coinage of Sapor I. and his successors for some 
centuries. This is the character also by far the most common 
upon the gems. Thus it is used on the famous Devonshire 
Amethyst of Sapor I., as well as upon a Sard of nearly equal 
size and merit, a bust of Hormisdas, now in the possession of 
Mr. Boocke. 

The third and latest form of the Pehlevi alphabet is the parent 
of the old Syriac, and of its modification the Cuphic. As the 
latter took its name from the fact of its having been adopted by 
the transcribers of the Koran at Cupha in Mesopotamia it is a 
natural inference that it was the usual cursive writing of the age 
and country, and adopted by the Arabian conquerors, who, up 
to that time had possessed no literature or alphabet of their own. 
So slight is the ditference between the letters used on the coin- 
age of the last Sassanian kings and that of the fi.rst caliphs, who 
continued the old types for some years after the conquest, that 
Longperier reads the names of Sarparaz, Pouran, and Zemi, in 
the ver}' t-ame legends explained by Thomas as giving those of 
Omar, Farkhan, and Hani, in the usual Cuphic character. 

This third alphabet is a modification of the second, produced 
by running the letters into each other, after the modern Oriental 
fashion, and appears on the coins of Chosroes and his successors. 
Cnnns with legends in this letter are common enough ; and in all 
that have fallen in my way I have obsei"ved that the insci'iptions 
round the royal portrait all begin with the characters for AP, 
iisuully read as Apad, or Afzud, the " Most Tligh," a title first 
assumed on his medals by Chosroes T. 

From the discoveries made in the topes of Cabul it is ascer- 
tained that, concurrently with the usual Sassanian coinage, 
another was issued in or for the Indian provinces of their em- 

478 BERYT.. COl.DORfi. IRON RINGS. App. 

pire, with its legends in the Bactrian Pali letter, but of this no 
traces, to my knowledge, have ever been observed upon the 
seals bearing the heads of these sovereigns. 

Beryl, p. 38. 

An antique paste of this Taras is described by Winckelmann, 
who was unacquainted with the gem itself, then in the Praun 
Collection. One of the rare instances this of the preservation of 
the original and of its ancient copy. 

Coldore, p. 268. 

I have seen this summer (1860) a bust of Henri IV. by this 
artist ; a three-quarter face intaglio on a large octagonal pale 
Sapphire. On the section of the shoulder is the usual signature, 
C. D. F. The likeness is admirable, and full of spirit ; the 
execution perfect ; and the intaglio highly polished within. 
Taking into account the quality of the stone and the excellence 
of the work this gem may be ranked amongst the finest of the 

Iron Mings, p. 284. 

Iron rings were long worn by the Romans "ut virtutis bel- 
licte insigne." Pliny (xxxiii. 4), after stating that the use of 
gold rings was first brought into Italy from Greece, expresses 
his surprise that the statue of Tarquinius Prisons should be 
represented without this ornament, seeing that his father Dema- 
ratus was a Corinthian. But it may be observed, that if the tra- 
dition be true that Demaratus was banished from Corinth by 
Cypselus, B.C. 660, there is good reason to suppose that finger- 
lings were as yet unknown in that city.* For many ages, how- 
ever, not even the Eoman senators wore gold rings in private 

~ Lessing boldly asserts that they were not used in Greece before the times of the 
Pelopoiinesian War : but this is merely to support a paradox. 

A pp. IRON RINGS. 479 

life ; they were given by the Treasury to such as were de- 
spatched as ambassadors to foreign nations, as a mark of distinc- 
tion, nor could any others wear them except those thus commis- 
sioned by the State ; and even these only put them on in public ; 
at home they continued to wear their old signet-rings of iron. 
Even when they rode in triumph they were not permitted to 
assume this, it would seem, exclusive privilege of an ambassador, 
but, like Marius, had on their finger a ring of iron, just as the 
attendant slave. This general never wore a gold one until his 
third consulship having probably sei-ved the office of ambas- 
sador in the mean time. As a relic of ancient usages the bride's 
betrothal-ring, in Pliny's time, was of iron and without a stone. 
One such has come under my notice, found at Eome. Its head 
was formed as two clasped hands, the whole strongly plated 
with gold, and its antiquity bej'ond suspicion. The ancient 
Latin name for a ring was ungulus, a diminutive of unguis ; 
perhaps because its bizzel covers the third joint of the finger in 
the same way as the nail covers the first. 

It has been already remarked that the earliest gold rings are 
invariably of thin and hollow metal. Amongst the numerous 
restrictions laid upon the Flamen Dialis, Fabius Pictor (quoted 
by A. Gcllius, x. 15) states, "item annulo uti nisi pervio cas- 
soquo fas non est " he must not wear a ring that has not a 
hollow shank cassus properly signifying a hollow shell, like 
that of a rotten nut. 

The jewellers of the Cinque-Cento have lavished as much taste 
and labour upon the chasing and carving of rings in steel and 
bronze as upon those in the preciotis metals. It may be that the 
very worthlessncss of the material has saved these from the 
melting-pot, to which the changes of fashion have remorselessly 
consigned the most exquisite specimens of those possessing any 
intrinsic value. Certain it is that many