Roman, Imperial, ca. 1st to 4th century CE. An exceptional gold earring presenting with a beautifully carved sardonyx cameo framed by an 80.6% gold (equivalent to about 19K) border and a dangling hollow 83% gold (equivalent to about 20K) teardrop-shaped ornament. Fixed with a slender golden wire forming a loop in the back to suspend the teardrop adornment, the elegant cameo bears the head of a deity or personage with close set eyes, a flat nose, and a petite mouth surrounded by a curly main of hair or, possibly, snakes, suggesting that this visage may belong to Medusa. Gold quality of cameo border: 80.6% gold, 12.5% silver, 2.45% copper (equivalent to 18K+); gold quality of teardrop: 83% gold, 13.6% silver, 2.5% copper (equivalent to 18K+). Size of cameo: 0.375" W x 0.5" H (1 cm x 1.3 cm); Size of full earring: 0.375" L x 0.375" W x 1" H (1 cm x 1 cm x 2.5 cm); Weight: 1.5 grams.
Ancient Roman cameos traditionally were made of a dark stone that possessed bands or layers of white throughout the composition, such as sardonyx. The layered sardonyx stone was then skillfully carved so that the figures stood out in white relief against the black or brown part of the stone. Cameos were immensely popular in ancient Rome, typically used to commemorate a deity or personage.
Provenance: ex-Estate of Eldert Bontekoe, Pegasi Numismatics, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, acquired before 2000
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Slight dent and aperture to back of teardrop, as well as minute dent to bottom front of teardrop. Earring hook missing. Light softening to cameo, but form still very clear. Otherwise, excellent.