Ancient Roman Gold Ring with Amethyst Intaglio of a Gryllos


A fine ancient Roman gold ring featuring a D-section hoop with slightly expanding, angular shoulders. The rounded bezel is set with a bright purple amethyst, finely carved with a the image of three-faced gryllos. The intaglio sees a male youth, perhaps Dionysus, facing left and downwards as its main subject. He is complimented by two additional faces: a bald bearded man facing right, and a clean-shaven head above, which form the youth helmet or Phrygian cap, creating an overall complex composition.

Closest UK ring size: D 1/2.

Date: Circa 1st – 3rd Century AD
Provenance: From a collection of ancient rings, 1980s.
Condition: Fine condition. Minor abrasions on the gold consistent with age.

In stock

SKU: MG-342 Category: Tags: , ,

The term intaglio refers to a small image that has been engraved into a gemstone and usually set in a piece of jewellery, most commonly a ring. Such artistic form has its origin in Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, with the appearance of cylinder and stamp seals, whereby decorations and patterns were engraved into soft stones. During the Hellenistic period and the early Roman Empire, the art of intaglio reached its apogee, with there being a steady decline in craftsmanship in the late Imperial Rome, until a revival of interest with the Byzantine and during the Renaissance.

The subject used for intaglios are diverse, with depictions of deities and mythical creatures being a favourite theme. Combinations of human heads and animal parts are known as grylloi (γρύλλοι). While being an amusing and favoured decorative motif, grylloi served apotropaic functions to ward off the evils. As explained by Plutarch in the Quaestiones Convivales, they had the ability to “attract the evil eye and thus lessens its force against its victims”.

To find out more about intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post: Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome.

Weight 3.89 g
Dimensions L 1.8 x H 1.9 cm



Semi-Precious Stones

Reference: For a similar intaglio, please see National Museum Wales, item 81.79H/4.70

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