Ancient Roman Silver Ring with Carnelian Intaglio of Mercury


An Ancient Roman silver finger ring featuring a round section hoop with bulging expanding shoulders. The large oval bezel is set with a carnelian stone carved with the bust of Mercury facing left. The god is recognisable by his typical attributes: the petasos (πέτασος), a winged hat which he wears on his head, and the caduceus, which lays slightly slanted in the field behind the god.

Closest UK ring size: N.

Date: Circa 1st Century BC - 3rd Century AD
Condition: Good condition, some scratches and signs of ageing to the silver surface. Earthy encrustations remain around the intaglio stone.


SKU: MG-194 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 being a favourite theme. Mercury, Mercurius in Latin, was a major component of the Ancient Roman pantheon. Commonly identified with the Ancient Greek god Hermes, his cult has a long tradition, with the earliest evidences of his name found on Linear B tables dating to the 15th – 13th century BC. As messenger and herald, Mercury/Hermes features in several mythological episodes, such as the killing of Argos. His representations in Roman art derive from the Greek tradition, maintaining Hermes’ attributes such as the winged sandals (talaria) and hat (petasos).

To find out more about intaglios and Roman gods, please visit our relevant blog posts: Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome and Roman Gods in Mythology.

Weight 16.75 g
Dimensions W 2.7 cm



Semi-Precious Stones

Roman Mythology

Reference: For a similar item, please see The British Museum, item 2009,8016.1