Ring

450 BC-300 BC (made)

Unknown

Height: 2.3 cm, Width: 2.2 cm, Depth: 0.9 cm

8777-1863 MET

Gold hoop with a revolving onyx scarab, decorated on the reverse with a seated male figure, the shoulders of the hoop chased to imitate wire, Italy, Etruscan, about 450-300 BC.

Gold hoop with a revolving onyx scarab, decorated on the reverse with a seated male figure. The shoulders of the hoop are chased to imitate wire.

The earliest known finger rings are about 6000 years old and come from the near East. They evolved from a cylinder seal attached to a hoop of precious metal surrounding the finger. Later the Egyptians used a magical scarab beetle, in stone or imitation stone, with an engraved seal on its base. This was adopted by the Etruscans and Phoenicians, and from it developed the signet ring as a guarantee of authenticity or ownership. The scarab on this ring is beatifully engraved with an intaglio of a seated man. It was probably intended to be used as a seal. The scarab beetle was thought to be an incarnation of Khepri, an Egyptian sun god associated with resurrection. Because the beetle lays its eggs in a ball of dung and pushes it around, the Egyptians used it as an image and metaphor for the passage of the sun across the sky. The young scarab beetles hatch out of the ball of dung (equivalent to the sun), which emphasizes the concept of new life and rebirth through the sun.

ex Webb Collection

Location: Jewellery, room 91, case 4, shelf A, box 7

View this object on the V&A website