I made this for my beloved friend Skamp. He’s well known far and wide in the kingdom for his ceaseless efforts for social justice, his leadership during Covid quarantine, and his hysterical bardic skills. I wanted to make a sturdy piece appropriate for his burly self, and he wanted lapis. His persona is Decimus Felix, a Roman soldier stationed in Britain in the 1st century CE.
THE INSPIRATION PIECES:
- British Museum number 1850,0601.9
Gold finger-ring with plain hoop and raised gem-set bezel, with four large gold beads at the shoulders (Henig Type IV). The raised bezel is set with a dark blue nicolo (quartz) with flat table and bevelled sides. The gem is engraved with a stylised image of a trussed chicken. The quality of the engraving is mediocre, and there is some wear on the gold. Romano-British, 1stC-2ndC. Excavated/Findspot: Backworth Hoard.
2. British Museum number 1850,0601.8
Gold finger-ring with plain hoop and raised gem-set bezel, with four large gold beads at the shoulders (Henig Type IV). The setting is an oval, dark blue nicolo (quartz), with a flat table and bevelled sides, engraved with two ears of corn. The gold shows considerable wear, with dents and scratches. Romano-British, 1stC-2ndC. Excavated/Findspot: Backworth Hoard.
3. British Museum number 1853,0419.81
Copper alloy finger-ring, setting missing. Circular hoop of circular cross section. Circular box setting for a setting (now missing) with arcading. Two pairs of globes decorate each shoulder. Romano-British. Findspot: Farley Heath
Although gold is the metal of choice for jewelry in this period, its current cost of $1700/oz made that impossible. Silver was used more for tableware, but we do see silver jewelry here and there. Skamp requested lapis, and I sourced a pretty cabochon the right size.
The first time I made this ring, I started with the stone in a horizontal position like ring #3 above. I thought it would be more masculine-looking. Unfortunately, after making it I realized it was too wonky. The top was too wide, creating a flattened oval shape for the finger space, and overall the ring wasn’t straight: I made it just after having Covid, while still suffering from fatigue and brain fog (by the way: Antioxidants are great for stopping the cytokine storm of Long Covid – once I started taking them, everything cleared up and I’ve felt great since).
When I remade the ring, I re-oriented the stone vertically, as in artifacts 1&2 above. I also increased the size of the balls and shifted their location to more closely mirror the aesthetic of the originals. They ride low, providing strength and stability between the bezel and shank of the ring.
Overall, I’m very happy with this ring. I wish I could have made it in gold, but I need a wealthy patron for that! 🙂 Carving intaglios is another step I’d like to take in the future. Stay tuned!