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Georgian Medusa Cameo Signet Ring


Georgian Medusa Cameo Signet Ring



DATE: Cameo - Georgian, c.1820

Medusa is the best known of the three monstrous Gorgon sisters. Our earliest reference to the Gorgons is found in Hesiod's Theogony, but it was Ovid who really fleshed out the story in the Metamorphoses, where he describes Medusa in her youth:

Medusa once had charms; to gain her love
A rival crowd of envious lovers strove.
They, who have seen her, own, they ne'er did trace
More moving features in a sweeter face.
Yet above all, her length of hair, they own,
In golden ringlets wav'd, and graceful shone.

Her beauty caught the eye of Poseidon, who forced himself upon her in a shrine to Athena. Athena was furious; she turned Medusa's hair into snakes, and made her face so hideous that anyone who saw it was instantly turned to stone (literally petrified). In most versions of the story, Medusa was killed by Perseus who was given various items to help him on his quest: a mirrored shield from Athena, a sword forged by Hephaestus, and Hades's helm of invisibility. While looking at the reflection in the shield, Perseus was able to behead the Gorgon, at which point Pegasus flew out of her severed neck. He went on to use her head - which retained its petrifying effect - as a weapon, using it to transform the Titan Atlas into stone (where he still stands in North Africa as the Atlas Mountains), before eventually giving it to Athena.

Here she's carved in cameo relief from a single piece of hardstone agate, depicted in the Classical form: winged head, with striking beauty, and a snake knotted around her neck. The cameo dates from the Georgian period, circa 1820, set in a later Roman style signet ring mount - 22k gold head, 18k gold band.


Hardstone Cameo


Head: 2.1 x 1.8cm

Width of band: 2.4mm




No marks present, tests as 22k and 18k gold