Webster's Dictionary defines a "masterpiece" as "a work done with extraordinary skill or artistic achievement." I have been fortunate enough lately to acquire several jewels which meet this criteria, and I am proud to present the "Masterpiece collection" for the consideration of my Ruby Lane clientele!
Dating to c.100 BCE - 100 CE, I first purchased this magnificent ancient work of art in its mid-19th century fitted case, indicating that it was likely purchased on a wealthy lady or gentleman's Grand Tour to Europe c.1850, when antiquities in Italy were sold to English and American tourists. This theater mask, carved as a cameo in bone, simply took my breath away! It had remained tucked away in its display case until recently, when I decided to have it bezeled as a pendant, and the result is TO DIE FOR! The skill with which this mask is carved is simply beyond outstanding; its intact condition, great age, phenomenal workmanship, and wearability all qualify it for Masterpiece status!
The pendant measures just a hair under 1 1/2" long without the added bail, and 1 1/4" wide. The details of this cameo speaks volumes for itself; the grotesque wears a diadem in his curling hair, with spiral locks descending from both sides. The eyes and the mouth are carved through for extra dimension, and the detail certainly does not end there; this mask even has a row of tiny, carved teeth! This marvelous mask has survived nearly 2000 years in fantastic, museum-grade condition, with no cracks or damage.
On the reverse, one can see the striations of the animal bone from which it was carved; the Romans often used animal bone when carving intensely-detailed pieces such as this, as bone is softer than most other media, such as ivory or stone. (PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT ivory. It is ANIMAL BONE. The back of the piece displays the channels associated with bone works of art; ivory is tightly cross-grained, and much harder.) The tool marks are evident seen from the reverse, and under 10x magnification on the front. The cameo shows evidence of burial, but as it had been in its leather case for at least 160 of its 2000 years, the patina is smooth and even, and slightly worn from the highest points, as it should be.
I finally decided after my research on this piece that it was begging to be made into a wearable pendant, so off it went to my jeweler, who used a laser to create the sturdy 18k frame and bail you see here. The front of the bail boasts a rubbed-over double milgrain edge, which echoes the bezels used in ancient Roman jewelry. Now, this amazing Roman work of art is suitable for wear by a lady or a gentleman, and is a joy to behold as well as a thrill to wear! JUST MAGNIFICENT!
Needless to say, ancient cameo masks of this condition and quality are rarer than the proverbial hen's teeth, and if this item fails to sell this holiday season, I may consign it to the annual Christie's Ancient Jewelry Auction next year. However, I wanted to give my Ruby Lane clients "first dibs," so here is your chance to acquire an investment-worthy, one-of-a-kind ancient jewel! As with all of my jewelry pre-dating 1700, I will include a COA and valuation for your insurance purposes at no extra cost. Grab this masterpiece for your own collection, or make this Christmas one to remember for any lady or gentleman fascinated with Roman culture or the history of ancient Western theater! This cameo will be shipped in a gift box along with the original fitted display case. Do not miss this incredible rarity; this is the sort of jewel I would love to keep for my own collection, but one cannot keep it all and pay the bills! Let my loss be your gain; up to 90-day layaway is available, and USPS Priority mail shipping is FREE!
Your Specialists in Fine Jewelry and Decorative Arts from Antiquity - 1900. Est. 1987.
I WILL BE OUT OF THE OFFICE From 10/5-10/25. Orders May Be Placed and Paid For, But Will Not Be Shipped Until 10/26. Thanks!