Gold box ring surmounted by a scarab

Period: Classical

Date: ca.330–310 B.C.

Culture: Greek

Medium: gold

Dimensions: H.: 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm)

Classification: Gold and Silver

Credit Line: Purchase, Schultz Foundation Gift, 2010

Accession Number: 2010.226


This ring is a marvel of technical mastery and cultural complexity. From the end of the third millennium B.C., the scarab beetle served as an amulet in Egypt, where it represented the sun god. Beginning in the second quarter of the sixth century B.C. the scarab was the predominant type of Greek gem, cut in carnelian and other hardstones. The convex back of the gem was articulated with the features of the beetle, while a decorative, generally figural, motif was cut into the flat side in intaglio. During the fourth century B.C. a variant made entirely of gold acquired some popularity, especially in southern Italy. This ring is one of about a dozen known examples. This is constructed of several parts. The elliptical box bezel shows wire scrolls between plaited wire. The underside, attached separately, reveals a crouching eros. The hoop consists of two lengths of twisted wire, each end attached to the bezel with a small palmette. The beetle is made of two elements, the carapace and the underside with legs. The ring is heavy and solid, suggesting that it was actually worn rather than produced only for burial.