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Jewellry and GlypticsNorthern Black Sea CoastAncient RomeAncient ItalyAncient Greece

The basis of this remarkable collection consists of artifacts found during archaeological excavations on the Northern Black Sea coast, above all objects from the area of the Bosporan Kingdom on the coast of the straits of Kerch (former Cimmerian Bosporus). Jewellery from the barrows of the Bosporan aristocracy enables us to trace the development of local crafts, from the reproduction of objects brought from Greece and imitation Scythian style pieces, right up to the creation of original works of art combining Greek and Scythian traditions.

The collection includes such prominent items as the gilded cover from a Scythian quiver decorated with scenes from the life of Achilles (Chertomlyk Barrow, 4th century BC); an exquisite example of the famed microtechnique (extremely fine filigree and chasing) - an electrum vessel chased with multi-figured compositions on Scythian subjects; a gold torque or necklace, its ends in the form of Scythian riders; and the masterpiece of the collection, temple pendants in the form of the head of the Virgin Athena (Kul-Oba Barrow, 4th century BC), probably a reproduction of the head of a statue by Phidias, the renowned 5th-century Greek sculptor.

The most important section consists of jewellery brought directly from Greece; the earliest pieces are wonderful earrings with lion head reliefs (necropolis in the antique town of Olbia, 5th century BC). Of great interest are a gold phial or bowl for libation on an altar, the outer surface of which is completely covered with relief pattern (Kul-Oba Barrow, 4th century BC), a necklace and earrings from the necropolis in the town of Theodosia (4th century BC) in the microtechnique typical of the goldsmiths of Athens. Also of interest is the exquisite pectoral, a special breast decoration from the Bolshaya Bliznitsa Barrow (4th century BC) and a remarkable series of ring-seals with engraved images, the backs of which often bear small figures of a reclining lion or scarab (from the same barrow). A sumptuous gold diadem with a ‘Hercules knot', decorated with Scythian garnets and a miniature eagle holding Eros in its talons, is typical of the polychrome style of the Hellenistic period (3rd –1st centuries BC), distinguished by its bright colour, extensive use of precious and semi-precious stones, enamel and coloured glass (Artyukhovsky Barrow, 3rd-2nd centuries BC). There is also a rich collection of exquisite silver vessels of varied form. Among the works of the Roman period, very interesting is the portrait gold mask from the burial of Riskouporides III (3rd century AD).

The Hermitage collection of antique gems consists of over 10,000 items and shows the whole development of glyptics, or engraved gemstones, over the course of 20 centuries. The most ancient section consists of intaglio seals of the Aegean era (2nd millenium BC), including an expressive portrayal of two fighting lions and a deer engraved on sard. The height of the Classic period is represented by numerous pieces; the most valuable are the works of Dexamenos (5th century BC), signed seals with a flying heron on chalcedony and a horse with a broken bridle on jasper. The Hellenistic era is represented by the world-famous masterpiece known as the Gonzaga Cameo (3rd century BC) with allegorical portraits of the ruler of Egypt, King Ptolemy II Phyladelphius, and his wife Arsinoe, and the wonderful sard cameo with the head of Zeus (late 1st century BC – 4th century AD). Roman carved gems were notable for their great formality and austere solemnity and are represented by portrayals of numerous Roman emperors, gods, and heroes. Pieces from the late Roman period are also of interest, with gem-amulets bearing astral symbols, figures of demons and invocations

If you enjoyed this collection, you might want to also visit the other collections at the State Hermitage Museum.

Oriental Jewellery
Western European Jewellery
Ancient Coins

Nike Driving a Quadriga
Gold earring
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Pendant with the Head of Athena Parthenos
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The Arimaspi Fighting Griffins Calathos
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Dexamenos -- Intaglio
Flying Heron
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Medusa the Gorgon
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The Gonzaga Cameo
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The Hermitage
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