Powerful Volturnus

Exquisite antique onyx cameo with pearls in gold, around 1870

Roman mythology holds a wide variety of deities, all of whom had their own specific tasks to fulfill. One of these powerful gods was Volturnus, the god of rivers and water, who, unlike the sea god Poseidon, was responsible for the waters flowing through the land. It was therefore thanks to Volturnus that rivers carried pure water - and it was due to the god's wrath when they overflowed their banks and devastated the cities. Sacrifices were therefore regularly made to the river god in ancient Rome to show him mercy. As a life-giving god, the power of Volturnus was also revered as a purifying principle. Volturnus is very rarely depicted in the medium of the cameo, so I am very pleased to have found this specimen - as the pendant can be the showpiece of any museum cameo collection. Cut in two-tone onyx, we see the muscular god standing in antique contrapposto. One hand raised in command and facing the waters, he appears to be directing the a river that pours from a figurally decorated amphora. Marble-like white, the very very finely cut scene with the deity as protagonist is set against a shiny black background. And yet everything is cut from a single stone, which was predestined for this by its bicolour. Set in high-carat gold and additionally covered with a layer of rich fine gold, the framing of the cameo refers to the depiction of the river god: twenty fine natural pearls, precious stones thus produced by the river itself, frame the cameo in the shape of a wreath and lead into light blue enamelled ray fields symbolising the flowing water. An opening flap on the back also turns the pendant into a locket in which cherished memories or a photograph of a loved one can be kept.

For centuries, the possession of antique cameos was an aspiration of almost all great collections, from the Green Vault in Dresden to the treasury of Rudolf II and large private collections such as that of Baron Stosch in later times. The 18th and 19th centuries produced numerous large imprint collections of ancient Roman and Greek seal stones and cameos, which were able to represent the ancient imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety. Due to the great travels undertaken by young nobles and wealthy citizens during this period, the use of cameos changed in the early 19th century to larger forms of jewellery, which were classic and sought-after souvenirs from Italy, cut in stone, shell, or Vesuvius lava.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.