Priestess of Vesta

Pretty, antique shellgemme as brooch & pendant in gold, around 1860

The organization of cities was a complex undertaking even in ancient times. Especially important in a time without electricity was the availability of fire. For only the control of fire made possible the preparation of cooked food, warmth in cold times, and also light in darkness. Therefore, maintaining a safe source of fire was one of the most important tasks of daily life in ancient Greece and also in the Roman Empire. This task was the responsibility of a group of young girls in ancient Rome who served as priestesses of the goddess Vesta. Vesta was the goddess of home and hearth, to whom, for example, a separate temple was dedicated on the Roman Forum. These maidens, called "vestal virgins" or "vestal priestesses", had the task of guarding and nourishing the hearth fire in the temple of Vesta, as it was never allowed to go out. The beautiful cameo here, of the mid-19th century, shows the bust of a beautiful vestal virgin. The pretty maiden gazes to the left, showing her classical profile in quiet repose. Her upswept, curly hair makes its way through a hair band. Depictions of vestal virgins have also come down to us from the hand of Angelika Kauffmann, which gives us an indication of the fascination with these beautiful maidens of antiquity, who were charged with one of the most important communal tasks. The gem, probably made in the Bay of Naples, is cut from shell and the lighter layer of the stone contrasts wonderfully in its colourfulness with the black background. Set in a simple gold setting, the gem can be worn as a brooch or pendant. The cameo is finely cut and well preserved - it reminds us of the important role of women, without whom the ancient culture could not have been maintained.

To possess antique cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections for centuries: We find spectacular pieces as well in the Green Vault in Dresden, in the treasury of Rudolf II, up to the great private collections like that of Baron Stosch in later times. The 18th and 19th centuries produced numerous large imprint collections of antique seal stones and gems, which represent the antique imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety. Thus they were not least an expression of a humanistic education. Of particular importance for the transmission of stone and shell carvings north of the Alps have always been travellers to Italy, who brought home impressions and carved stones as well as engraved shells from their educational journeys in order to enjoy the stories that the shells could tell. The art of gem cutting has survived to this day in Italy, especially in the Bay of Naples, where it has been passed down from generation to generation. Today, the Scuola dei Cammei in Torre del Greco is the only professional training centre in the world for gem-cutters, although unfortunately the mythological theme has almost been lost as a subject.

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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.