Being Emperor in Cologne on the Rhine

Roman carnelian intaglio of the 3rd century in a modern gold ring

The portrait of an emperor is cut into an orange-brown carnelian. The view goes to the right, the profile is sharp. The crown with long prongs sits on the back of the head. The beard is long and elegantly coiffed. Who is the person immortalized here? The type of crown and the beard style suggest that this is an emperor of the 3rd century, as comparison with coin portraits suggests. It is conceivable that we are dealing with an emperor of the Imperium Galliarum or Gallic Special Empire, which arose in the western part of the empire during the imperial crisis of the 3rd century. It was founded by Postumus in 260, who besieged Cologne, captured the city, and henceforth resided on the Rhine. However, the empire was not destined for a good fate: The emperors changed in quick succession and were finally subjugated by Aurelian in March 274. The intaglio comes from a collection of antique intglios which were set in similar settings during the Neoclassicist period around 1800. The cut of the gem suggests that it was created during the Roman imperial period. Gems in carnelian were produced in particularly large numbers at this time, especially in Aquileia. cf. Erika Zwierlein-Diehl: Antike Gemmen und ihr Nachleben, Berlin/New York 2007, p. 136, p. 143, p. 144 etc. We do not know where the seal stone, for it was originally created as such, spent the following 1600 years. Presumably it slumbered undisturbed in the ground until it was rediscovered in the years around 1800. The carnelian came to us with its old gold setting. The simple ring band made of high quality gold with the two arches to the right and left of the stone setting was added in our workshop according to models of Neoclassicism. So the gem can now be worn safely and with pleasure again.

One of the most beautiful and exciting fields in the field of jewellery is the collecting of antique intaglios and cameos. These portraits, cut in hard stone, recessed or raised, offer such a wealth of motifs that a whole world of objects reveals itself to every interest. There are cameos with portraits of famous people and heroes, representations of deities and mythical events, memories of personal experiences and narrative scenes from everyday life. In Roman times, intaglios were carved in stone for a wide variety of occasions. People had portraits of themselves cut to give to friends and relatives. Intaglia were created as precious gifts by emperors to honour soldiers, civil servants or deserving citizens for loyal service. And scenes from mythology and representations of the gods served as protective amulets. Since gems were widespread as jewellery in antiquity and probably every citizen wore such stones (and also gave them as gifts), a relatively large number of original pieces have survived outside museums. We are particularly pleased to be able to offer such gems.

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.