The wrongly supposed sapphire hololith ring of Emperor Gaius

Sep 2013
632
Ontario, Canada
What an absolutely beautiful ring! And carved from a single stone of sapphire, that is phenomenal work.

My first impression of it is that it was intended to be worn by a woman. An Emperor would have a signet ring; Augustus had a sphinx for his, and a dog was on Galba's. And this is something that would've taken a long time to craft, on the order of years to achieve the final result. Caligula certainly had the money to have it done, but I don't think he had the time. He was only married to Caesonia a short while. So while it is undeniably Roman, and likely from the early Empire period judging by the head dress, I don't think Caligula had it made.

The other theory I read in this thread of Antoninus Pius is a bit more plausible. Faustina the Elder died early in his reign, and he ruled for almost twenty more years, and presided over one of the richest periods of the Principate. It may very well be that he was responsible for ordering it created. But judging from the size of it, what's engraved into it, I don't think it was intended for a male. My guess is that he had it made for his daughter, Faustina the Younger, in memory of her mother whose likeness is engraved into. If this is true, then it raises another curious possibility.

After Faustina the Younger married Marcus Aurelius he ran into financial problems during the crisis periods which wracked his reign. To keep the legions paid, the treasury running dry, he was forced to sell his wife's jewels rather than raise taxes. It's fascinating to consider that this ring may have been a part of that transaction, which may have led to its ultimate survival. If it had belonged to Caligula, or was being worn by Caesonia, I suspect it would've been looted and broken up or lost in the chaos following his assassination.
 
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Sep 2013
632
Ontario, Canada
That and the slight overbite of the figure I thought was unusual, which I think Faustina the Elder might've had but it's hard to tell from her coins.

Head dresses, you can kind of date the figure by it... from Livia onwards, when women started becoming depicted on Roman coins, the hair makeup becomes increasingly elaborate. This one has a fruit hanging from hers, which makes me think it's definitely later than Caligula.
 
Sep 2019
27
Antioch
The other theory I read in this thread of Antoninus Pius is a bit more plausible. Faustina the Elder died early in his reign, and he ruled for almost twenty more years, and presided over one of the richest periods of the Principate. It may very well be that he was responsible for ordering it created. But judging from the size of it, what's engraved into it, I don't think it was intended for a male. My guess is that he had it made for his daughter, Faustina the Younger, in memory of her mother whose likeness is engraved into. If this is true, then it raises another curious possibility.

After Faustina the Younger married Marcus Aurelius he ran into financial problems during the crisis periods which wracked his reign. To keep the legions paid, the treasury running dry, he was forced to sell his wife's jewels rather than raise taxes. It's fascinating to consider that this ring may have been a part of that transaction, which may have led to its ultimate survival.
I think that’s a beautiful and plausible theory, and I quite like it. The thing I’m really curious about however, is the inside circumference of the ring, because knowing it, could further determine which gender it was plausibly meant to be worn by. I’ve come across the statement that the enameled golden hoop was added in the late 16th or early 17th century, which would make the original circumference considerably larger IF the original ring solely consisted of the sapphire hololith.

I was also rather amused by certain snarky yet fairly justified comments about the female hand model Wartski had chosen for their presentation of the (wrongly) supposed ring of Gaius. It made sense to me, that if the golden hoop was later added to suit the needs of a woman, that the original wearer of the ring would have possibly been male. Fashion-wise however, it also gave me the impression that it had been intended to be worn by a woman rather than by a man, like Jalidi has already pointed out. Also, if not worn by the Emperor himself, it would seem odd to me that any other man would be wearing it outside of Faustina's own “familia”. That’s why I like the notion of some sort of ostentatious filial devotion towards her, in accordance with Jalidi’s theory.

if.jpg
 
Sep 2019
27
Antioch
I believe the next question to further strengthen or diminish Jalidi’s theory would be: was the ring in its original entirety meant to be worn by a man or by a woman?

This also leads me to question if the ring was actually made in the second century, and not just a roman revival product of later forging? In other words: could it be that the ring in its designed entirety, could entirely belong to the late 16th or early 17th century dating of the golden hoop?