BYZANTINE INTAGLIO WITH EMPRESS HELENA
Measurements: 2.1 cm – internal diameter, 15 gms – weight, approx. size: British V 1/2, USA 10 3/4, Europe 24.4
Description: A large Byzantine ring with a jasper intaglio with robed figure on holding a staff standing in front of military standard with cross potent finial. The intaglio is set into a later D-section gold hoop with expanding shoulders and tiered bezel. The scene possibly shows the empress Helena before the True Cross.
According to Byzantine historians the empress Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, went to the Holy Land on pilgrimage in 326 to 328 AD. It is claimed that she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to be used at the crucifixion of Jesus and of two thieves, St. Dismas and Gestas, executed with him, and that a miracle revealed which of the three was the True Cross. The cross was taken to Constantinople where fragments of it were later dispersed, either as diplomatic gifts, or as plunder during the Crusades.
Provenance: Property of a Mayfair gentleman; acquired by the family during the 1970s.
Period: 4th – 5th century AD
Condition: Very fine, stone cracked. Modern gold band.
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