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Kleine Praser and Chromium-bearing Chalcedonies. About a small group of engraved gems

Les « petits prases » et les calcédoines à base de chrome. Sur un petit groupe de gemmes gravées
Gertrud Platz-Horster
p. 179-202

Résumés

Dès 1900, A. Furtwängler a identifié un petit groupe de gemmes vertes sous le titre “Gattung der kleinen konvexen Praser” ; sous divers termes descriptifs se cache une gemme rare, variété de calcédoine verte translucide contenant du chrome. La collection de l’Antikensammlung de Berlin contient un petit groupe de ces gemmes, mais ce nombre, très élevé par rapport aux autres prases publiées, offre une référence assez riche pour valider le schéma de classification de Furtwängler.

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Dédicace

This article is dedicated to Hélène Guiraud, the French gem specialist, who – in addition to her basic books and articles on gems from Gallia Romana – published the largest complex of green chalcedonies yet known, from the dated find in Lons-le-Saunier.

Texte intégral

This essay was revised from the full version, which Lisbet Thoresen, Los Angeles, had adjusted and augmented essentially in January 2009, and I am very grateful for her competent comments! In 2008, together with the mineralogist Çigdem Lule-Wipp, London, she had proved all green stones within the Berlin collection. She had recommended this survey to be included in the “Atlas of Gemology”, a highly ambitious project in cooperation with other authors. There is new hope that this important, and much desired, publication may be realized in the near future.

  • 2 Furtwängler, 1900, vol. III, p. 309.
  • 3 For more discussion on the confusion of different terms, not only among archaeologists but even amo (...)

1Adolf Furtwängler in his opus magnum “Die antiken Gemmen” (1900) was the first scholar to classify a small group of green-colored Roman engraved gemstones according to their material, shape and devices, calling it the “Gattung der kleinen konvexen Praser”2. “Praser” – from the Latin “prasius” = leek colored (Plinius, nat.hist. 37,113) – is an obsolete term for translucent green fine-grained chalcedony: it is a material that has been known by other names, including “Prasem”, “Smaragdplasma”, and “plasma”. Historically, all these terms have been used interchangeably, and also with chrysoprase, chrysolite (olivine), and aventurine quartz or even the opaque green jasper. Even until now, gemological verification seldom has been sought to confirm gemstone identities made by eye alone, so confusion and inconsistencies in naming gemstones of the ancient world persist. Although gemologists know both plasma and green jasper as opaque microcrystalline quartz, historians and archaeologist apply the terms “prase”, “chrysoprase”, or “plasma” to translucent green microcrystalline quartz, and green jasper to the opaque variety. Because of the confusion over historical and gemological nomenclature, prase and plasma are avoided as gemological terms throughout this article. Gemologically, chrysoprase is a translucent nickel-bearing chalcedony of apple green color. The translucent green chalcedony varieties implied in collection catalogues and archaeological texts are distinguished throughout this essay by enclosing cited authors’ terms “prase”, “chrysoprase”, and “plasma” in quotation marks.3

  • 4 Devoto et Molayem, 1990, p. 35‑36 “calcedonii verdi cromiferi” fig. 26, 189, 191, 230. Hutchison, 1 (...)

2Among all the descriptive terms for green-colored quartzes which are found in museum catalogues, including “prase,” “chrysoprase,” and “plasma”, is hidden a chromium-bearing variety of translucent green chalcedony, a rare gem of unknown geological provenance until very recently.4 The chromian variety – Furtwängler’s “kleine Praser” – may be variegated or uniformly colored, ranging from pale bluish green to saturated dark green and bluish green, but never yellow green. Color photographs in collection catalogues are rare, so most authors provide only textual color descriptions accompanying a gemstone to alert the reader to the possibility that the stone might be the rare chromian variety of quartz.

1. Occurrence, context and quantity

  • 5 Furtwängler, 1896, p. 378 s.v. „Smaragdplasma“; „Kleine Praser“ p. 111‑119 no. 2355‑2535 Taf. 22‑23 (...)
  • 6 Weiß, 2007, p. 480 s.v. „Plasma“.
  • 7 Greifenhagen II 1975, p. 77 Taf. 58,3‑4, p. 79 Taf. 59, 13‑14 and 19‑20; Greifenhagen I 1970, p. 49 (...)

3The rare chromian chalcedony appears to have been utilized by gem engravers in antiquity only for a short period of time. As Furtwängler observed, a group of rather small, mostly bi-convex engraved gems of Roman date – from the time of C. Julius Caesar († 44 BC) to Domitian (r. 81‑96 AD) – are associated not only by their material and form, but also by their rather limited devices, such as copies of well-known statues, heads of gods and bucolic scenes. Within the vast collection of engraved gems in the Antikensammlung Berlin (Furtwängler published 11.872 individual objects in his 1896 catalogue already), the “kleine Praser” only form a small group; but among the 199 ancient gems in his index of materials under the term “Smaragdplasma” they account for more than 180 items.5 Together with 35 “plasma” gems from the Collection Heinrich Dressel, which was acquired by the museum in 19206, the total number of “kleine Praser” in Berlin is greater than that of any other published collection, and in relation to parallels discovered and published during the last century, the Berlin collection offers the single most substantial reference to validate Furtwängler’s classification scheme. Most of the items in the old Berlin Antiquarium came from the Collection of Baron Philipp von Stosch, assembled mainly in Rome and central Italy during the first half of the 18th century and acquired in 1764 by King Friedrich II. The majority of the rest also came from Italy, including the Dressel gems. Only ten intaglios are preserved in their original ring setting: two are from Reims/France (FG 2373; FG 2481 – lost), one was found near the Rhine River in Cologne (FG 2401: fig. 1), and two most probably were acquired in the Black Sea area (FG 2424; Misc. 11863.77).7

Fig. 1. Berlin, FG 2401

Fig. 1. Berlin, FG 2401

Ph. Isolde Luckert

  • 8 For engraved gems in Roman contexts, see: Sena Chiesa et Facchini, 1985, p. 3‑31. Zwierlein-Diehl, (...)

4Most ancient gems in old collections, like the one in Berlin, lack information about their precise find spots; so surveying the published literature on the green chalcedony intaglios found in archaeological contexts might help answer some questions: Where and in what quantity did they occur, do the contexts help pinpoint or narrow a date of manufacture, where did the raw material come from, was it traded and circulated as rough uncut material, or were the green chalcedony intaglios cut in localizable workshops and then distributed throughout the Roman Empire?8 The following discussion includes published references on gemstones from Roman sites in which translucent green chalcedony is cited; it does not claim to be an exhaustive or complete record.

  • 9 Sena Chiesa, 1966, p. 54 tav. 86,14‑18. Prasii: no. 392, 452, 477, 933, 991; attributed: no. 196, 2 (...)
  • 10 Zwierlein-Diehl, Wien I 1973: 14 “plasmas”, 1 from Aquileia no. 523: Portrait of a Roman lady with (...)
  • 11 Tomaselli, 1993, no. 1, 160, 275. - Among the ca. 3,000 gemstones hold in the Museo Archeologico di (...)
  • 12 Sena Chiesa, 1978, p. 134 s.v. “plasma” and “prasio”.
  • 13 Sena Chiesa, 2001b, p. 23 fig. 6.
  • 14 Bologna: Mandrioli Bizzarri, 1987, p. 186 s.v. “plasma”. verona: Sena Chiesa, 2009, p. 245 s.v. “pr (...)

5In 1966 Gemma Sena Chiesa published 1,579 of the more than 5,000 engraved gems in Aquileia, northeastern Italy, which were found in the area but frequently not under archaeological observation. Most of the items published at the time appear to have been cut locally, and Sena Chiesa was the first author to arrange them by shape, material, and style. She then tried to group them into workshops active from the late 3rd century BC until the 2nd century AD. Among this group of nearly 1,600 gems, although only represented by five items, Sena Chiesa named one workshop “Officina dei Prasii”, which she attributed five additional gems cut from other materials (but not all engraved by one individual artist) and which she dated between the beginning of Julius Caesar’s reign and ending not later than the mid-first century AD.9 None of the gems bearing portraits from Aquileia have been published, so no objective criteria exist to confirm her proposed dates (see below). The large collection in Vienna includes a large number of gems originating from Aquileia, among which are 6 more “plasmas”. Erika Zwierlein-Diehl dated them between the later 1st to the 3rd century AD.10 In the nearby museums of Udine and Trieste, many of the ancient gemstones may have come from Aquileia, but they include only 3 green chalcedonies.11 From the Roman site at Luni/Toscana, Sena Chiesa published 175 gemstones, among them 5 were described as “plasma” and 8 as “prasii”12, yet another one comes from Bedriacum/Calvatone.13 To the gem collection at Bologna belong 11 “plasma”, and to the museums in verona even 48 “prasii” among 660 ancient gems, but all of unknown provenance.14

  • 15 D’Ambrosio et De Carolis, 1997, Pompei: oro e smeraldo p. 40 no. 74‑77, 79, 82‑84; prasio p. 43 no. (...)
  • 16 Pannuti I 1983, p. 117 no. 182: 21.8 × 15.8 mm. See note 68.

6The areas around Mount vesuvius near Naples are rich archaeologically, because the eruption of the volcano in August 79 AD covered all cities, villages, and villas in its vicinity. The jewelry discovered in the vast excavations of Pompei, Oplontis, Terzigno and Ercolano was published by Antonio d’Ambrosio and Ernesto De Carolis in 1997. In Pompei, among 36 finger rings with inlays, 8 are gold finger rings set with plain emeralds and 3 with engraved “plasmas”. In the “Casa del Gemmario” among 9 engraved gems, only 1 is proven chromian chalcedony. From Oplontis, among 8 finger rings with inlays, 1 is set with a plain emerald and 1 with a plain “plasma”, as well as 3 set with engraved chromian chalcedony intaglios – all mounted in gold rings. In Ercolanº 21 finger rings with inlays were excavated: 1 set with an engraved “plasma”, 6 gold rings set with plain emeralds, and 1 with a plain “plasma”.15 From these three sites – Pompei, Oplontis and Ercolano – among 37 mounted and 19 unset intaglios, we find 8 engraved gemstones cut from proven chromian chalcedony or “plasma” (14,3%), all (except 1) are set into gold finger rings having the same form as the rings set with unengraved emeralds and “plasma” – an important distinction which we will return to later. A rare cameo portrait in “plasma” of Emperor Claudius was found in Pompeii within the “insula 5, Regio IX” already in 1878.16

  • 17 Dembski, 2005, p. 191 s.v. „Chrysopras“.

7In 2005 Günter Dembski published 1,330 ancient gemstones from the Roman city of Carnuntum (east of Vienna, Austria). After Aquileia, it yielded the greatest number of intaglios and cameos found at an archaeological site. Dembski listed 46 items of “Chrysopras” which presumably include chromian chalcedony, judging by the color and inclusions.17

  • 18 Platz-Horster, I 1987, no. 158; II 1994, no. 214, no. 232 attributed to the “Officina dei Prasii” i (...)
  • 19 Platz-Horster, 1984, no. 36 from Cologne, no. 88 without find spot.
  • 20 Krug, 1980, „Prasem“ no. 1, 9, 12, 43, 45, 67 cameo, no. 83 in gold ring 1st cent. AD, no. 128 in g (...)
  • 21 Krug, 1995, p. [210] 64 Nr. 58, p. [218] 72 Nr. 89 in gold ring: Methe, 1st half of 1st cent. AD. – (...)
  • 22 Henkel, 1913, no. 143, 144, 148‑154, 170, 174, 176, 279, 1123, 1169.
  • 23 Krug, A., Fundgemmen I-IV, dans: Germania 53, 1975, p. 113‑125; Germania 55, 1977, p. 77‑84; German (...)

8The third largest amount of engraved gems was discovered in Castra vetera and the Roman veteran’s city Colonia Ulpia Traiana in Xanten on the Lower Rhine, where, to date, 640 ancient engraved gemstones have been published, but many more recorded and dispersed during the last centuries. Among the group of 640 items, only three “plasmas” were found, and one proven chromian chalcedony was recently excavated in a context of the last third of the 1st century AD.18 The author assumed that the lack of more gems fashioned in a convex shape – cut from any gem material – reflected a localized situation in antiquity: Roman soldiers who moved to Xanten in the early Empire mostly came from Northern Italy, where convex gemstones had no forerunners in Italic glyptic art, as was true of the centre or the south of the country. Only 2 of 130 items in Bonn are cut of “plasma”19, 12 among 470 items in Cologne20, and 2 of 81 in Trier and another recently found nearby.21 Some of the items from this region were previously published by Friedrich Henkel in 1913. He also produced a relevant chronology for the set intaglios based on the Roman finger rings found in the Rhineland and adjacent areas. Of the 15 “Praser” he published, 12 are mounted in gold rings and 2 set in bronze rings belonging to the early Imperial period, only 1 mounted in a 4th century AD gold ring.22 No other gems described as “green chalcedony” or “plasma” or “prase”, have been published in articles and catalogues of “Fundgemmen” from find spots elsewhere in Germany – except for one chromian chalcedony showing a shepherd (pl. VIII-1) among 34 gemstones from Augsburg – or in Switzerland.23

  • 24 Maaskant-Kleibrink, 1986, no. 81‑83. Among the 65 Roman gems from the fortress velsen I and II, the (...)
  • 25 Maaskant-Kleibrink, 1975, p. 168.

9The museum in Nijmegen, Netherlands has 3 green chalcedonies from Roman sites of the region.24 In her seminal essay “Classification of Ancient Engraved Gems”, Marianne Maaskant-Kleibrink devoted a section exclusively to the “convex plasma”, based on the Hague Collection (now in Utrecht); by referring to find contexts, finger rings, style and motifs, she affirmed Furtwängler’s dating for the “Kleine Praser” within the 1st century AD up to vespasian (r. 69‑79 AD).25

  • 26 Guiraud, I, 1988, Index p. 217 s.v., map: p. 30 fig. 10 ; II 2008, p. 72‑73 note 213 and 223, Index (...)
  • 27 Guiraud, 1995, p. 359‑406, diagrams: p. 362 fig. 2; list of gemstones found in Roman drains: p. 400 (...)

10Hélène Guiraud, in 1988 and 2008, produced a laudable accomplishment in having surveyed all ancient gems found in France. In her inventory, she listed 8 “plasmas” and 22 “prase” and created a very useful map of all items found in this area.26 In 1989, the largest find of green “prase” gems discovered in one place was excavated in the city centre of Lons-le-Saunier, Jura/France: A bulk of gemstones, together with hairpins and beads, presumably lost by women while enjoying the thermae, were found in the sewer of a public Roman bath house. Among the 63 engraved gems, 24 were green chalcedonies. Guiraud dated the gems stylistically between AD 50 and 150, with the “plasma” gems broadly relegated to the 2nd half of 1st century AD. Her diagrams about the materials used for Roman intaglios clearly showed not only the exceptionally high percentage of “plasmas” – proofed as chromian chalcedony – represented at that single place (40%), but also confirmed the rarity of the translucent green-colored quartzes throughout the ancient Roman world (2,4%).27

  • 28 Zienkiewicz, 1986, p. 117‑141 Pl. 5‑17, colour plate in front; Zienkiewicz, 1987, p. 7, 8, 12; Heni (...)
  • 29 Henig, 1978, p. 32f., p. 319 App. 220: “Green plasma with black inclusions” from Wroxeter, “stratif (...)
  • 30 Henig in Cuncliffe, 1988, p. 27‑33 Pl. 18‑20, plasma with inclusions: p. 31, p. 52 Pl.19, 13.
  • 31 Johns, 1997, p. 85‑101, with contributions to the iconography by Martin Henig p. 20‑24, and to styl (...)

11A comparable situation to Lons-le-Saunier was seen at the fortress Caerleon in Wales, where among 86 intaglios, discovered mostly from the frigidarium drain dated at 75‑85 AD, 6 were “prase” and 2 “plasma”.28 Martin Henig published 1,035 items in his Corpus of Roman Gems from Great Britain, describing 17 as “plasma”, including the items from Caerleon.29 In 1988, Henig confirmed his theory that “at least the majority” of the 34 gemstones found in the main drain at Bath, southern England – comprising 1 small “plasma” – “is to be assigned to the same officina”, which he dated into the 2nd half of 1st century AD, more precisely, the Flavian period.30 Within the jeweler’s hoard found in 1985 near Snettisham, Norfolk, and among coins dated to ca. 150 AD, all the 221 unset gemstones and 21 additional stones mounted in silver rings – some as yet unfinished – had been cut from the same carnelian material by three different (and probably local) gem engravers.31

  • 32 Casal Garcia, 1990. Lopez de la Orden, 1990, p. 217 fig. 3.

12Few references have been published focusing on local provenance for material from archaeological find spots in the southwestern and eastern parts of the Roman Empire. In Spain, the collection of gemstones in the Archaeological Museum of Madrid has been published without pedigree, and among the intaglios from Andalusia only 0.5% was reportedly “plasma”.32

  • 33 Hoey Middleton, 1991, no. 55, 59, 64, 102. Nestorović, 2005.
  • 34 Gesztelyi, 2001, no. 15, 17; Gesztelyi, 2004, p. 39. Gesztelyi, 2008, p. 300, 310 no. 8 „2nd centur (...)
  • 35 Tudor, 1967, p. 209‑229. Gramatopol, 1973, 177‑183. Gramatopol, 1974, p. 29‑36; Review: Krug in Bon (...)
  • 36 Teposu-Marinescu, 1960, p. 525‑534; Teposu-Marinescu et Lako, 1973.
  • 37 Dimitrova-Milčeva, 1980, p. 44 no. 55.

13Sheila Hoey Middleton, in 1991, surveyed two private collections of gemstones which had been brought together in Dalmatia and from around the region, which included 4 “plasmas” among 295 items. She dated them from the 1st to 3rd century AD. Among the 81 ancient intaglios from Slovenia, which Aleksandra Nestorović recently published, no green chalcedonies were cited.33 In Hungary, among the 65 Roman intaglios from Brigetio, only 2 “plasmas”, and among the 30 intaglios from Aquincum, only one “praser” was published by Tamás Gesztelyi.34 In several find spots in Rumania, especially in Romula, a large number of gemstones have been discovered and attributed to local workshops; however, they were active during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, which is a very late date for the use of chromian chalcedony.35 Also, among the 55 intaglios from Micia in Cluj and the 64 engraved gems from Porolissum in Zalau, carnelian and red or green jasper are the predominant materials, but no translucent green chalcedonies are documented.36 In the gem collection of the National Museum in Sofia, among the 294 intaglios found in Novae, just one was described tentatively “chrysopras (?)”.37

  • 38 Hoey Middleton, 2001, no. 13‑14, 23, 36.
  • 39 Konuk et Arslan, 2000, p. 29 no. 5: Bust of Apollo, 8.8 × 7 × 2 mm; p. 68 no. 44: Mask of Pan, 8.8  (...)
  • 40 Hamburger, 1968, p. 36 no. 151.
  • 41 Henig, Whiting, 1987, no. 40, 135, 166, 227, 274, 291, 293, 379.
  • 42 Boussac et Starakis-Roscam, 1983, p. 457‑495. Mandel-Elzinga, 1985, p. 243‑298.
  • 43 Poinssot, 1909, p. 194‑224; Guiraud, 2001, p. 141‑149; Spier, 1992, no. 317: Victoria to right.

14A British collector who was in the diplomatic corps in the Balkans, Turkey, and the Near East for more than 30 years, bought 48 ancient gemstones, including 4 “plasmas”, 2 acquired in Istanbul and Antakya.38 During the 1990th, a Turkish collector of antiquities from his native country brought together 170 ancient intaglios, two of them convex-cut in “plasma”.39 In Caesarea/Israel, 165 engraved gems had been collected among the dunes which covered parts of the ancient city. Dated from the 1st to the 4th century, they include only one convex 1st century AD “plasma” which depicts a dancing satyr.40 Among the 405 intaglios from a private collection formed in the vicinity of ancient Gadara in Jordan, 8 are “plasma” gemstones which resemble – for their devices and style – the “plasmas” found in Aquileia, France and elsewhere in the ancient Roman world.41 A private gem collection in the museum of Alexandria/Egypt holds 2 “prase” within 81 ancient (?) intaglios of unknown provenance, while another collection from Alexandria, which had been given to the Akademisches Kunstmuseum in Bonn, contains none among the 74 items.42 No green chalcedonies were published from collections in Tunesia, only one item said to be from there is now in the J.P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles.43

15The preceding review of engraved gems cut from green chalcedony found in archaeological sites of the Roman Empire has three main conclusions:

  1. Nomenclature and identification. The varietal names applied to green-colored chalcedonies are descriptive rather than mineralogical distinctions: a great inconsistency, if not uncertainness, persists regarding the definition of the material itself. “Green chalcedony”, “plasma”, “prase”, and “chrysoprase” continue to be used interchangeably for translucent green-colored microcrystalline quartz, while “green jasper” is reserved for the opaque green-colored variety of microcrystalline quartz (“bloodstone” when it contains red spots).
    Chromian chalcedony will have been grouped by different authors under any or all of the traditional descriptive names – only a few have been verified gemologically as chromium-bearing; the finds in the vesuvian area, Roman Britain and Gaul are notable exceptions. Among the translucent green chalcedonies that were so rare in the ancient gem cutter’s repertoire, the chromium-bearing variety is the rarest, and has only been recognized as such – archaeologically and mineralogically – in some recent publications. In future research on ancient green-colored chalcedonies, we shall continue to parse descriptive and mineralogical nomenclature.

  2. Occurrence. Translucent varieties of green fine-grained quartz (or chalcedony) – “plasma” or “prase” or “chrysoprase” – among the engraved gems from known contexts in the Roman Empire represents no more than 2.4% (according to Guiraud) of the total number of gemstones, except in Pompei and Ercolano, where they account for 14.3% of all gemstones, and in Caerleon 9.3%. Lons-le-Saunier is a singular instance where the green-colored intaglios account for 40% of the entire find. It may be due to the state of excavations and their publications that so many of the important places in Roman times appear to lack gemstones, including varieties of green chalcedony. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to presume that a great number of engraved gems and cameos in the old European and American museum collections, which were brought together during the 19th and the first decades of the 20th centuries, originated from Italy.

  3. Context. In general, the survey presented here confirms Furtwängler’s observations about the group of gems he termed “kleine Praser”: The archaeological contexts for green chalcedony intaglios are not dated earlier than the Julio-Claudian and not later than the Trajanic periods – the beginning of the last third of the 1st century BC through the 1st century AD and ending in the early 2nd century AD.

2. Shape and value

  • 44 See above note 15.

16An intriguing aspect of the translucent green chalcedonies – ranging from yellowish green to bluish green, sometimes mottled in color and flecked with inclusions – is their legibility as engraved signets: the devices in the bi-convex and extremely small-sized “kleine Praser” (5 × 4 mm to 10 × 8 mm), especially, are not very readable. The engraved device may be recognized properly only in the impression, or sealing. However, the stone has a very attractive color, which is enhanced in a gold ring setting. As mentioned above, in the contexts from Pompei, Oplontis and Ercolano, the intaglios engraved in “plasma” or chromian chalcedony, inlayed in golden finger rings were found in sets – parures – together with plain or facetted emeralds, the latter mounted in gold finger rings, necklaces, pendants, earrings, and bracelets.44

  • 45 Krug, 1987, p. 467–471. Gagetti, 2006, p. 57–59 s. v. „plasma“. Zwierlein-Diehl, 2008b, p. 46 „smar (...)
  • 46 Plantzos, 1999, p. 111.

17Emerald – the most transparent, beautiful, and intensely colored of all green gemstones – according to Plinius (nat. hist. 37, 62‑75) was the most valuable of precious stones in antiquity, after diamond and mother-pearl.45 Alexander the Great commissioned Pyrgoteles to engrave his portrait in an emerald (Plinius, nat. hist. 37, 8), and Plutarch (Life of Lucullus 3.1) related the story of King Ptolemy Soter II, who in 85 BC, offered an expensive smaragdus bearing his likeness set in gold to the Roman general.46 But Plinius – like his predecessor Theophrastos (ca. 370–287 BC) in: de lapidibus IV, 23‑27 – described twelve different green-colored stones, all called smaragdus; so clearly, in antiquity the term included not only the beryl variety we know today as “smaragd” or emerald, but other gems, as well. Emerald, which is rare geologically, attains a color, transparency, and hardness (Mohs 7.5 – 8) that will have made it far rarer and more expensive than any chalcedony (Mohs 6.5) found in the ancient world. Therefore, the latter, in the chromian variety of vivid green to blue green color, may have been a more affordable substitute for emerald, which also was easier to engrave. Emeralds, especially those known in the ancient world, tend to be heavily internally fractured, and so will have been very susceptible to breaking apart under the engraver’s tool.

  • 47 Zazoff, 1983, p. 202, 209; Platz-Horster, 1995, p. 9‑26; Plantzos, 1999, p. 36‑38. – For Italic and (...)
  • 48 Sena Chiesa, 1966, p. 54 n.4. Sena Chiesa, 1989, p. 281‑299.

18Both the transparent emerald and the translucent chalcedony, whether cut a cabochon or facetted, reflect highlights and brilliant color in the polished gem. In antiquity, gold foil backing frequently was applied to transparent gemstones to enhance their light reflectance and highlights (Plinius, nat.hist. 37, 106) – the closed back of a gold ring setting accomplished the same thing. In modern settings, the open-backed finger rings allows more light to enter the stone, and so, also improves light reflectance. The fashion of highly convex engraved gemstones a cabochon became popular in the Hellenistic period: Garnet, amethyst, aquamarine, clear carnelian or sard and sardonyx, often in enormous sizes, were set into gold finger rings measuring up to 62 mm in length.47 Gemma Sena Chiesa suggested that the revival of convex or bi-convex intaglios in early Roman Imperial period resorts to this Hellenistic fashion, with some forerunners of less spectacular size from central and southern Italy of the 3rd and 2nd century BC; she also suggested that they were produced in the many workshops founded in Rome by emigrants from the former Diadoch kingdoms.48

  • 49 Furtwängler, 1896, FG 6745, FG 11065‑70; Furtwängler, 1900, vol. II Pl. 41,33, Taf. 52,4 etc.; vol. (...)

19The jewelry in the Petescia hoard in Berlin, discovered in the Umbrian Sabine Mountains in 1875, reflects a merging of late Hellenistic and early Roman Imperial taste.49 The hoard contained 38 items: 14 bracelets and a pair of torcs in heavy gold (lost since 1947), a laurel wreath with golden leafs, and 14 gold finger rings, as well as several objects of silver and amber. This extraordinary quantity and variety of finger rings enables us to appreciate developments and changes in the shapes of the stones fashioned from the late Hellenistic to early Roman Imperial period. Six rings are set with cameos of layered agate (sardonyx, carnelian-onyx), and pure carnelian, the latter with a portrait of Livia, the 3rd wife of Augustus, at around 20 AD. Seven gold rings are set a jour with precious stones of exceptionally high quality: 3 aquamarines – one unengraved bi-convex oval, one unengraved and one engraved rectangular-shaped with facetted pavilions and one yellowish green peridot, one garnet and two emeralds, all mounted in gold finger rings. The two emeralds of fine purity (Misc. 7075/76) in smaller gold rings are engraved with a concave depression (“apple” and “egg”) in the flat surface in a manner that evokes Pliny’ observation: “iidem plerumque concavi, ut visum conligant” (nat. hist. 37, 64). The emeralds in the rich Petescia Treasure attest the high value of this gem variety, in concert with that of the other precious stones.

  • 50 Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, 1992, no. 77‑83, 92, 94, 96, 116,103, 118, 121‑122, 127‑128, 136, 139, 14 (...)
  • 51 Borg, 1996, p. 167‑172. For the estimation of green stone in the Egyptian religion see: Andrews, C. (...)

20Throughout the Roman Empire into late antiquity, plain emerald – like garnet, aquamarine, and sapphire – enjoyed the highest esteem for use in jewelry: It was set in gold necklaces, bracelets, earrings and finger rings, although sometimes substituted by green glass.50 This enduring affectation, especially for green stones, is also reflected in the many painted mummy portraits of Roman Imperial period from Egypt.51

  • 52 AGD II 1969, no. 375. See below note 93.
  • 53 See above note 47.
  • 54 AGD II 1969, no. 468.
  • 55 AGD II 1969, no. 460; Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 147 no. 342: 30‑20 BC. C. Goedicke, Rathgen-Forschu (...)
  • 56 AGD II 1969, no. 492: 20‑30 AD.

21Returning to the green chalcedonies in Roman glyptic, as represented in the vast Berlin collection, their date range begins with a very large intaglio of late Republican period in the early 1st century BC: The bi-convex oblong chromian chalcedony depicting a dancing satyr (FG 2300: 38.1 × 23 × 7.2 mm)52 recalls the possible derivation of the group from the large late Hellenistic gems of the same shape in garnet, amethyst or clear carnelian.53 An extraordinary use of the rare material represents the unique plectrum with the engraved scene of Apollo punishing Marsyas (FG 11371: 35.7 × 37 mm), from the 1st century AD (pl. VIII-3).54 The smaller intaglios start with a fine chalcedony of vivid emerald color, carved in the early Augustan Classicizing style, from the von Stosch Collection, showing Victoria on tiptoe (FG 2324: 13.9 × 10.6 × 2.4 mm; Pl. VIII-4).55 The portrait of Emperor Tiberius (r. 14‑37) is the earliest dated and solitary chromian chalcedony among the Roman gems in Berlin (FG 2516: 11.8 × 8.7 × 2.4; fig. 2).56 The dates for the majority of the tiny green chalcedonies range over the entire span of the 1st century AD. Although some of them were cut rather coarsely and therefore, previously had been thought of a later date, there is no clear evidence to support any attributions later than the time of the emperor Traian (died AD 117): in these respects, the Berlin green chalcedonies appear to be representative of the entire group of convex green chalcedonies found in all collections.

Pl. VIII-1. Augsburg, Römermuseum, Inv. 1992, 1893. Ph. Johannes Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)

Pl. VIII-1. Augsburg, Römermuseum, Inv. 1992, 1893. Ph. Johannes Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)

Pl. VIII-2. Berlin, FG 11371. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)

Pl. VIII-2. Berlin, FG 11371. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)

Pl. VIII-3. Berlin, FG 11371, detail. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)

Pl. VIII-3. Berlin, FG 11371, detail. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)

Pl. VIII-4. Berlin, FG 2324. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)

Pl. VIII-4. Berlin, FG 2324. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)
  • 57 AGD II 1969, no. 516: The dating of the front intaglio into the early 2nd cent. AD is too late by i (...)

22Only portraits – imperial and private – and probably a few magical, and some early Christian gems are exceptional cases that do not necessarily conform to the Augustan through Trajanic timeframe (assuming the gem material had been identified correctly as the chromian variety), and the use of the rare material for these items may have had other reasons. We shall return to a discussion of the portrait group of later manufacture. A chromian chalcedony in Berlin, which is a 1st century AD depiction of a cupid reading a love letter, was re-used at a much later time and engraved in the back side with a portrait of the “dearest Procula”, whose coiffure is typical of the early 4th century (FG 2395: 14.8 × 11.7 × 4.5 mm).57

3. Shape, size, and value of finger rings

  • 58 Inner diameters of gold rings in Berlin: Furtwängler, 1896, FG 2373: 11.2 × 14.8 mm; FG 2401: 11.3  (...)
  • 59 In the Berlin collection only two green chalcedonies are set in finger rings of normal adult size, (...)

23Not only is the majority of the convex green chalcedonies, including the “kleine Praser” very small in size (see above), but also they are set in extremely small finger rings, with inner diameters ranging from 11 to 14 mm (FG 2401; fig. 1a).58 Although a meager number of “kleine Praser” have survived from antiquity intact in their original Roman metal rings, their dimension could only have fit the small fingers of young women or even children.59 Evidently, the extant rings found in other collections are consistent with the finds of exclusively female jewelry found in the sewer of the public Roman bath in Lons-le-Saunier (see above), where only 3 out of 24 “plasma” intaglios fallen off the finger rings measure more than 10 mm. Most of overcome metal rings are solid gold, with circular hoops into which the engraved stone was inlayed from the top, flush with the ring’s convex surface. The rounded hoop flares slightly top and bottom, but not at the ring’s shoulder (Guiraud type 2 b-c). This ring form occurs in the early 1st century and is typical for the finger rings found around the vesuvius area before AD 79 (see above). The archaeological contexts for the ring settings, in general, confirm the dating of the gemstones themselves as having been manufactured mainly in the 1st century AD. Gold rings of the Roman era account for approximately 1/5 of all surviving finger rings. Although the actual proportion of gold to other metal alloys used for finger rings in antiquity is uncertain, because most of the iron and even the bronze rings could have corroded and vanished completely, the number and proportion of extant green chalcedony ring stones mounted in solid gold – the most noble metal – underscores the high estimation of the gemstone itself in antiquity.

Fig. 1a. Berlin, FG 2401, ring form

Fig. 1a. Berlin, FG 2401, ring form

Ph. I Luckert

4. Devices

24Does the predominately small size of the green chalcedonies or their gold ring settings bear some discernible relationship to the devices of the engravings? In other words: Do the engraved subjects or scenes have any relevance specifically to young women or children, upon whose hands the small gold rings fit?

  • 60 Horster, 1970, p. 66‑68, 77, 83‑85. Zazoff, 1983, p. 330, 344 n. 300.

25In the Berlin collection, devices with gods or goddesses, male or female figures, and heads are almost equal in number. But the intaglios show a clear preference for Eros/Amor (13 items), Aphrodite/Venus (11), Dionysus/Bacchus and his circle including Methe, the protector of drinkers (19) plus Rural Sacrifices (3) and Shepherds (9). The goddesses Nike/ Victoria (11; see pl. VIII-4), Athena/Minerva (8), Nemesis, Spes and Bonus Eventus (6 each) are followed by Apollo, Fortuna, Mercury, and Ceres (5 each). Depictions of Athletes (6) feature well-known statues, such as the Diskobolos by Polykleitos or the Apoxyomenos by Lysippos, and also other familiar personae, such as Apollo Lykeios, Athena Parthenos, or venus Victrix and venus Anadyomene.60

  • 61 Barb, Henig, 1995, p. 171‑172. - very similar is a tiny gold ring with chromian chalcedony depictin (...)
  • 62 Berlin, Antikensammlung Misc. 11863, 77. From the collection of Alexandre Merle de Massonneau 1907, (...)
  • 63 See above note 45.

26The subjects most frequently depicted in green chalcedony in Roman glyptic, as represented in the Berlin collection, can be segregated to the erotic (24) and the bucolic worlds (31). The devices of a sitting Muse with a mask (8) and Leda with the Swan (5) may be attributed to either domain. Roman personifications of Fortune, Hope, Wealth, and Fertility (27) complement the temporal pleasures associated with all the different kinds of “smaragdus”, described by Plinius (nat.hist. 37, 62): “nullius coloris aspectus iucundior est.” Ceres, especially, the goddess of fertility, is one of the favorite devices seen in the green stones found in other collections. One fine example, mounted in a tiny gold ring found in Brackley, Northamptonshire, first thought to be a chromian chalcedony, proved to be an emerald.61 A lizard engraved in another proven chromian chalcedony62 ensured redoubled help against diseases of the eye: Not only did the ancients ascribe magical power to the green reptile (Aelianus, de nat. anim. 5, 47), but also to the green stone itself, which was imbued with the power to restore sight diminished from excessive eye strain, including the tired eyes of the gem engraver, and even Emperor Nero’s eyes (Plinius, nat.hist. 37, 63‑64).63

27This result on base of the Berlin collection is confirmed by the lot of 24 plasmas from Lons-le-Saunier (see above): Amor (3) and venus (2) as well as Satyr (3), Dancer (2) and Shepherd (2) together sum up to half of the items; also Fortuna occurs twice, whereas Minerva, Neptun, Omphale, Warrior and Biga, four different animals and an aerarium are present by only one item each.

5. Dating by Imperial portraits?

28Archaeological contexts and the shapes of finger rings (see above) confirm a narrow timeframe for the production of the convex engraved “plasma”, “prase”, including chromian chalcedony. However, diverging from the criteria placing them between about 30 B.C. and the early second century AD, a few Roman portraits engraved, ostensibly, in chromian chalcedony fall outside this narrow period of manufacture.

  • 64 1) Zwierlein-Diehl, Wien I 1973, p. 120 no. 348: „mid 1st cent. BC. Plasma“, 10 × 8.3 × 3.1 mm. 2) (...)
  • 65 1) Paris. Richter, 1971, p. 102 no. 488 “prase”; Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 57 no. 59: no „prase”, b (...)
  • 66 Once Borioni, Florenz. Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 212 no. 574: „Marcellus“ (?, * 42, † 23 BC), 30‑15 (...)
  • 67 See note 56.
  • 68 Pannuti, I 1983, p. 117 no. 182: “prasio, verde scuro, con toni brunicci, con aree e puntini verde- (...)
  • 69 Berlin, Antikensammlung Inv. 1992.4. Platz-Horster, G., Kaiser Tiberius. Ein neuer Kameo für die An (...)
  • 70 Gasparri, 1994, p. 130 no. 124 fig. 204: 37 × 31 mm.

29The portraits carved in small convex green-colored gemstones began to appear with depictions of male heads around the middle or the second half of first century BC.64 Unfortunately, individuals could not be identified, so the engravings had to be dated stylistically and by hairstyle or dress. Two examples of capita iugata (jugate heads), with Augustus and Livia, confirmed an approximate starting date for the fashion of green-colored gems around 30 BC.65 During the same era, the large and only slightly convex “plasma” was carved depicting a three-quarter bust of a young noble man, probably prince Marcellus.66 The next firmly dated chromian chalcedony has been mentioned previously: the fine portrait of Tiberius (r. 14‑37 AD) in the Berlin collection (FG 2516, see fig. 2).67 The unique cameo in “prasio” from Pompeii with a portrait of Emperor Claudius (r. 41‑54)68 tends to reinforce the association between the imprimatur of nobility and the more precious varieties of green-colored stones, an association already described regarding the emeralds in the Petescia hoard. This cameo of Claudius belongs to a group of monochrome specimens carved in rare materials, which includes the amazonite cameo in Berlin69 and a cameo having almost the same shape, but cut in lapis lazuli, from the Farnese Collection, both portraying the Emperor Tiberius.70

Fig. 2. Berlin, FG 2615

Fig. 2. Berlin, FG 2615

Ph. I. Luckert

  • 71 Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 112 no. 124: 10 × 9 × 3.5 mm.
  • 72 1) Fossing, 1929, p. 179 Pl. 15, 1213. Furtwängler, 1900, III p. 309: 14 × 11 mm. 2) Walters, 1926, (...)
  • 73 1) Walters, 1926, p. 209 no. 1992: 13 × 10 mm. 2) Zwierlein-Diehl, I 1973, p. 160 no. 523, from Aqu (...)
  • 74 1) Walters, 1926, p. 210 no. 2003 Pl. 25, “plasma”, 14 × 10 mm: “Marciana or Matidia”. 2) Vollenwei (...)
  • 75 1) Furtwängler, 1896, FG 2517; Furtwängler, 1900, III 309: 10 × 7.2 × ca. 2.3 mm, in modern silver (...)

30Claudius’ natural son Britannicus, born in 41 AD, had been murdered by order of the young Emperor Nero in 55; so it seems problematical to recognize a 14 year old boy in a little head en face with the features of an adult man, engraved in a bi-convex “prase” in Paris.71 Claudius’ successor, his adopted son Nero (r. 54‑68), is cut in a pale-colored “plasma” and in a “chrysolite”, both youthful featured, laureate and with whiskers, in his first portrait type as Emperor from 54 to 59 AD, before the death of his mother Agrippina minor.72 At the end of the 1st century, ladies with the coiffure of Julia, daughter of Emperor Titus (r. 79‑81), appear on small “plasmas”.73 Noble ladies in the following generation also liked to have their portraits depicted in the rare green-colored material, sometimes as capita opposita with their husband.74 Domitian, the last Emperor of the Flavian dynasty (r. 81‑96), is present in this sequence, with two chromian chalcedony intaglios, both showing him laureate.75

  • 76 AGD IV 1975, p. 216 Taf.147, 1090: 16 × 13 × 1.7 mm.
  • 77 Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 252 Pl.131, 758: 9.8 × 16.5 mm.

31The use of small convex green chalcedonies diminishes around the end of the Flavian dynasty, at least, according to the timeframe corroborated by archaeological contexts and finger ring shapes. After the Flavian period, a gap of at least one, probably two generations occurs in the production of the convex small ring stones. From the early Antonine dynasty, only a portrait of Emperor Hadrian (r. 117‑138) cut in a flat moss agate is known.76 A now-missing convex “plasma” may show the posthumous divinized Empress Faustina I (died 141 AD), wife of Antoninus Pius (r. 138‑161), in which she appears as a statue of the goddess Ceres on a biga drawn by elephants.77 Although not a portrait, this particular device is seen in coins. The certain dating of the associated coin type and the gem’s fine execution tends to support revision of the previously postulated timeframe for the use of chromian chalcedony in the Roman era, which itself is corroborated by excavated gems, as well as jewelry settings.

  • 78 Berlin. Weiß, 2007, p. 246 no. 392: 12.2 × 9 × 4.2 mm.
  • 79 Former Napoli (?), Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 256 Pl. 134 no. 771: 18.8 × 15.8 mm.

32Possibly, a contemporaneous portrait with the representation of Faustina I as Ceres is a convex chromian chalcedony depicting a young man who resembles Marcus Aurelius as Caesar, ca. AD 147‑149.78 Commodus (r. 180‑192), the Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ (r. 161-180) successor, who then became his adopted son, is depicted in a portrait bust wearing cuirass and paludamentum, but the gem survived only in the glass paste taken from a flat “plasma”, now missing.79

  • 80 1) London. Walters, 1926, p. 212 no. 2021 Pl. 25; Richter, 1971, p. 118 no. 572, “plasma“: 23 × 17  (...)
  • 81 Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 166 no. 207: „prase“: 17 × 16 mm.
  • 82 Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 181 no. 231: „prase“: 12 × 8.5 mm; ring 21 × 27.5 mm, inner dimens (...)
  • 83 Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 191 no. 246: “prase”: 19 × 14 × 3 mm. Richter, 1971, p. 118 no. 58 (...)
  • 84 1) Leningrad/St. Petersburg. Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 261 Pl. 138, 789: „plasma”: 21.7 × 16.8 mm. (...)
  • 85 Zwierlein-Diehl, 2008, 178‑181 no. 17, 325‑327: “plasma”: 50 × 36 mm.

33Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193‑211), born in 146 in Leptis Magna, was portrayed in two “plasma” ring stones of almost the same size: they depict him laureate, dressed with cuirass and paludamentum.80 Wearing the same costume, his elder son Caracalla (r. 211‑217) is represented in an expressive portrait on a “prase” of round and convex shape.81 His younger brother Geta, murdered in Rome at the age of 22 in AD 211, probably can be identified in the portrait of a young man cut in convex “plasma” of exceptionally vivid colour; if the identification is correct, it would be the only datable portrait still set in its contemporary heavy gold ring of the early 3rd century.82 Julia Soaemias Bassiana, cousin of Caracalla and mother of the Emperor Elagabal, together with whom she was murdered in 222, is probably the subject in a fine “plasma” intaglio, again in Paris.83 Two “plasmas” with the laureate portrait of young Elagabal (r. 218‑222), dressed with paludamentum respectively toga, seem to end the sequence of imperial portraits in intaglios.84 A cameo portrait in Vienna, probably of the young Emperor Numerianus (r. 283‑284), once thought to depict the Emperor Alexander Severus (r. 222‑235), is exceptional, both in date and in size. It was cut in a mineralogically proved “plasma” gem of dark green color with brownish inclusions and opaque white and brownish layers for the laurel wreath and the fibula holding the paludamentum.85

34The preceding review of the few portraits on convex green chalcedonies – without suggesting it is an exhaustive or complete survey – shows that personally identifiable gems begin to appear around 30 BC and with some gaps continue to be produced through the 1st century AD until ca. AD 100. Probably, they re-emerge around AD 140, but it is only under the Severan dynasty, from ca. AD 200, that the convex “plasma” again enjoyed certain estimation for use as signet devices. The material’s popularity then waned. These identifiable late portraits of Roman emperors, with their close affinity to the eastern part of the Empire, may provide some insight that explains why green chalcedonies with devices typical of the Roman repertoire in other precious stones have not yet been found in dated contexts from that later period of use.

  • 86 Gagetti, 2006, p. 59 no. A 45, A 46, B 6, B 10, E 4, G 22, G 92(?), G 94, G 140, G 171, N 2 and N 9
  • 87 Gagetti, 2006, p. 224 A 45.
  • 88 Gagetti, 2006, p. 225 A 46. The sculpture is proved to be of chromian chalcedony (information: Lisb (...)
  • 89 Spier, 1992, p. 158 no. 435 (bust: 18.4 × 10.7 × 13mm; hoop: outer diameter 22 × 28.2 mm, inner dia (...)

35A short postscript to the survey of translucent green chalcedony in Roman glyptic should mention three-dimensional works of art in “plasma” – mainly heads, portraits and statuettes.86 They represent 3% of all small sculpture in precious stone known to date, a percentage close to that reckoned by Hélène Guiraud for the intaglios (2.4%; see above). Except for the head of an emperor of the early 5th century AD, which was cut in very pale “plasma” streaked with white veins87, these “plasma” sculptures characteristically are darker in color and contain dark opaque inclusions. Their attributions fall between the Julio-Claudian through Hadrian era, and so they appear to fit among convex “plasma” intaglios belonging to the first period of use. The torso of an enthroned emperor in cuirass and paludamentum impresses by its high quality in a dark chromian chalcedony; this masterpiece on loan in the Princeton University Museum of Art probably depicted the Emperor Caligula (r. 37‑41 AD) deified as Jupiter. 88Almost three-dimensional is the frontal bust of Athena with Corinthian helmet and aegis cut in high relief, set in an early first century AD gold ring, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, which by its small inner diameter may once have belonged to a woman.89

6. Magical amulets and early Christian gems

    • 90 Zwierlein-Diehl, 1992, p. 25, 28, 75 no. 16: “plasma”: 9.6 × 7 × 4 mm. 1st – early 2nd century AD. (...)

    Magical gemstones were used as amulets against evil or diseases. A few were cut in convex green chalcedonies, preferably for devices of Chnoubis, the lion headed god as “bringer of the Nile flood”. They only number around 70 items among thousands of this class.90 Although usually cut rather crudely, these convex translucent green intaglios date to the 1st and early 2nd century AD. For their magic purpose, it was the color of the precious stone – in combination with the device and/or an inscription – and not its specific material or shape, which promised to deliver help. Therefore, the devices and magical formulas also could have been engraved in the flat and opaque green jasper. It is generally agreed that these magical amulets and gemstones originated in Egypt, especially in the large multicultural city of Alexandria, during the Roman Empire.

    • 91 Spier, 2007, p. 215 Index s.v. “plasma (prase)”: no. 31 Pl.6: Seated Constantinopolis. Zwierlein-Di (...)

    Differentiating late antique from early Christian devices of the 3rd and early 4th century AD is precarious, because of the increasing influence of the new religion in the Roman world. Some devices on gemstones, such as a shepherd, a fish, an anchor, a ship, a dove, or a palm tree could be interpreted as either pagan or Christian – subjects surely meant to be interpreted either way as a defense from prosecution of the gem’s owner before the time of Constantine the Great. In Late Antique and Early Christian Gems, Jeffrey Spier catalogued over 1,000 objects, of which only eleven are “plasma (prase),” and among these the identity of the material of just three could be verified by the author today.91 These three convex gems can be dated into the 3rd (“Good Shepherd”) and the 4th century (“Constantinopolis sitting”), respectively; however, because two of them are described as “pale” or “discolored”, it is highly questionable if they are the chromian variety of chalcedony.

7. Chromian chalcedony from Eskeşehir/Anatolia

  • 92 See: Lule-Whipp, 2006, 115.
  • 93 For example: 1) Furtwängler, 1896, FG 136: Herakles and Acheloos. From the Necropolis of Falerii 18 (...)

36The intaglios discussed in this essay belong to a small but significant group of convex or bi-convex bluish green-colored chalcedonies, which frequently contain inclusions of opaque black chromite crystals. The source of this rare variety of microcrystalline quartz was forgotten after its brief period of use in antiquity. A locality within the geographic scope of the ancient world from which the ancient chromian chalcedony might have originated was not discovered until the 1970’s, adjacent to a chromite mine, near Eskeşehir in central Anatolia, Turkey.92 The ancient authors Theophrastus and Plinius gave no hint to this region; instead they mentioned “India” as origin of the “smaragdus” we know as (translucent) green chalcedony. It appears, except for a few gemstones of earlier date and different shape – like a scarab, some intaglios and a cameo93, translucent green-colored varieties did not come in use before about 30 BC. By that time, the last of the Hellenistic dynasties – the Ptolemies in Alexandria/Egypt ending with the suicide of Cleopatra VII on August 12th 30 BC – had been conquered by the Romans. Artists, who had not left their country during the last 100 years, now arrived in the future metropolis of the Mediterranean, in Rome.

37The Golden Age under the new Emperor Augustus opened trading to sources of highly valued material from far away. Apparently, the chromium-bearing chalcedony was discovered and became fashionable for intaglios during this period, perhaps just for the attraction of its intense green color. Less expensive than emerald, chalcedony was easier to engrave, although the subjects of the devices were not easy to read, because of the dark inclusions and variegated color. Whether the deposit in central Asia Minor was the only locality that supplied Romanera lapidaries, we do not know. However, from a geological point of view, the documented occurrences, to date, of only four localities for chromium-bearing chalcedony worldwide suggests that the conditions conducive to producing it are extremely rare, and so, the prospect of multiple, disparate sources having provided the chromian chalcedony used during the same brief span of time in the late Roman world seems to be highly unlikely. While new localities may be discovered which would lead us to reconsider, currently, it seems much more plausible that a single source provided the rare chromian chalcedony that found wide distribution over the vast expanse of the Roman Empire. Only one of the four localities currently known, the Anatolian deposit, could have been the source in the Roman Empire.

38The translucent green intaglios of small size and convex shape during the 1st century AD were distributed throughout the Roman Empire and augmented emeralds in sets with necklaces and earrings. By examining the derivation of their shape and by their “socialization” in contexts, one might assume that they were manufactured mainly in central Italy.

39Maybe during the 2nd century AD this special mine of chromian chalcedony in Anatolia fell into oblivion or its trade has been neglected. One can speculate that the rare raw material during the later period originated from a new pocket or vein near the earlier, original source or a different and new source or the supply of material from the original locality was limited to production for the privileged class and used for official portraits only, especially during the Severan dynasty, with their closer association with the Levant. But, in the 3rd century the chromium-bearing chalcedony vanished completely, with no notable revival after 330 when Constantine the Great moved the metropolitan center from Rome to the eastern part of the Empire and founded Constantinople on the Bosporus.

8. Chrome chalcedony in post-antique periods

40If this chronological reconstruction considered in the preceding pages on the use of the rare chromian gem material in the Roman Empire – its appearance, disappearance, reappearance, permanent eclipse – proves correct and continues to be substantiated by dated finds, it follows that no imitation, fake or contemporary intaglios cut from the same material (from the same locality) could have been produced in later periods, especially from the Renaissance onwards or during the Neo-Classical revival of the 18th and 19th centuries. So, it is intriguing that Erika Zwierlein-Diehl in her 3rd volume of the large Vienna Collection listed 9 post-antique “plasmas” that are consistent in appearance with chromium-bearing chalcedony: they have varied greenish hues – ranging from moss green to bluish green – and contain dark inclusion.94 The author dates them stylistically as post-antique: one is attributed to the 15th/16th century, one to the 16th/17th, five in the 17th, one to 17th/18th and one to the 18th century. On the other hand, the same author, for her essay in this volume, proved a leek green chromian chalcedony from the von Stosch Collection in Berlin (FG 9125) with a Saturn’s head, which Furtwängler once dated post-antique, to originate in fact from the Early Roman Imperial era.95 Surely, future publications of post-antique intaglios in other collections probably will reveal more green chalcedonies, like just recently in the Verona collection.96 Gemological verification and chemical analysis may make clear the geological association, if any, between the material from the Roman era and much later post-antique periods, and the cultural circumstances that made possible the re-discovery or reuse of an ancient material will require more study.

41The objective of this essay has been to investigate the correlation between the origin of a rare gemstone with the historical chronology of the gem’s occurrence, distribution and use for the production of intaglios in antiquity. The correlation of a gem to its cut shape as a fashioned stone, its engraved device, and its use as signet throughout the ancient world has been recognized for many gems, including jasper, garnet, lapis lazuli, various colors and shapes of carnelian or nicolo, and other gems, not to mention the diverse types of ancient glass gems. In his survey of the vast collection in Berlin, Adolf Furtwängler was the first author to examine critically and focus primarily on the material and shape of ancient intaglios. Indeed, his classification of chromian chalcedony intaglios was consistent, unambiguous, and accurate. He developed a totally new methodology for classifying and evaluating not only the “kleine Praser,” but the whole range of gemstones of antiquity. Throughout the 20th century, his approach has been adopted by most authors, and consequently, dating, locating, and interpreting have achieved a broad consensus. Among the significant challenges that lay ahead is to refine the criteria for dating intaglios of Roman Imperial period – not separate from, but integrated with definition of style and quality. The contributions of mineralogists and gemologists to projects like the “Atlas of Gemology” will help scholars of archaeology and art history immensely in realizing this objective.

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Annexe

Résumé long en français

Dans Die antiken Gemmen, 1900, Adolf Furtwängler a été le premier chercheur à classer un petit groupe de gemmes gravées, de couleur verte, d’époque romaine, en fonction de leurs matériau, forme et motifs, appelé le “Gattung der kleinen konvexen Praser”. Au milieu de tous les termes descriptifs utilisés pour les quartz colorés en vert que l’on trouve dans des catalogues de musée, incluant “prase”, “chrysoprase” et “plasma”, se cache une variété de calcédoine verte translucide contenant du chrome, une gemme rare de provenance géologique inconnue jusqu’à une date récente. Dans la vaste collection de pierres gravées de l’Antikensammlung de Berlin, les “petits prases” forment seulement un petit groupe. Mais leur nombre total d’environ 215 pièces est beaucoup plus élevé que dans aucune autre collection publiée et par rapport aux pierres semblables découvertes et publiées durant le siècle précédent, la collection de Berlin offre la seule référence assez riche pour valider le schéma de classification de Furtwängler.

Pour beaucoup d’anciennes gemmes, dans les vieilles collections comme celle de Berlin, on manque d’informations sur le lieu exact de découverte; ainsi, en examinant les études publiées sur les intailles en calcédoine verte provenant de contextes archéologiques, on peut essayer de répondre à quelques questions. Où et en quelle quantité apparaissent-elles ? Les contextes aident-ils à préciser ou à resserrer la date de fabrication ? D’où vient le matériau brut, a-t-il été commercialisé et a-t-il circulé comme matériau grossier, non taillé ? Les intailles en calcédoine verte ont-elles été travaillées dans des ateliers localisables, et ensuite distribuées à travers l’empire romain ? La discussion qui suit inclut les références des publications sur les pierres gravées provenant de sites romains dans lesquelles la calcédoine verte translucide est citée.

Les contextes archéologiques avec des intailles en calcédoine verte ne sont pas datés d’avant l’époque julio-claudienne et pas plus tard que la période trajane, le début du dernier tiers du ier siècle avant J.-C., le ier siècle et le début du iie siècle après J.-C. Seuls, des portraits, impériaux et privés, et probablement peu de gemmes magiques et quelques gemmes chrétiennes précoses sont des cas exceptionnels qui ne se conforment pas à cet espace de temps (à condition que le matériau des gemmes ait été correctement identifié), l’usage de ce matériau rare pour ces objets-là peut avoir eu d’autres raisons qui seront discutées à la fin.

Non seulement les calcédoines vertes convexes ont des dimensions très petites, mais encore elles sont montées dans de petites bagues. Bien que le nombre de “petits prases” ayant survécu intacts, dans leur monture de métal originale, soit limité, à cause de leurs dimensions ces bijoux ne peuvent convenir qu’à de petits doigts de jeunes femmes ou même d’enfants. La plupart des bagues encore subsistantes sont en or plein, avec des anneaux circulaires dans lesquels la pierre gravée était enchâssée par en dessus, en accord avec la surface convexe de la bague (Guiraud type 2b-c). Cette forme de bague apparaît au début du ier siècle et elle est typique des bagues trouvées dans l’aire du Vésuve avant 79 après J.-C.

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Notes

2 Furtwängler, 1900, vol. III, p. 309.

3 For more discussion on the confusion of different terms, not only among archaeologists but even among mineralogists, see: Riederer, J., Mineralogische Bestimmungen, dans: Philipp, 1986, p. 127ff., p. 130 quartz with inclusions: prasem, p. 134 chrysopras, p. 136 plasma (as an opaque, green variety of Jaspis), p. 144 (Detlef Ullrich). Zwierlein-Diehl, 1992, p. 43‑47 deduced the confusion caused by Plinius. Zwierlein-Diehl, 2007, p. 307. - For terms and definitions by ancient authors see: Gagetti, 2006, s.v. “plasma” p. 57‑59 n. 134‑151.

4 Devoto et Molayem, 1990, p. 35‑36 “calcedonii verdi cromiferi” fig. 26, 189, 191, 230. Hutchison, 1994, p. 1‑6; Hutchison, 1996, p. 7 pl.8; Hutchison's paper “Green Stones from Roman Excavations”, held in Ravello/Italy at the European Symposium 13.-16. Nov. 1987, has not been published in the relevant actes: PACT 23 (Strasbourg 1989). Lule-Whipp, 2006, p. 115.

5 Furtwängler, 1896, p. 378 s.v. „Smaragdplasma“; „Kleine Praser“ p. 111‑119 no. 2355‑2535 Taf. 22‑23. The gems in the Berlin collection are cited with their inv.no. “FG”, following Furtwängler, 1896.

6 Weiß, 2007, p. 480 s.v. „Plasma“.

7 Greifenhagen II 1975, p. 77 Taf. 58,3‑4, p. 79 Taf. 59, 13‑14 and 19‑20; Greifenhagen I 1970, p. 49 Taf. 25, 16.26. See below note 58, 59 and 62.

8 For engraved gems in Roman contexts, see: Sena Chiesa et Facchini, 1985, p. 3‑31. Zwierlein-Diehl, 2007, p. 144, 195, 404.

9 Sena Chiesa, 1966, p. 54 tav. 86,14‑18. Prasii: no. 392, 452, 477, 933, 991; attributed: no. 196, 253, 723, 724, 931. For the masses of gems in or from Aquileia see: Maselli Scott et al., 2009, p. 27–109, 383‑385.

10 Zwierlein-Diehl, Wien I 1973: 14 “plasmas”, 1 from Aquileia no. 523: Portrait of a Roman lady with coiffure of Julia Titi; II 1979: 61 “plasmas”, 6 from Aquileia: no. 1322, 1390. 1476, 1604; III 1991: 32 “plasmas”, 1 from Aquileia: no. 2049.

11 Tomaselli, 1993, no. 1, 160, 275. - Among the ca. 3,000 gemstones hold in the Museo Archeologico di Trieste, yet unpublished, more gemstones from Aquileia are to be discovered, see note 9.

12 Sena Chiesa, 1978, p. 134 s.v. “plasma” and “prasio”.

13 Sena Chiesa, 2001b, p. 23 fig. 6.

14 Bologna: Mandrioli Bizzarri, 1987, p. 186 s.v. “plasma”. verona: Sena Chiesa, 2009, p. 245 s.v. “prasio”; see below note 96.

15 D’Ambrosio et De Carolis, 1997, Pompei: oro e smeraldo p. 40 no. 74‑77, 79, 82‑84; prasio p. 43 no. 94 (argento dorato), p. 45 no. 101‑102 (oro); cromocalcedonio/ prasio p. 49 no. 117. Oplontis: smeraldo liscio p. 72 no. 230, plasma liscio p. 72 no. 231, engraved cromocalcedonio p. 73 no. 234‑235, p. 74 no. 238. Ercolano: prasio p. 99 no. 311, smeraldo liscio p. 100‑101 no. 320‑325, prasio liscio p. 104 no. 346. - In the gem collection of the National Museum in Naples, there are: 1 prasio from Ercolano, 1 prasio and 1 plasma from Pompei, and 10 more prasii of unknown provenante, see: Pannuti, I 1983, no. 27, 99, 100; II 1994, no. 130, 135, 142, 153, 155, 220, 250, 274, 284, 288.

16 Pannuti I 1983, p. 117 no. 182: 21.8 × 15.8 mm. See note 68.

17 Dembski, 2005, p. 191 s.v. „Chrysopras“.

18 Platz-Horster, I 1987, no. 158; II 1994, no. 214, no. 232 attributed to the “Officina dei Prasii” in Aquileia, no. 327; Platz-Horster, III 2009, p. 127, p. 151 no. 36. For the lack of more convex gemstones, see: II 1994, p. 40.

19 Platz-Horster, 1984, no. 36 from Cologne, no. 88 without find spot.

20 Krug, 1980, „Prasem“ no. 1, 9, 12, 43, 45, 67 cameo, no. 83 in gold ring 1st cent. AD, no. 128 in gold ring 2nd cent., no. 147, 268, 302, 445.

21 Krug, 1995, p. [210] 64 Nr. 58, p. [218] 72 Nr. 89 in gold ring: Methe, 1st half of 1st cent. AD. – “Plasma” with device in two rows: fighting cocks above two eagles, found 2004 in Etzerath, now in Trier, Rheinisches Landesmuseum Inv. 2004,6. Henrich, 2006, p. 150, Nachtrag p. 15 Taf. 36 (information: Jörn Lang, Köln).

22 Henkel, 1913, no. 143, 144, 148‑154, 170, 174, 176, 279, 1123, 1169.

23 Krug, A., Fundgemmen I-IV, dans: Germania 53, 1975, p. 113‑125; Germania 55, 1977, p. 77‑84; Germania 56, 1978, p. 476‑503; Germania 58, 1980, p. 117‑135. Gonzenbach, 1952, p. 65‑81. Steiger, 1966, p. 29‑49. Riha, 1990, p. 49: no green chalcedony among 62 engraved gems. – Augsburg, Römermuseum Inv. 1992, 1893. Platz-Horster, G., Die antiken Gemmen aus Augsburg (forthcoming) cat.no.3.

24 Maaskant-Kleibrink, 1986, no. 81‑83. Among the 65 Roman gems from the fortress velsen I and II, there is no green chalcedony: Maaskant-Kleibrink, M., dans: BABesch 55, 1980, p. 1‑28; Bosman, A.V.A.J., dans: BABesch 69, 1994, p. 155‑164.

25 Maaskant-Kleibrink, 1975, p. 168.

26 Guiraud, I, 1988, Index p. 217 s.v., map: p. 30 fig. 10 ; II 2008, p. 72‑73 note 213 and 223, Index p. 193 s.v.

27 Guiraud, 1995, p. 359‑406, diagrams: p. 362 fig. 2; list of gemstones found in Roman drains: p. 400 Tab.1.

28 Zienkiewicz, 1986, p. 117‑141 Pl. 5‑17, colour plate in front; Zienkiewicz, 1987, p. 7, 8, 12; Henig, 1988, p. 146.- Among the 13 gemstones from the Canabae at Caerleon, there is no “plasma” or “prase”: Henig and Lloyd-Morgan in Evans, 2000, p. 322‑328.

29 Henig, 1978, p. 32f., p. 319 App. 220: “Green plasma with black inclusions” from Wroxeter, “stratified in the military destruction level ca. 90 AD”, “Julio-Claudian (even a late Augustan) dating”, see above note 4.

30 Henig in Cuncliffe, 1988, p. 27‑33 Pl. 18‑20, plasma with inclusions: p. 31, p. 52 Pl.19, 13.

31 Johns, 1997, p. 85‑101, with contributions to the iconography by Martin Henig p. 20‑24, and to style and technique by Marianne Kleibrink p. 25‑33.

32 Casal Garcia, 1990. Lopez de la Orden, 1990, p. 217 fig. 3.

33 Hoey Middleton, 1991, no. 55, 59, 64, 102. Nestorović, 2005.

34 Gesztelyi, 2001, no. 15, 17; Gesztelyi, 2004, p. 39. Gesztelyi, 2008, p. 300, 310 no. 8 „2nd century AD“.

35 Tudor, 1967, p. 209‑229. Gramatopol, 1973, 177‑183. Gramatopol, 1974, p. 29‑36; Review: Krug in Bonner Jahrbücher 176, 1976, p. 481.

36 Teposu-Marinescu, 1960, p. 525‑534; Teposu-Marinescu et Lako, 1973.

37 Dimitrova-Milčeva, 1980, p. 44 no. 55.

38 Hoey Middleton, 2001, no. 13‑14, 23, 36.

39 Konuk et Arslan, 2000, p. 29 no. 5: Bust of Apollo, 8.8 × 7 × 2 mm; p. 68 no. 44: Mask of Pan, 8.8 × 7.8 mm. The dating of both “1st century BC” can be determined at ca. 30 BC.

40 Hamburger, 1968, p. 36 no. 151.

41 Henig, Whiting, 1987, no. 40, 135, 166, 227, 274, 291, 293, 379.

42 Boussac et Starakis-Roscam, 1983, p. 457‑495. Mandel-Elzinga, 1985, p. 243‑298.

43 Poinssot, 1909, p. 194‑224; Guiraud, 2001, p. 141‑149; Spier, 1992, no. 317: Victoria to right.

44 See above note 15.

45 Krug, 1987, p. 467–471. Gagetti, 2006, p. 57–59 s. v. „plasma“. Zwierlein-Diehl, 2008b, p. 46 „smaragdus“. Zwierlein-Diehl, 2008, p. 181.

46 Plantzos, 1999, p. 111.

47 Zazoff, 1983, p. 202, 209; Platz-Horster, 1995, p. 9‑26; Plantzos, 1999, p. 36‑38. – For Italic and Republican convex gemstones: Zazoff, o.c. 270‑271 fig. 65; Zwierlein-Diehl, 2007, p. 97‑98, 102.

48 Sena Chiesa, 1966, p. 54 n.4. Sena Chiesa, 1989, p. 281‑299.

49 Furtwängler, 1896, FG 6745, FG 11065‑70; Furtwängler, 1900, vol. II Pl. 41,33, Taf. 52,4 etc.; vol. III p. 306, 308, 394; AGD II 1969, p. 197 no. 559‑560 (dated too late); Greifenhagen, I 1970, p. 77‑82 Taf. 57‑61; Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, 1992, p. 230 no. 6‑15, emeralds no. 13‑14 fig. 16‑17; Platz-Horster, 2002, p. 84‑86 no. 50; Platz-Horster, 2005, p. 788‑800.

50 Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, 1992, no. 77‑83, 92, 94, 96, 116,103, 118, 121‑122, 127‑128, 136, 139, 147‑151, 154, 168, 169, 186, 202, 216, 221, 232‑237, 252‑257, 268‑269, 290, 294.- Treasure from Assiût/Egypt: Greifenhagen I 1970, p. 66‑68 Pl. 46‑48; Platz-Horster, G., dans: Wamser (dir.), 2004, p. 285‑303.

51 Borg, 1996, p. 167‑172. For the estimation of green stone in the Egyptian religion see: Andrews, C., Ancient Egyptian Jewellery (British Museum London 1990) 37.

52 AGD II 1969, no. 375. See below note 93.

53 See above note 47.

54 AGD II 1969, no. 468.

55 AGD II 1969, no. 460; Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 147 no. 342: 30‑20 BC. C. Goedicke, Rathgen-Forschungslabor der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, analyzed no chromium by qualitative XRF. Probably the stone was dyed.

56 AGD II 1969, no. 492: 20‑30 AD.

57 AGD II 1969, no. 516: The dating of the front intaglio into the early 2nd cent. AD is too late by its style.

58 Inner diameters of gold rings in Berlin: Furtwängler, 1896, FG 2373: 11.2 × 14.8 mm; FG 2401: 11.3 × 13.9 mm; FG 2442: 12.7 × 14.6 mm; iron ring FG 2495: 12.8 × 14.9 mm. Lit.: Greifenhagen, II 1975, p. 77 Taf. 58,3‑4, p. 79 Taf. 59,13‑14 and Taf. 59, 19‑20.

59 In the Berlin collection only two green chalcedonies are set in finger rings of normal adult size, both in silver (Furtwängler, 1896, FG 2463 and FG 2504); but both gem stones of 1st century origin are obviously secondarily set into these much later rings of 3rd century date. The finger rings of FG 2356 (bronze) and FG 2462 (gold) are not antique, like Furtwängler quoted. The gold rings FG 2403, 2437 and 2481 are lost since 1947.

60 Horster, 1970, p. 66‑68, 77, 83‑85. Zazoff, 1983, p. 330, 344 n. 300.

61 Barb, Henig, 1995, p. 171‑172. - very similar is a tiny gold ring with chromian chalcedony depicting Methe: Krug, 1995, p. 72 no. 89 Pl. 39B (6 × 4 mm), dated to the 1st half of 1st century AD.

62 Berlin, Antikensammlung Misc. 11863, 77. From the collection of Alexandre Merle de Massonneau 1907, set in a 1st cent. AD gold ring. With an inner diameter of 14.9 × 17.9 mm, it fitted to an adult woman. Lit.: AGD II 1969, p. 182 no. 504; Greifenhagen, I 1970, p. 48 Taf. 25, 16 and 26.- Cf. Zwierlein-Diehl, 1992, p. 46 n. 146.

63 See above note 45.

64 1) Zwierlein-Diehl, Wien I 1973, p. 120 no. 348: „mid 1st cent. BC. Plasma“, 10 × 8.3 × 3.1 mm. 2) Weiß, 2007, p. 242 no. 382. „Plasma”, black-green, 12 × 9.1 × 2.9 mm.

65 1) Paris. Richter, 1971, p. 102 no. 488 “prase”; Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 57 no. 59: no „prase”, but a green glass, 14 × 11.5 mm. 2) Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, 58 no. 61: ca 30 BC. „prase opaque, à taches vert turquoise”, 16 × 13.5 × 3 mm.

66 Once Borioni, Florenz. Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 212 no. 574: „Marcellus“ (?, * 42, † 23 BC), 30‑15 BC, perhaps 23 BC. „Plasma”, 28.2 × 19.5 mm.

67 See note 56.

68 Pannuti, I 1983, p. 117 no. 182: “prasio, verde scuro, con toni brunicci, con aree e puntini verde-bruni”. Obverse convex, reverse concave, see note 16.

69 Berlin, Antikensammlung Inv. 1992.4. Platz-Horster, G., Kaiser Tiberius. Ein neuer Kameo für die Antikensammlung. Dans: Jahrbuch Preußischer Kulturbesitz 29 (Berlin 1993) p. 389‑398: 34.7 × 28.3. 8.5 mm. Platz-Horster, 2008b, p. 22‑24.

70 Gasparri, 1994, p. 130 no. 124 fig. 204: 37 × 31 mm.

71 Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 112 no. 124: 10 × 9 × 3.5 mm.

72 1) Fossing, 1929, p. 179 Pl. 15, 1213. Furtwängler, 1900, III p. 309: 14 × 11 mm. 2) Walters, 1926, p. 209 no. 1986 Pl. 25; Richter, 1971, p. 109 no. 523.

73 1) Walters, 1926, p. 209 no. 1992: 13 × 10 mm. 2) Zwierlein-Diehl, I 1973, p. 160 no. 523, from Aquileia: 13.4 × 9 × 2.9 mm. 3) Zwierlein-Diehl, I 1973, p. 160 no. 524: 10.8 × 7.9 mm.

74 1) Walters, 1926, p. 210 no. 2003 Pl. 25, “plasma”, 14 × 10 mm: “Marciana or Matidia”. 2) Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 132 no. 153: 14 × 11 mm, „80‑100 AD“. 3) Capita opposita, Berlin. Weiß, 2007, p. 238 no. 372: 8.5 × 11.4 × 4.1 mm, “late 1st/early 2nd cent. AD”.

75 1) Furtwängler, 1896, FG 2517; Furtwängler, 1900, III 309: 10 × 7.2 × ca. 2.3 mm, in modern silver ring. 2) Berlin. Weiß, 2007, p. 245 no. 390: 10.6 × 8 × 3.2 mm.

76 AGD IV 1975, p. 216 Taf.147, 1090: 16 × 13 × 1.7 mm.

77 Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 252 Pl.131, 758: 9.8 × 16.5 mm.

78 Berlin. Weiß, 2007, p. 246 no. 392: 12.2 × 9 × 4.2 mm.

79 Former Napoli (?), Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 256 Pl. 134 no. 771: 18.8 × 15.8 mm.

80 1) London. Walters, 1926, p. 212 no. 2021 Pl. 25; Richter, 1971, p. 118 no. 572, “plasma“: 23 × 17 mm. 2) Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 178 no. 227: „prase“: 22 × 17 mm.

81 Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 166 no. 207: „prase“: 17 × 16 mm.

82 Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 181 no. 231: „prase“: 12 × 8.5 mm; ring 21 × 27.5 mm, inner dimensions 15 × 16.5 mm.

83 Paris. Vollenweider, II 2005, p. 191 no. 246: “prase”: 19 × 14 × 3 mm. Richter, 1971, p. 118 no. 584 “Plautilla”. Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 259 Pl.136 no. 781 „Julia Domna“.

84 1) Leningrad/St. Petersburg. Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 261 Pl. 138, 789: „plasma”: 21.7 × 16.8 mm. 2) Once Louise von der Pfalz. Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 262 Pl. 136 no. 790: „plasma”: 16.5 × 10.5 mm. The authenticity of the gem is questionable.

85 Zwierlein-Diehl, 2008, 178‑181 no. 17, 325‑327: “plasma”: 50 × 36 mm.

86 Gagetti, 2006, p. 59 no. A 45, A 46, B 6, B 10, E 4, G 22, G 92(?), G 94, G 140, G 171, N 2 and N 9.

87 Gagetti, 2006, p. 224 A 45.

88 Gagetti, 2006, p. 225 A 46. The sculpture is proved to be of chromian chalcedony (information: Lisbet Thoresen. June 2007).

89 Spier, 1992, p. 158 no. 435 (bust: 18.4 × 10.7 × 13mm; hoop: outer diameter 22 × 28.2 mm, inner diameter 14 × 17 mm).

90 Zwierlein-Diehl, 1992, p. 25, 28, 75 no. 16: “plasma”: 9.6 × 7 × 4 mm. 1st – early 2nd century AD. – Michel, 2004, p. 225, 255‑263 cat. no. 11.1‑10, Pl. 68‑69, Color Pl. V. The author examined ca. 2,600 items. In lack of an ‘Index of Material’, I counted all translucent green stones listed, like “plasma, prase, green chalcedony, moss agate, chrysopras”. Shapes and dimensions of the items are not given in the catalogue lists.

91 Spier, 2007, p. 215 Index s.v. “plasma (prase)”: no. 31 Pl.6: Seated Constantinopolis. Zwierlein-Diehl, 2007, p. 448 fig. 702; Spier, 2007, no. 320 Pl. 39: Good Shepherd with 2 sheep and 2 fishes, set in a contemporary 3rd century gold ring; Spier, 2007, no. 336 Pl.41: Good Shepherd, inscribed IH-XP in the field.

92 See: Lule-Whipp, 2006, 115.

93 For example: 1) Furtwängler, 1896, FG 136: Herakles and Acheloos. From the Necropolis of Falerii 1893. Greek scarab, 575‑550 BC; AGD II 1969, p. 48 no. 79. - 2) Furtwängler, 1896, FG 299, former von Stosch Collection: Thrakian king Diomedes devoured to his horses. Flat ring stone, early 1st cent. BC; AGD II 1969, p. 152 no. 392; Zazoff. 1983, p. 293 n. 159 Pl. 84.4: from a workshop in Latium?; Zwierlein-Diehl, 1986, p. 166 no. 378. - 3) Furtwängler, 1896, FG 2300, early 1st cent. BC (note 52). - 4) Aquileia: Punishment of Dirke. Large flat intaglio, mid 1st cent. BC. Sena Chiesa, 1966, no.750; Richter, 1971, p. 71 no. 333; Sena Chiesa and Gagetti, 2009, p. 19 fig. 2, p. 40 fig. 2. - 5) Zwierlein-Diehl, 2008, p. 186‑189 no. 19, p. 331‑337: Cameo with naked Harpokrates sitting on a lotus blossom, “2nd half of 2nd to 1st half of 1st century BC, dark green plasma with brownish inclusions”, 42 × 30 mm.

94 Zwierlein-Diehl, Wien III 1991, no. 2546, 2547, 2552, 2564, 2566, 2596, 2600, 2646 and 2698.

95 See pl. VIII-5 of the article from Zwierlein-Diehl in the same volume.

96 Tassinari, in Sena Chiesa, 2009 (see above note 14), determined 4 “prasii” within the 127 “post-classical” gems: no. 676, 706: “sicuramente non antichi”, no. 760, 784: “non facilmente identificabili come moderni”.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Berlin, FG 2401
Crédits Ph. Isolde Luckert
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/docannexe/image/10993/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Pl. VIII-1. Augsburg, Römermuseum, Inv. 1992, 1893. Ph. Johannes Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/docannexe/image/10993/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Titre Pl. VIII-2. Berlin, FG 11371. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/docannexe/image/10993/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Titre Pl. VIII-3. Berlin, FG 11371, detail. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/docannexe/image/10993/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre Pl. VIII-4. Berlin, FG 2324. Ph. J. Laurentius (G. Platz-Horster)
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/docannexe/image/10993/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Titre Fig. 1a. Berlin, FG 2401, ring form
Crédits Ph. I Luckert
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/docannexe/image/10993/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Fig. 2. Berlin, FG 2615
Crédits Ph. I. Luckert
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/docannexe/image/10993/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 117k
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Référence papier

Gertrud Platz-Horster, « Kleine Praser and Chromium-bearing Chalcedonies. About a small group of engraved gems »Pallas, 83 | 2010, 179-202.

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Gertrud Platz-Horster, « Kleine Praser and Chromium-bearing Chalcedonies. About a small group of engraved gems »Pallas [En ligne], 83 | 2010, mis en ligne le 01 octobre 2010, consulté le 23 mai 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/pallas/10993 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/pallas.10993

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Gertrud Platz-Horster

C/o Antikensammlung Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
gertrudplatz[at]gmx.de

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