Most have never heard of a gryllus. Even many antique jewelry dealers are unfamiliar with this type of imagery.
A gryllus is a rare form of intaglio, or occasionally a cameo. Rather than the typical single image portrayed, it is a collection of images merged into one.
Sometimes the orientation reveals other images, for instance turning the piece to the side or upside down. Often there are two or three images to decipher.
The few that were created frequently date to the late 18th or early 19th century circa 1790-1820. Igniting an interest in all things classical, this renewed art hearkens back to the Renaissance which is considered the height of the intaglio carvings (along with ancient specimens). Yet Georgian period examples are often just as superb and highly refined.
Presented here is the most unusual intaglio carved into carnelian agate, versus a cameo’s raised relief image.
In this noteworthy ring, the agate has been hand engraved into the stone with the image of not three, but five faces.
Central is a head facing forward. On each side, the two faces in profile reveal themselves. Successive images recede one after the other, almost as if looking into a hall of mirrors. Each figure is oriented gazing at various angles away from the viewer. Curling hair rises atop all heads and slender necks anchor the imagery.
As if that weren't enough for this masterpiece, turning the ring upside down, more faces are revealed. The hair now becomes the beards and the center head's expression is enhanced by an open mouth, that was initially part of the hair from the opposite direction.
Typical of the time period, the setting is minimalist with a thin double bezel and tapered shank of 10k yellow gold. Worthy of a museum, but wearable always.
From the owner's private collection, purchased in London in 2010. One other gryllus ring of only two has been listed, item 20168. Just use our search tool to view it.
Note: Research has not uncovered the origins of this exact depiction, however it is likely Greek or Roman in inspiration. The carnelian will appear darker when worn, but the image is still clear and distinct.