An exhibited Roman Gold and inscribed Eye Agate Finger Ring, ca. 2nd century CE - Sands of Time Ancient Art
An exhibited Roman Gold and inscribed Eye Agate Finger Ring, ca. 2nd century CE - Sands of Time Ancient Art
An exhibited Roman Gold and inscribed Eye Agate Finger Ring, ca. 2nd century CE - Sands of Time Ancient Art
An exhibited Roman Gold and inscribed Eye Agate Finger Ring, ca. 2nd century CE - Sands of Time Ancient Art
An exhibited Roman Gold and inscribed Eye Agate Finger Ring, ca. 2nd century CE - Sands of Time Ancient Art
An exhibited Roman Gold and inscribed Eye Agate Finger Ring, ca. 2nd century CE - Sands of Time Ancient Art

An exhibited Roman Gold and inscribed Eye Agate Finger Ring, ca. 3rd century CE


Regular price $15,000 USD

This fine signet ring features a solid hoop of high carat gold, with angled bevelled shoulders and a round, high bezel that is off-set by a flat groove.  The bezel is set with an outstanding oval eye agate in the form of a cone. This unusual shape displays three strata of color layers within the gem – blue/grey at the bottom, white in the middle, and the frequently used red at the top. On the tiny top surface is skillfully engraved two lines with a pithy inscription that reads:  COAV/MIOV (fittingly mine?) in reverse.

Background:  The Signet, or Seal Ring, was significant in Roman society, as it was used in validating serious legal documents by its owner. Intaglios, and engraved or intaglio-cut gems could serve as seals, even while appearing decorative. Cicero mentions them, and Pliny cites that the fashion of wearing signet rings eventually shifted to the little finger although statues show that Roman men often wore rings on the fourth finger of their left hand, which, in time, came to be known as the 'goldfinger'. A signet ring was highly representative of the individual who wore it. It was, in effect, their signature.

During the first two centuries AD, rings operate within a complex nexus of ideas of power, image, status and gender.  According to Pliny, the first ever ring (anulus) and jewel (gemma) were forged from a fragment of the Caucasus into an iron bezel and worn by Prometheus (37.2), the Titan god of forethought and creator or mankind.  Pliny explains the chronology of Roman ring-wearing began in the Republic, with the earliest made of iron, the gold ring being specially reserved for certain classes of persons or for certain special occasions. Thus envoys sent on missions of state wore gold rings when engaged on that particular service, but resumed their iron rings upon their return home.  From the time of Augustus, gold rings were used to signify public status and recognition, especially for the equites, who became a third order between the Senate and the Plebs (33.29).  

Bibliography:  Hawley, R. (2007).  Lords of the Rings: ring-wearing, status and identity in the page of Pliny the Elder.  Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. Supplement, (100), 103-111.

A. N. Sherwin-White (ed.), The Letters of Pliny (Oxford 1966)

Condition:  hairline crack to the agate that does not detract, otherwise both ring and agate are intact and in excellent condition overall.

Dimensions:  US ring size 3 1/2

Exhibited: Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio (1961) no. 117

Provenance:  Melvin Gutman Jewelry Collection, sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, NYC, December 5th, 1969, lot 30, accompanied by copy of relevant auction page, thereafter private collection of pioneering graphic designer, artist and archivist, Elaine Lustig Cohen (1927–2016), acquired at the auction.  Cohen is recognized for her body of design work integrating European avant-garde and modernist influences into a distinctly American, mid-century manner of communication. She is a living link between design’s modernist past and its continually changing present.

Sue McGovern, President of Sands of Time, is an Executive Board and a certified member (CAPP) of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), an international multi-disciplinary certifying and accrediting organization.  ISA  has a mandatory recertification program for all senior members and Sue is in compliance with that program.   

CAPP is the highest achievement and level of credentialing in the industry of personal property appraising, signifying advanced appraisal methodology, expertise and professional development.

Sands of Time Appraisals provide comprehensive personal property valuation services to clients in all private and public sectors and has experience managing both simple and complex assignments for:

  • Federal Estate & Gift Tax
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The Sands of Time Appraisal team can appraise individual works of art or entire collections, with large collections being a specialty.  Every appraisal report is personally prepared by Sue resulting in the delivery of professional document with value conclusions in conformity with the Internal Revenue Service (where applicable), the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice” (USPAP), and the International Society of Appraisers (ISA).  With her broad information technology background, Sue also brings 25 years of project management experience that includes logistical design, planning, organizing, and implementation of large and small appraisal assignments.

By analyzing current trends and conducting comprehensive research, we closely monitor the nuances of the current market. Each client and appraisal situation is unique so our appraisal services are tailored to meet your timeline and specifications. This includes video conferencing, appraisals from photos and state of the art software tools. Efficiency and effectiveness from initial review to the delivery of the final documents is our top priority. Fees for appraisals are determined by the number of hours involved and any necessary travel and expenses. Our fees are negotiated based upon the express needs of each client and are competitive within the marketplace.

We invite inquiries from individuals, estate liquidators, museums, educational institutions, consultants, architects, interior designers, as well as colleagues, collectors and investors. Please contact us for further details.  I look forward to hearing from you,


Sands of Time offer a very flexible layaway payment plan for all objects offered for sale on our website.  Here's how it works:
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  • Shipment:  Once payment is complete, we will ship your order by the next business day.  

Should you cancel your layaway purchase, a 15% restocking-fee will apply. If you exchange or trade-up the objet purchased while it is on layaway, the restocking fee for the original purchase will not apply.  If you would like to take advantage of our layaway system or would like to discuss an alternative option that better suits your budget, please contact us via e-mail or call 1-202-342-0518. 


Sands of Time provides a lifetime, unconditional guarantee of authenticity and provenance. Every artifact purchased from us is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity, stating culture, provenance and age. Furthermore, we conduct due diligence to ensure the item, to the best of our knowledge, has not been illegally obtained from an excavation, architectural monument, public institution or private property. Wherever possible, reference is made to existing collections or publications.

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