Victorian Medusa Cameo Ring
With snakes for hair—hatred of mortal man"
- 'Prometheus Bound', Aeschylus
The myth of Medusa is one of the most well known of the ancient lores, she shines as a beacon through the annals of time, and a powerful symbol akin to the modern evil eye. A dangerous threat to ward off even more dangerous threats.
Once a beautiful priestess of Athena, she caught the eye of Poseidon, god of the sea, who sought to seduce her but when she rejected him he raped and impregnated her in the temple of Athena. Enraged by this act of sacrilege, Athena turned Medusa into a monster with snakes for hair and gaze that turned men to stone. Most (male) tellings of this story describe Athena as punishing Medusa for being victim of rape but I prefer a different reading, as explored by Glenys Livingstone and Trista Hendren in ‘Re-visioning Medusa’. Perhaps it wasn’t a punishment. Perhaps Athena was taking all the trauma, all the fear, all the anger and rage, and transforming it into fierce protective energy. Medusa becomes the embodiment of female rage in the face of patriarchy and male violence. She serves as a reminder for women not to deny our righteous rage, it can be powerful, protective, even life-saving in a society that expects our meekness. Now stick that on your hand and wear it.
After Medusa was slain by Perseus and her head delivered to Athena, she made from it her aegis (shield or armour, depending on which source you read): "a fearsome thing with a surface of gold like scaly snake-skin, and the linked serpents and the Gorgon herself upon the goddess’s breast—a severed head rolling its eyes" - Virgil’s Aeneid (Day-Lewie's translation). Indeed, even now, the phrase "under someone's aegis" means under the protection of a powerful or benevolent source.
The ring dates from the late Victorian period, Medusa carved from a single piece of pale pink conch shell - the most subtle of hues. It's set in a 9ct gold ring mount with trifurcated shoulders. English, circa 1900.
Era: Victorian circa 1900
Ring size: 8 US or P 1/2 UK/AUS. Resizable for £35.
Head size: 2.6cm by 2.1cm
Stone: Conch shell cameo
Marks: None, tested as 9ct gold
Condition: Great antique condition. Light wear consistent with age.
Full appraisal document provided with each item
This includes a valuation for insurance purposes, item specifics, date, and origins (where applicable)
Gemstones are tested by an accredited gemmologist (Cert GA, Gemmological Association of Great Britain)
Express shipping is free of charge and carbon offset
Tracked and insured with signature on delivery
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Ring sizing is available on most rings
£35 flat fee
Resizing takes 7-14 days
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Note: sizing may remove some of the patina (although we take every care to reduce this where possible)
A 25% deposit will be taken to secure the item. The remaining balance will be settled in 90 days. You can pay installments weekly, monthly, or the full balance at the end - whatever works.
We offer detailed and accurate condition reports on each listing. These pieces are antique, vintage, or pre-loved, often over 100 years old so they're going to have lived a life. A healthy patina and the odd scuff/scrape are quite normal... it's part of their charm! Everything we present has been checked over by our jeweller and should be good for wear for many years to come (unless otherwise stated) but please remember to treat them with appropriate care and consideration for their age.
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