Geometric and Early Archaic gems: introduction

The collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece, of the Minoans and Mycenaeans, saw the end of hardstone gem engraving in Greece for several centuries. It resumes, but only with softer stones and ivory, in the 9th century BC. The influence comes from the east, as with much else in Greek art of the period, but the figure decoration on the seals is that of Greek Geometric art. The 7th and 6th centuries see various other series, generally of local significance only, and inspired by either the east (the ivories) or the past (the Island Gems) but in a conventional Greek orientalizing style. These series end only with the adoption of techniques of hardstone gem engraving in the Late Archaic period.

There is no good evidence that they were much used for sealing although similar stamp seals, of stone or wood, were on occasion used for the decoration of some clay vases.

Abbreviations in this section:


J. Boardman, Island Gems (London, 1964).


J. Boardman, Greek Gems and Finger Rings: Early Bronze Age to Late Classical (1970).