Late Antique, Early Christian and Jewish gems: 3rd and 4th centuries - inscriptions

Among the earliest Christian gems, datable to the mid 3rd century AD, are a number of small cornelians and jaspers engraved only with inscriptions naming or referring to Jesus Christ. Some read IHCOY XPICTOY, "of Jesus Christ" (in the genitive case, presumably meaning that the wearer was a "servant of Jesus Christ"), others merely IHCOY ("of Jesus") or XPICTOY ("of Christ"). Also used were the chi-rho monogram signifying "Christ" and the word IXQYC, meaning "fish" in Greek but also a frequently used acrostic composed of the first letters of "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour".

Gem image

The chi-rho monogram of Christ.

Munich, Christian Schmidt collection. Red jasper in silver ring.

Gem image

IHCOY XPICTOY, "of Jesus Christ".

Private collection. Red jasper, 13 x 10 mm., in silver ring.

Gem image

The acrostic IXQYC.

Private collection. Banded agate, 13 x 10 mm.