Geometric and Early Archaic gems: Island gems

From about the mid-7th century for a century a series of seals cut in soft stone (commonly a pale green serpentine) is made in the Greek islands, with a probable centre of manufacture on Melos. They seem inspired by Bronze Age seals found in the islands and they copy the two most popular shapes - lentoid (like a lens) and amygdaloid (like an almond) - and occasionally reflect the older compositions (twisted animals) although not their styles.

Gem image

Red serpentine amygdaloid seal. A fish (tunny?), a half fish with spines and a dolphin. Fish are very common subjects in the series.

Masterpieces no. 10. 29mm.

Gem image

Green steatite lentoid seal. A chimaera. A horned goat head set on the wings, and the tail forked.

Masterpieces no. 9. 17mm.

Gem image

Green serpentine amygdaloid seal, from Epidaurus Limera. A flower, the prow of a ship, and a sea-monster (ketos).

New York no. 14. 27mm. GGFR pl. 244.

Gem image

Green serpentine lentoid seal. The forepart of a bull and tail of a fish.

London 1930.4-16.4. 20.5mm. GGFR pl. 246.

Gem image

Yellow mottled serpentine lentoid seal. Herakles wrestles with the sea-monster Triton (or Nereus); fish around.

London no. 212. 19mm. GGFR pl. 266.

Gem image

Green serpentine lentoid seal, from Perachora. Ajax at Troy commits suicide, falling on his sword. His name is inscribed behind him.

New York no. 13. 19mm. GGFR pl. 264.

Gem image

Chalcedony lentoid seal. A facing head of a satyr. This is a rare example of an Island Gem shape being executed in harder stone, from the end of the series, when new techniques were being employed for scarabs in Greece.

Boston 27.678. 21mm. GGFR pl. 274.

Back to top