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Ancient ring adorned with Roman emperor image sells for nearly 600 times its expected price at auction

A 2,000-year-old garnet ring from ancient Rome that is believed to have an image of the first Roman emperor sold for nearly 600 times its expected price at a recent jewelry auction in England. 

The ring, which features an “intaglio” — a carving in a gem or piece of metal that can be used to seal official documents — of Caesar Augustus, was initially estimated to sell for about £150 and £200, reported news agency SWNS.

That amount is roughly $186 to $248 in U.S. dollars, according to the website Currencyrate.com. 

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Instead, after a “heated bidding war,” the ring sold for £117,000 — about $145,000 in U.S. currency. 

In U.S. dollars, that’s 584 times its initial estimate. 

garnet ring rome

The garnet ring is estimated to be about 2,000 years old and features an “intaglio” of what is believed to be Augustus, the first emperor of ancient Rome. (SWNS)

The ring was sold by the auction house Fellows Auctioneers, located in Birmingham, England. It was “sold along with a group of other jewelry items, including other intaglios,” said SWNS. 

The ring was “thought to have been acquired during a ‘Grand Tour’ to Italy in the 19th century,” said SWNS. 

These types of “Grand Tours” were popular activities among societal elites at the time, it said. 

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“The garnet intaglio is believed to depict Augustus — an integral figure in the history of the Roman Empire, which dominated the globe for more than 1,000,” said SWNS. 

Augustus Caesar ruled Rome from 27 BC until 14 AD, the news service noted. 

garnet intaglio ring rome

Details of how the ring came to be in the possession of the seller were not released, but it is thought to have been acquired in the 19th century, according to SWNS. (SWNS)

Nicola Whittaker, manager of business development at Fellows Auctioneers, said she was “delighted” by the sale price of the ring. 

“Not only did we achieve an amazing price for our vendor, but we had the opportunity to handle an extremely interesting piece of jewelry history,” she told SWNS. 

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“It is rare to see such an intricately carved piece in such fine condition,” she added, noting that “it was a privilege to offer the ring for sale in our auction.” 

Augustus Caesar statue

Marble statue of Augustus Caesar, first Roman emperor.  (Ann Ronan Pictures/Getty Images)

The seller’s identity was not made known, said SNWS.

There were also “no further details as to how they acquired the ring.” 

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Other intaglio pieces dating to the first century were also auctioned, but for considerably less than the garnet ring. 

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A fob made out of the gemstone carnelian sold for a comparatively cheaper £12,870, or about $16,000 in U.S. dollars.

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