This necklace comprises 27 amethyst, cornelian, agate, chalcedony and sardonyx intaglios, each set in yellow gold.
It was entered for sale in Cheshire earlier this year by a gentlemen from Staffordshire whose mother was an avid antiques collector. Keen to research its history further, auction room receptionist Helena Waudby made her own ‘Grand Tour’ to Oxford to seek the opinion of Dr Martin Henig of the Institute of Archaeology.
He was quickly able to identify the intaglios as Roman (rather than Renaissance or later copies) with most dating from the 1st century AD.
Many of the carved subjects are birds and animals alongside other typical motifs such as a satyr, a charioteer and scenes from Greek mythology.
Such a large cache of intaglios, originally from the finger rings worn and used as seals by every businessman in the Roman empire, would have represented a significant find at the time. It is probable they were unearthed en masse in a Roman drainage system or bath site.
The necklace had featured on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow some years ago when it was valued at around £15,000.
It carried an estimate of £2000-2500 at the auction on September 13 but generated huge interest from nine phone bidders, eventually selling at £28,000 (plus 24% premium) to a collector from Hong Kong.