Handbook of Greek Archaeology: Vases, Bronzes, Gems, Sculpture, Terra-Cottas, Mural Paintings, Architecture, Etc.

By A. S. Murray | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
ENGRAVED GEMS.

SOPH., Trach., v. 605.

IN following up the history of gem engraving we make, as with the vases, a fresh start about 600 B.C. At this date and for some time after it, the introduction of coinage and of writing, had apparently interfered largely with the production of gems in Greece. They were no longer needed as seals to any great extent. Their chief use was as personal ornaments. The Greeks of the 6th cent. B.C. were undoubtedly fond of anything that could add to personal attraction. Graceful appearance was a passion with them. But their means were limited. On the other hand the Etruscans were rich, given to show, and ready to import from Greece every product of luxury. They imported gems along with archaic vases and they speedily acquired the art of engraving gems for themselves.

As regards the technical process by which gems were executed, we read in Herodotus (vii. 69) that among the Æthiopians in the army of Xerxes were some who had their arrows tipped not with iron, but with a sharp stone with which they also engraved

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