An exquisite 2,000-year-old sapphire ring which is thought to have belonged to Roman Emperor Caligula – and is one of the ‘Marlborough Gems’ – is being sold for close to £500,000. The sky blue hololith, made from a single piece of the precious stone, is believed to have been owned by Caligula, who reigned from 37AD until his assassination four years later. The face engraved into the bezel is thought to be his fourth and last wife Caesonia.
The sky blue hololith, made from a single piece of sapphire, is believed to have owned by Caligula, who reigned from 37AD until his assassination four years later
Caesonia, who was played by Dame Helen Mirren in the 1979 erotic historical drama Caligula, was assassinated almost immediately after her husband. Stricken with grief at his death, she reportedly willingly offered her neck to the assassin, telling him to kill her without hesitation. The rise and fall of Caligula was littered with ‘incestuous relationships’ and a love of torture Caligula was born Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus in 12AD to renowned Roman general Germanicus and his wife, Agrippina the Elder. He was given the nickname Caligula, or ‘little boot’, in reference to the tiny uniform his parents would dress him in. He was just 24 when he became emperor in 37AD, after his mother and brothers died in prison after being accused of treason. His great-uncle Tiberius then adopted him and made him and his son equal heirs to the empire. Although his appointment was initially welcomed by Rome, a serious illness unhinged Caligula. He is quoted as having the catchphrase: ‘Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.’ And it was rumoured that he had incestuous relationships with his sisters and brazen affairs with wives of his allies. He would torture high-ranking senators by making them run for miles in front of his chariot.
And he would jokingly threaten to have his wife, Caesonia, tortured or killed. It is also believed he used to roll around in cash and drink precious stones dissolved in vinegar. His lavish lifestyle drained the Roman treasury faster than he could replenish it with tax and extortion. In 41AD Caligula was stabbed to death, along with his wife and daughter, by officers of the Praetorian Guard led by Cassius Chaerea. According to Roman historian Seutonius, the emperor would parade Caesonia in front of his troops, and sometimes displayed her naked in front of friends. The ring is the star attraction at an exhibition of more than 100 engraved gems which will be held in London by Royal jewellers Wartski next week. The gems will be available for purchase, with prices ranging from £5,000 to £500,000. The face engraved into the bezel is thought to be his fourth and last wife Caesonia, who was said to be so beautiful Caligula paraded her in front of his troops and paraded her naked in front of his friends
Kieran McCarthy, Wartski director, said: ‘This ring is one of the prestigious ‘Marlborough Gems’, having previously been in the collection of the Earl of Arundel. ‘It is crafted entirely of sapphire. Very few horoliths exist and I would argue this is the best example you can find. ‘We believe it belonged to the debauched Emperor Caligula and the engraving shows his final wife Caesonia. ‘The gems at the exhibition have prices ranging from £5,000 to £500,000. While we don’t want to disclose its price out of discretion for potential buyers, this gem is at the top end of that range.’
He was rumoured to have been involved in incestuous relationships with his sisters and to have had brazen affairs with the wives of his allies. It is also believed he used to physically roll around in cash and would even drink precious gem stones after dissolving them in vinegar. A planned invasion of Britain in 40AD got no further than the Channel where he ordered the troops to gather seashells – and he once suggested making his horse a senator. The following year, Caligula, Caesonia and daughter were assassinated by the Praetorian Guard who had had enough of his bizarre antics. The exhibition takes place from October 1 to 7 at Wartski’s premises in St James’s Street, London.