5 • An Inscribed Yellow Sapphire

5 • An Inscribed Yellow Sapphire

India or Sri Lanka; late 4th – early 3rd century BC
3.33 cm × 1.97 cm ×1.275 cm
Weight: 77.5 carat

Inscribed in Greek: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ

The inscription reads Basileios Seleukou – [Belonging to] King Seleucus. Four separate rulers of the Seleucid Empire were named Seleucus between 305 and 175 ,0, and although it is not possible to determine which Seleucus once owned this gem, Derek Content wrote the following about it:

‘This large and impressive jewel bears all the expected wear patterns of long use. [ . . .] This gem may also be considered one of the earliest named gems in precious stone, the first inscribed true gemstone in a long line of precious gems. Whether engraved in cameo or intaglio, illustrious individuals across ages and cultures frequently have felt the need to immortalize their names in the hardest, most precious material available to them.’

Content, Derek, ‘Ruby, Sapphire & Spinel: An Archaeological, Textual and Cultural Study, Part II’ Brepols Publishers, Turnhout, 2016