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rv1401

A superb Roman Rock Crystal Pyxis, ca. 3rd century A.D.

 A finely polished and elegantly shaped pyxis, the low, slightly outsplayed ring base supports a graceful rounded body with convex sides rising to a flared rim. The domed lid sits neatly within the rim and features a flat knob handle, precisely drilled with bronze chain attachment.

Background : Due to the limited sources of the material and the labor-intensive process of making the vessels, rock crystal vessels were rare and expensive luxury items in the Roman world. A small pyxis such as this example probably contained expensive perfumed oils. 

Like the Greeks before them, the Romans believed that rock crystal was ice that had been hardened through intense freezing. Fittingly, such a miraculous stone was believed to have the powers of an amulet and was highly valued.   The stone's hardness made it difficult to work but also highly desirable because the finished piece possessed a glossy finish and was resistant to scratches. To hollow out the vessel, an artisan used ground emery as an abrasive.

Cf. Hans-Peter Bühler, Antike Gefässe aus Edelsteinen, Mainz, 1973, nos. 44, 45.

Condition:  Intact and in excellent condition overall.

Dimensions: Height: 1.37 inches (3.5 cm), Diameter: 1.96 inches (5 cm) 

Provenance:  Private family collection, Texas, brought to the USA in the late 1940's as part of household goods and then by descent.
 

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