Thursday, 16 July 2009

Fifteen Times Estimate for Rare Horatio Nelson Memorial Ring

Collectors were given another opportunity to purchase one of a very rare set of memorial rings dedicated to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, at Lawrences of Crewkerne's Silver, Jewellery & Ceramics sale this month.

The handmade gold and enamel ring depicts the letter N for Nelson beneath a viscounts coronet and the letter B for Bronte. Nelson was made Duke of Bronte by Ferdinand IV King of Naples and Sicily, in recognition of Nelson's defeat of the French fleet in the Mediterranean at the Battle of the Nile (1798). The shank carries an inscription in Latin PALMAN QUI MERUIT FERAT which translates to 'let him bear the palm of of victory he who has won it'. The reverse is inscribed lost to his Country 21 Oct 1805 Aged 47.

Only around fifty eight of these memorial rings were crafted by London maker John Salter who was Lord Nelson's favoured silversmith. The rings were distributed by the executors of Nelson's will to his family, friends and the pall bearers at his funeral. A list of the original recipients exists in the British Museum.

Sotheby's sale Trafalgar held on the centenary of the battle offered four examples of the ring and each carried an estimate of between £15,000 and £20,000. Prices realised were all above the lower estimate and ranged from £16,100, up to £25,200 for the ring descending from George Matcham. The last memorial ring of this type to appear on the market was at Dreweatts Donnington & Priory Fine Jewellery sale in June 2008. Despite the ring being in very poor condition, with much of the enamel missing and other damage, it realised a strong price of £3,600 against an estimate of £250 to £350.

Given this Lawrences of Crewkerne's estimate of £800 to £1200 for thier fine example of this ring was certainly conservative and it was no surprise to find that the price realised was 15 times high estimate at £18,000.

Friday, 10 July 2009


Located on the coast of the Bay of Naples in Italy, Herculaneum is a lesser known Roman town which was destroyed along with Pompeii in the infamous eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

As Herculaneum was less affected by falling debris from the initial stage of the eruption, it is better preserved than the more popular site of Pompeii. Many of the upper levels of the buildings remain preserved. The photograph below shows an example of an ornate ceiling in the second style of painting which was prevalent in the 1st Century BC.

The photograph below shows stairs leading to the upper floor of a villa.


Even artefacts in wood have survived, having been carbonised in the intense heat of the eruption. The photograph below shows original wooden window frames preserved along with the iron bars of the window.

Below, a set of shelves for amphora located in the blacksmiths shop.

In the Villa of the Wooden Partition you can see the partition wall complete with sliding door and parts of a wooden bed frame remain in one of the bedrooms.

Other highlights include the Villa of Neptune and Amphitrite named after the fantastically colourful mosaics in the summer triclinium or dining room.


Herculaneum is also home to the grand Villa of the Papyri which belong to Lucius Calpurnius Caesonios, Julius Ceaser’s father in law and contained a vast library of scrolls which new techniques are enabling us to read. It also contained fine bronze statues now forming a significant collection in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.


Though on a smaller scale to Pompeii, the richer town of Herculaneum carries advantages to the visitor in its superior state of preservation. Also being less well known it attracts far less visitors making for a more pleasant visit.

All photographs are taken by the author and can be used as part of the Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs creative commons licence.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A Trip to Pompeii

I finally made it to the renowned ancient Roman town of Pompeii!

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Entering through the ancient city walls and walking on the original paving, past uniquely well preserved civic buildings, villas, restaurants etc; you feel as though you are walking among the very ancients who suffered such a terrible fate from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

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The highlights for me were the fantastic villas, such as the largest in Pompeii, named the House of the Faun after the bronze statue in the courtyard.

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This villa was also the location of the famous mosaic of Alexander the Greats victory over the Persian king Darius, now displayed in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

A visit to the Archaeological Museum is a must, it contains many treasures discovered in Pompeii and surrounding towns such as Herculaneum since excavations began in the 18th century.

Outside the city walls on the outskirts of Pompeii, the Villa of Mysteries maintains its fantastic frescos, its name is derived from the large fresco in the dining room depicting a mysterious wedding ritual.

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These frescos remain in situ, but many more of the originals can also admired in the museum.


Pompeii is a unique time capsule, providing a window onto life in the ancient world. With much of the site still remaining to be excavated, just imagine what treasures have yet to be discovered.

All photographs are taken by the author and can be used as part of the Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs creative commons licence.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Paestum, Ancient Poseidonia

The ancient Greek city state of Poseidonia now takes its later Roman name of Paestum. Located in the Campania region of southern Italy its tributary roads along the coast afford fantastic views.

P10006635th Century BC Temple of Hera in front of the earlier 6th Century temple also dedicated to the goddess

The archaeological site encompasses three Archaic Greek temples of the Doric order dating from the 6th Century BC. They are in a impressive condition with much of the pediments remaining.

IMG_0373 6th Century BC Temple of Athena

In 273 AD the Romans renamed the city Paestum and there is much evidence of architecture from the Roman period, including villas with geometric mosaic floors and an early coliseum.

Many of the finds from the site are displayed in the galleries of the National Archaeological Museum of Paestum and include fascinating ancient tomb frescos.

Restaurant Ritrovo di Porta Marina away from the busy tourist area is recommended. They serve good food and their grounds encompass parts of the ancient city walls.

All photographs are taken by the author and can be used as part of the Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs creative commons licence