[Tidbits] Chrysomallus


The year…the mid 1800’s. The place…Newark, New Jersey. Beasts make
their appearance on the forefront, capturing the imagination of the
American jewelry loving public. An item is created in a 19th century
chase to classical antiquity. It is copied by many.

The year…the age of the Greek Gods. The place…ancient Greece. The
problem…famine pervades the land. It’s the old story of lies and
deception. A King gets tired of his wife and trades her in for a new
model. Wife number two’s name is Ino. In the household live two
children. Phrixus…boy child of the first wife. And a second son. A
plan is hatched to kill child number one so number two can become

Influences of Italian model-makers using a neo-antique motif urge
such famous jewelers as Tiffany& Co. and the Riker Brothers of Newark
to produce their own versions of classical jewelry. Tiffany produces a
bracelet with a double ram’s head. The Riker brothers produce a
brooch in the form of a ram’s head which presently resides in the
Newark Museum.

Ino…in her plot to ensure her son becomes king, somehow gets hold of
seed corn and parches it before the men go out to sow. Of course…the
parched corn produces no crop. The people will go hungry. Someone
must pay. Someone is to blame. Ino bribes an oracle…and when the
king sends a messenger to find out who is responsible for the imminent
famine threatening the land…the answer comes back…it is Phrixus,
the son of his first wife. There is only one fitting punishment.
Death. Ino’s second son, it would appear, is guaranteed kingdom.

The ram’s head jewelry produced by 19th century jewelers evokes
controversy. Is it an allusion to classical antiquity…or is it an
allusion to the zodiac? The ram’s head produced by the Rikers add to
the discussions. The ram is the symbol for Aries…which represents
the month of March. Riker’s ram has a ruby eye. Ruby is the March
birthstone. The Rikers have chosen well. They’ve covered more than one
base. Antiquity?..Zodiac? Which?

Phrixus is ordered to be sacrificed. However…when on the alter…
when at the point of death…a wondrous ram named Chrysomallus… sent
by Hermes…a ram in fact with a golden fleece…snatches Phrixus up
and carries him off to safety to the island of Colchis, where
he–Chrysomalus–is later sacrificed by Phrixus to Zeus. The moral as
I see it heRe: No good deed ever goes unpunished. By the way…this
is the same golden fleece Jason and his Argonauts went a questing for
not much later.

And so lads and lassies…as we end up back in the 19th century…and
then shoot forward to just a scant few seconds…as is measured from
the beginnings of creation…before the start of a new millennia… I
bring you all a blast from the past…a picture of the ram’s head
created in Newark, New Jersey in the mid 1800’s…a ram’s head with a
ruby eye. You decide. Antiquity…or Zodiac. To see it…go to my
page…scroll down the table menu…to Tidbit Graphics…and click on

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

Mr. Mark mentioned in his story about his ram’s head with the ruby
eye that the March birth stone was ruby. We now use aquamarine for a
March birthstone. Will you explain your statement about ruby? Long
ago were there other birthstones used? Do other countries use
different birthstones? It bugs me that some people make a decision on
what stone to buy based only on their birthstone. Net

For as long as I have known about it, the ruby is the July
birthstone. (My mother’s birthday is July–)


Here’s a site which lists 5 different stones for each month:
“Modern”, “Traditional”, “Mystical”, “Ayurvedic” and “Other”. On the
same page are “Star Sign” birthstones. By the way, according to the
lists sited on this page, ruby is not listed as a birthstone for March
at all!


Anna M Miller’s book “Illustrated Guide to Jewelry Appraising” has on
page 161, A table with birth stones in 10 different cultural views.
Take your pick! gives you lots of options for some months. HTH Mark