Ancient Greece and Rome
From the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC until the Middle Ages, seals of various kinds were in production in the Aegean islands and mainland Greece. In the Early Minoan age these were formed of soft stone and ivory and show particular characteristic forms. By the Middle Minoan age a new set for seal forms, motifs and materials appear. Hard stone requires new rotary carving techniques. The Late Bronze Age is the time par excellence of the lens-shaped seal and the seal ring, which continued into the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods, in the form of pictorial engraved gems. These were a major luxury art form and became keenly collected, with King Mithridates VI of Pontus the first major collector according to Pliny the Elder. His collection fell as booty to Pompey the Great, who deposited it in a temple in Rome. Engraved gems continued to be produced and collected until the 19th century. Pliny also explained the significance of the signet ring, and how over time this ring was worn on the little finger.