Renilde has a long-running love affair with ancient coins and a passion for the numismatics. She enjoys the excitement of the hunt for the perfect piece and deepening her knowledge of ancient civilisations. The coins selected for the Tanit Collection are the centrepieces of elegant rings, necklaces, cuffs and earrings, so the quest for the right piece is crucial. True to Sassi style, we only select the most exquisite coins representing a female figure of power. The details of the images are especially important and must be clearly visible, therefore only the best classified coins, very fine (vf) to extremely fine (xf), will do.
Throughout history, female representations on coins are rather rare. Some early Roman coins show a goddess or a noble Roman woman, but women seemed to vanish from all coins once the Roman Empire began portraying the emperor on them. The custom took hold and became widespread. Despite the challenge, our search has uncovered truly remarkable coins, many dating from the first millennium BC. These treasures are some of the oldest coins in the Western world.
The ancient Greeks were active seafarers seeking opportunities for trade, founding new cities at coastal sites throughout the Mediterranean region. By the seventh and sixth centuries BC, Greek colonies and settlements stretched all the way from western Asia Minor to southern Italy, Sicily, North Africa, and even to the coasts of southern France and Spain. The Phoenicians were also skilled navigators who established trading settlements throughout the Mediterranean basin during the same time period.
Simplifying the exchange of goods became a necessity. The Greek city states came up with a new idea: hand-minted flat disks made of gold, silver or bronze with some distinguishing design. These coins reached a high level of technical and aesthetic quality in the classical era starting 480 BC. Large cities produced a range of fine silver, gold or bronze coins, most bearing a portrait of their patron god or goddess on one side, and a symbol of the city on the other. The use of inscriptions on coins also began, usually the name of the issuing city. Thanks to their high quality metals, detailed engraving of the dies and expert minting, these coins became real miniature works of art with realistic depictions of the gods and goddesses that seem to come to life in the palm of your hand.
This masterpiece signed by the artist Euainetos is one of the most prestigious Greek coins ever struck. It was intended to show the prosperity of Syracuse to the Greek world. The refined style and elegance of the portrait of Arethusa has been imitated many times.
The wealthy Greek colonies of Sicily produced some especially fine coins. The finest coin produced in the ancient world, perhaps ever, was minted in Syracuse, bearing the head of the nymph Arethusa in profile. Master Sicilian engravers prepared dies to strike the silver decadrachms of Syracuse, pocket-sized examples of a pinnacle of ancient Greek art. Some artists-engravers were proud enough of their work to sign their dies, a practice largely restricted to the Greeks. Two names in particular – Euainetos and Kimon – have been preserved through the millennia by their signatures on coins. Their work would prove to be enormously influential on subsequent coinage, even centuries later. Surviving coins serve as physical reminders of the enormous talents of ancient Greek artists, the technical expertise of the minters, and the cultural achievement that they represents. This masterpiece, signed by the artist Euainetos, is one of the most prestigious Greek coins ever struck (see picture).
The name of the Tanit Collection is derived from the goddess Tanit, since she was depicted on the first coin we acquired. Tanit was the patron goddess of Carthage, an important merchant city state on the shores of modern-day Tunis, Tunisia. Initially a Phoenician colony, Carthage evolved into the powerful Punic Empire, with settlements across the western Mediterranean (see map). The refined style and elegance of the Arethusa coin has equally influenced our Tanit coin. This is not surprising, since Syracuse in Sicily is very near, just across the sea.
“When the first coin, the Tanit piece, arrived by mail, I was taken aback. The feeling of holding a 2,300 year old object in your hand is quite incredible. The coin is so small, and yet the details are so clearly visible, like a tiny work of art made thousands of years ago. Tanit’s face, her hair, her earrings, her necklace, all are visible and so refined. I was moved to the core and understood that this was not my coin. Rather I am a mere guardian, responsible for keeping this millennia-old artefact safe for next generations. Is there any better way to preserve and celebrate this treasure than setting it in a precious gold ring? We worked closely with our artisans to create this first piece of the Tanit Collection. When the ring came back from the workshop, I knew we had done right by the artist and the minter who made this artefact so long ago.”
The unique pieces of the Tanit Collection straddle the divide between contemporary and antique, the story of the past and the one of the present owner. Whether or not you share our passion for antique artefacts, there is something utterly thrilling about wearing an extraordinary piece of bejewelled history dating back thousands of years.