A 2,500-year-old gold cup that has spent the past 60 years in a box under its owner’s bed is expected to fetch up to £100,000 after being rediscovered during a house move.
The cup was given to John Webber by his grandfather, a rag-and-bone man, who acquired it in the 1930s.
Because his grandfather, William Sparks, dealt in brass and copper scrap, Mr Webber assumed that it was made from those metals until he had the unusual piece valued this year.
The cup, which is 5.5in (14 cm) high, is embossed with two female faces, each wearing a crown formed from snakes. It baffled experts from the British Museum until metallurgical tests identified its likely origins as the Middle East or North Africa between three and four centuries before Christ…
Double-headed bowls and tableware depicting the two faces of Janus, the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings, were common in Roman times. But in Roman mythology, Janus was usually depicted as a hirsute male, not a beautiful female.
Experts from the British Museum advised Mr Webber to have the gold tested to establish its precise make-up. He said: “I paid quite a bit of money for it to be examined by a lab the museum recommended. They found that the gold dated from the 3rd or 4th century BC.
An analysis of trace elements in a gold sample taken from the cup was carried out by Harwell Scientifics, of Didcot, Oxfordshire, and the University of Oxford. The Oxford Materials Characterisation Services, part of the university, concluded that the method of manufacture and the composition of the gold were found to be “consistent with Achaemenid gold and gold smithing”. The Achaemenid empire, the first of the Persian empires to rule over significant portions of Greater Iran, was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330BC.
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