May 8, 2017

The reddish "Boscorale" aurei

“Boscoreale treasure” is the name given to a great collection of silver and gold objects (including many coins) discovered in the ruins of an old country villa near Pompeii. The villa belonged to a rich family amd was buried by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The villa was excavated during several archaeological campaigns. It was discovered in 1876, but it was only in April 1895 that the remains of a vaulted box containing the treasure, hidden in the wine press room, were discovered.

The treasure is composed of more than a hundred pieces of exquisite silver (cups, jars and other containers, all finely decorated), some jewels and more than a thousand aurei. Its content clearly shows the wealth of the owners of the villa.

Boscoreale's Silver Treasure Tableware at the Louvre Museum

The excavation of the villa was undertaken by the landowner, Vincenzo de Prisco, who set out to take advantage of his find. As a result, most findings were secretly sold outside Italy before the composition of the treasure could be accurately recorded. The Baron Edmond de Rothschild was one of the main buyers. He donated his purchases to the Louvre in 1896. Other pieces came to the British Museum. A good part of the coins was dispersed between collectors of all Europe and appear today regularly in auctions all over the world.

The exceptional reddish aurei

The coins from the Bocoreale treause are exceptional for several reasons. The great majority of the pieces seem to have practically not circulated, so the treasure contained some fantastic uncirculated aurei that are among the best known for the reigns of Nero, Vespasian and Titus from which most coins dated.

Buried in lava for one thousand eight hundred years, the intense initial heat and the sulfurous content of the soil gave to all the gold coins a marked reddish tonality that is unique for imperial aurei.

It is usual that in modern auction catalogs every Roman aureus from the period with a reddish tone is attributed to this treasure. It is also common for collectors to pay a premium for possessing these coins over others that lack this tone.