The National Archeological Museum of Florence is home to one of the world’s most extensive and important collections of ancient gems and cameos, collected by the Medici and Lorena over several centuries.
Begun by Cosimo il Vecchio in 1389, continued by Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449-1492), and enlarged by Ferdinando I at the end of the 1500s, this extraordinary and vast collection consists of more than 3,000 pieces, including precious gems, cameos, carved pieces, portraits, and other historic gold artworks that date to ancient Greece. During the Renaissance, superb goldsmiths, including Benvenuto Cellini, created fantastic settings for the ancient cameos and gems adding gold, additional precious stones, and enameled decoration.
After restoration, the collection was placed on display in the museum’s Medici Corridor, built by Giulio Parigi in 1619. 30+ display cases within the corridor contained 700 of the most important pieces, and the items on view were rotated on a regular basis to showcase the vast historical collection. The cases were divided into sections highlighting Etruscan, Greek, Roman, and later medieval and Renaissance pieces, along with rings, “magic” gems, and seals. Descriptive panels and a touch screen display were also incorporated into the exhibit to further detail the history and importance of the collection.