The People Behind the Stones

Laszlo-Excalibur Lecture Engraved gems were highly prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Valued for their hardness, color, and shine, as well as their distant origins and putative healing and magical properties, they were enhanced by skilled craftsmen. These include not only the talented engravers who occasionally inscribed their names on these masterpieces in miniature, but also many others through whose hands the gems passed before reaching those who wore and admired them: miners who quarried them, merchants who traded them, sailors and caravan drivers who transported them, as well as goldsmiths who set them, and shopkeepers who sold them.

In a lecture titled “The People Behind the Stones,” Kenneth Lapatin, curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, explores what we can know about the many, often anonymous people—women as well as men, the enslaved as well as the free—who contributed to the production and dissemination of ancient engraved gems, drawing on evidence gathered, like the gems themselves, from across the Mediterranean and beyond. The John Laszlo, M.D. Excalibur Lecture was established through the generosity of Dr. Laszlo’s family and friends in honor of his retirement from the American Cancer Society.

For more information, visit or to watch additional videos of past programming, subscribe to Carlos Museum's YouTube channel.