Roman Jewelry Information

Written by catalina bixler
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Roman Jewelry Information
(Hadrians.com, Ancient Touch, www.vroma.org)

The earliest Roman jewellery was made of glass, colourful stones and pearls. Lands conquered by the Roman Empire offered emeralds, diamonds, rubies and sapphires as well as semi-precious gemstones such as amber, topaz and jet. Women wore necklaces, earrings, bracelets, tiaras and rings, and men originally wore only one ring. As the empire expanded, so did social norms, and men began wearing jewellery the masculine equivalent of what was worn by women.

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Most Common Jewelry

Men and women wore earrings, bracelets and necklaces, but the broach was the most worn piece of Roman jewellery. People of all classes could afford broaches, and many preferred to pin garments together rather than sew them. These broaches were decorated with simple motifs by the common Roman while the wealthier class decorated their broaches with jewels and cameos.

Roman Jewelry Information
Sardonyx cameo (c.1st Cen AD, setting c. 17th cen), (photo: public domain)

Early Roman Jewelry Resembled Greek and Etruscan

Early Roman jewellery copied designs of the Greeks and Etruscans. Romans were originally more conservative with their jewellery design in comparison to other Mediterranean groups. As time passed and society changed attitudes in style and dress, Roman jewellery took on more ostentatious motifs.

Roman Jewelry Information
Intricate Roman earring (left). Sphere motifs.

Hoop Earrings Invented by the Romans

One of the most popular pieces of jewellery today comes from the Romans--the "hoop" earring from 300 B.C. Popular among both Roman men and women, hoop earrings were often adorned with finials depicting Eros, the god of love, animals and drunken women.

Boxed Motif a Popular Design

Roman jewellery borrowed designs from conquered cultures, but still had its own distinct style: a boxed motif. Pearls and gemstones were boxed by gold that framed each jewel and pearl.

Roman Jewelry Information
An example of the boxed motif on a Roman necklace.

Even in Death Roman Women Loved Jewelry

Wealthy Roman women had their coffins elaborately painted with portraits of them. As shown in the images of two Roman caskets, a woman's favourite jewellery that adorned her in life also adorned her in death.

Roman Jewelry Information
Death portraits on caskets of wealthy Roman women

Roman Men's Rings Took on a Practical Function

Roman rings were usually made of gold. Eventually carved stones or coins were used in men's rings. This practice had a practical function when applied to hot wax as a seal on important documents.

Roman Jewelry Information
A Roman gold ring

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