Roman Jewelry

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Jewelry
The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about Roman Jewelry. No jewelry was more generally worn among the Romans than rings. Propriety demanded that adult male Roman citizens wear only one item of jewelry, although it was eventually acceptable for a man to wear both a ring and a brooch or fastener for his cloak.

This was definitely not the case for Roman women who wore a variety of different types of Jewelry and precious stones. Gold coins (aurei) were often made into Roman jewelry.

Roman Jewelry - Precious and Semi-Precious Stones
Roman jewelry was generally made of gold  rather than silver and was decorated with a variety of Precious and Semi-Precious Stones. The precious and semi-precious stones used in the making of Roman jewelry included the following:

  • Pearls
  • Emeralds
  • Turquoise
  • Garnets
  • Carnelian
  • Chalcedony
  • Feldspar
  • Amethyst

Roman Jewelry - Rings
The most popular piece of Roman Jewelry were rings, but Roman men generally only wore one ring at a time. There were different types of rings including betrothal rings. The senators and equites wore golden rings as did the the legionary tribunes. The plebeians wore iron rings unless when they were presented with a golden one for their bravery in war or as a reward for special services.  Under the emperors the right of wearing a golden ring was more liberally conferred and eventually it was granted by Justinian to all citizens.

Roman Jewelry - Seal Rings
The rings worn by the men in Ancient Roman were not just expensive ornaments, they also served a practical purpose and were used to seal documents as a sign of authenticity. Official documents were not signed, but sealed; and the seal was good in law. Every wealthy Roman patrician therefore, had his seal, as party of his ring, ready for use if required. The bezel of the ring was movable, and turned upon a pivot. The ring was frequently set with some kind of precious stone engraved with the owner's emblem. Other rings with a practical function doubled as keys to strongboxes.

Roman Jewelry - Brooches, Clasps and the Fibula
Roman clothing was frequently pinned rather than sewn and the Romans used special called a fibula for this purpose. Many of these fasteners, or fibula, were made of gold and elaborately decorated with precious jewels. Some of the gold was carved with beautiful designs and the Romans also favored the cameo as a decoration. The fibula was worn by both Roman men and women. The sagum was the name of the cloak worn on top of the armor by members of the Roman military during the periods of the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire. The sagum consisted of a simple rectangular segment of heavy material, knee length, open in the front and fastened by a metal or leather clasp or safety-pin-like “fibula”. Another special type of cloak was called a paludamentum which was an expensive ankle length cloak and fastened on the right shoulder with a gold or jewelled clasp or brooch, which was worn on state occasions.

Roman Jewelry worn by Women
The Ancient Roman women were great lovers of jewelry and adorned themselves with a profusion of trinkets. These included a variety of jewelry including earrings, bracelets, amulets, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, cameos, rings and various types of head jewelry including tiaras, coronets and diadems. Filigree work on Roman jewelry, copied from countries such as Egypt, produced a delicate, lacelike gold which was generally used in buckles and clasps of gold. Gold bracelets were often styled in the form of snakes. Necklaces were produced in all sizes and patterns, many in the form of pendants. Bracelets might consist of plain gold rings, both solid and hollow and were designed for wearing on the wrist. The bracelets were fastened by means of a gold pin.

Roman Jewelry - The Bulla
Roman jewelry was not just made for decorative purposes. Some contained symbols that would provide the wearer with protection and prosperity. Roman boys wore a bulla which was given to them when they were babies. The bulla was a neckchain with a round pouch containing protective amulets, often phallic symbols which emphasised their masculinity. The bulla was made in a variety of metals, the most popular being gold. Some of the sons of wealthy Romans also wore small gold rings carved with a phallus for good luck

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