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Roman Jewelry

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The Roman Empire at its zenith comprised almost the entire Mediterranean Sea coast, encompassing Germany, France, Britain, North Africa and much of the Middle East. The conquest and acquisition of entire cultures and nations directly influenced the art of jewelry making. Greece, known for its artisans, provided a steady stream of goldsmiths to satisfy the upper-class patrician society of Imperial Rome.

The Roman style of loose and flowing clothing necessitated the creation of the “Fibula,” a safety pin used to fasten togas and other garments. Set with jasper, carnelian and lapis gems, they were frequently carved into cameo or intaglio in the shape of a female bust or winged victory motif.

The Greek artisans who were employed incorporated classic Greek symbols into their handiwork including serpentine designs fashioned into bracelets and rings. Hoop earrings, another invention of this era, were often decorated with figures of animals, a staple of the jewelry wardrobe of the time.

The gemstones varied as well: emeralds, natural pearls, period and onyx were much sought after. Patrician men wore large carved intaglio seal rings in heavy gold settings, depicting their family crest on the index finger. These seal rings also served as a signature for all documents requiring an official imprimatur.

The Roman lady of high birth wore tiaras, festooned necklaces and bracelets finely wrought in gemstones designed to cement their station in life. When a wealthy Roman passed away, a portrait of them with their finest jewels adorned the sarcophagus.

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