Welcome to our extensive antique jewelry glossary with around 1,500 jewelry related entries.If you feel you are missing an explanation, feel free to let us know and we will add it.
Articles of jewelry made throughout the Roman Empire after the Hellenistic Age, from c. 27 BC, when Roman styles absorbed Greek culture, until the founding of Constantinople in AD 330 and the gradual encroachment of Byzantine styles.
During the early years of Rome, before c. 27 BC, the wearing of finger rings and other articles of gold, as well as the burial of gold articles, was legally restricted. Thereafter, during the period of the Empire, customs relaxed and jewelry was lavishly worn. With the expansion of the Empire, in the period AD 200-400, Roman techniques and styles were developed, including the making of articles decorated as opus interrasile, the introduction of niello, and the extensive use of coloured gemstones (especially emeralds) and glass with almost no settings and little use of granulated gold or filigree.
Among the favoured articles then worn in abundance were earrings (including the ball earring, chandelier earring, bar earring, and hoop earring), necklaces (some with pendent coins), neck chains (some with pendants), bracelets, finger rings (especially the engagement ring, signet ring, and coin ring, and rings set with gemstones in the bezel or around the hoop - such rings often being worn several at a time by both men and women), and fibula (especially the crossbow fibula).
The centres of production were Rome, where foreign craftsmen settled, Alexandria, and Antioch.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson
Although jewelry work was abundantly diverse in earlier times, especially among the barbarian tribes such as the Celts, when the Romans conquered most of Europe, jewelry was changed as smaller factions developed the Roman designs. The most common artefact of early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing together.
The Romans used a diverse range of materials for their jewelry from their extensive resources across the continent. Although they used gold, they sometimes used bronze or bone and in earlier times, glass beads and pearl. As early as 2,000 years ago, they imported Sri Lankan sapphires and Indian diamonds and used emeralds and amber in their jewelry. In Roman-ruled England, fossilized wood called jet from Northern England was often carved into pieces of jewelry.
The early Italians worked in crude gold and created clasps, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. They also produced larger pendants which could be filled with perfume.
Like the Greeks, often the purpose of Roman jewelry was to ward off the Evil Eye given by other people. Although woman wore a vast array of jewelry, men often only wore a finger ring. Although they were expected to wear at least one ring, some Roman men wore a ring on every finger, while others wore none. Roman men and women wore rings with a carved stone on it that was used with wax to seal documents, an act that continued into medieval times when kings and noblemen used the same method. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the jewelry designs were absorbed by neighbouring countries and tribes.