When one thinks of ancient Rome, visions of gladiators, their swords flashing in the Italian sun, billowing cloaks fastened in front with ornately decorated gold brooches, women in flowing robes, fabulous necklaces resting beneath a head of curls, comes to mind. Glorious drop earrings of coloured stones adorn their ears, gold snake-style bracelets their upper arms.
Jewelry was big in ancient Rome. Very big. Since the Romans believed that jewelry warded off the “Evil Eye”, no one went without at least one piece.
The most common pieces of jewelry in early Rome were brooches and rings. The brooch was a versatile item, securing not only cloaks but clothing in general. Since clothing was generally pinned rather than sewn, decorated items called a fibula, made of gold and decorated with semi-precious stones, were used to secure the folds.
The early Italians sculpted jewelry from crude gold, rather than silver. This jewelry was afforded by the nobles. The poor wore cheaper versions, usually from bone or cheaper natural stones.
Romans, because of the reach of the Roman Empire, were able to make their jewelry from a myriad of wonderful and exotic materials. They had access not only to gold, but to bronze, bone, and natural stones. Egypt provided them with the treasured Lapis Lazuli and pearl. They imported sapphires and diamonds from the East. Emeralds, amber, turquoise, amethysts, garnets were all present in Roman jewelry, adorning necks, wrists and arms, as long as 2,000 years ago.
The affluent women, adorned themselves with trinkets all the time, at home and when in public. It was a sign of wealth and stature, just as it is today. Bracelets, rings, amulets, necklaces, cameos and rings and an assortment of adornments on their heads such as tiaras, diadems and coronets. They copied the filigree finish which was an Egyptian style. Filigree is a delicate, lace-like design, made then in gold. Filigree is popular today and is found in costume jewelry that looks as real as the gold version. Bracelets were kept closed with a toggle-type pin. A closure that is used today for practical and decorative purposes.
Men were fond of finger rings, and were expected to wear at least one. Some men would display a ring on every finger. Placing a seal on documents, to keep the contents safe from the wrong eyes, to identify the sender and to show prestige. Rings with an engraved gemstone were used with wax.