Roman Jewelry Part 2 Necklaces, Pendants, Amulets, Bracelets

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It is especially to be noticed that the shapes of all ancient jewellery and ornaments, particularly those of the Romans, were in a great measure decided by a belief in their magical efficiency. The wearing of amulets was most frequent among the Romans of all classes.

They were generally enclosed in a bulla, and suspended from the neck. A remarkable specimen of a bulla, found at Herculaneum, and presented by the Court of Naples to the Empress Josephine, is now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. The lentoid-shaped bulla was worn almost entirely by children, but other pendants, shaped like pendent vases, or in the form of a square or cylindrical box, were a not unusual ornament of the necklace of Roman ladies. They probably always possessed a symbolical meaning.

The simple neck-chain, whether supplied with the appendage or not, was called a monile ; the luxury of latter times doubled or trebled the rows of chains. These were often of finely plaited gold or else of links.

Other necklaces were composed of mounted precious stones, the fashion for which appears to date from the Oriental conquests of Pompey in the first century B.C. Vast quantities of precious stones were brought into Rome at that date; for the treasury of Mithridates, captured at Talaura, contained, besides many other precious objects, “jewels for the breast and neck all set with gems.”

The Romans also wore necklaces composed of beads of various materials, both precious stones and glass, of many colors and various shapes. Amber was largely employed for the purpose, and held in high estimation by Roman ladies, who regarded it not only as an ornament, but as a talisman for protection against danger, especially witchcraft.

Amber in which small insects were enclosed was particularly prized : ” the price,” says Pliny, ” of a small figure in it, however diminutive, exceeds that of a living healthy slave.” Both cameos and large intaglios were in frequent use as pendent ornaments, and in the most recent pieces of Roman jewellery imperial gold coins were employed for rings, bracelets, and especially for pendants to necklaces.

For the latter purpose they are not infrequently found set in opus interrasile —the openwork characteristic of late Roman jewellery. The best example of cameos and coins mounted thus is a necklace in the Cabinet des M6dailles at Paris.’ In the case of bracelets, which were favorite ornaments among the Romans, two kinds have to be noticed.

The first, termed dextrocherium, was meant to be worn round the right wrist, and follows the same rules of formation as the necklace, but no pendent motives are introduced. Other bracelets are formed of two rounded halves of solid character, hinged, and closed by a snap. The second kind of bracelet or armlet, worn on the upper arm, was the brachiale or torques bracJiialis; another was the spinther, which kept its place on the arm by its own elasticity. The difference, however, between the different Latin terms for the armlet is somewhat obscure.

Originally of pure gold, bracelets were subsequently set with precious stones and engraved gems, and, like the specimen in the Imperial Cabinet at Vienna, with coins dating from the third century a.d. The serpent form appears to have been a favorite one among Roman ladies, and a fine pair of armlets of this design are in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Continued in Part 3

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Author: connielimon2014

Bead Jewelry Artisan, mother of one daughter and grandmother of two grandsons, daughter of Korean War Veteran.

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