Roman Jewelry Part 3: Rings

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings
WATCH FOR OUR WEEKLY SPECIALS

The Romans appear to have been more extravagant in their rings than any other people. Very few ornamental rings are earlier in date than the time of the Empire, when the passion for gold rings adorned with precious stones and engraved gems seems to have pervaded all classes ; and it reached such extravagance that Martial speaks of a man who wore six on every finger, and recommends another who had one of monstrous size to wear it on his leg instead of his hand.

Some individuals, we learn, had different sets of rings for summer and winter, those for the latter season being too heavy for hot weather. Their weight was sometimes very great, and it is not to be wondered that complaint was made of their liability to slip off when the finger was greasy at a meal.

Even until the latest times the ring retained its original purpose as a means of distinction or of recognition, and was used by its wearer to impress his seal on documents and private property. It continued also to be associated with the idea of power and privilege especially bestowed upon the individual. Thus the Roman paterfamilias wore on his finger a ring with a small key attached.

Every Roman appears to have chosen at pleasure the subject or device for his signet— a portrait of a friend or an ancestor, or some subject from poetry or mythology. Each of these devices became associated with a particular person, and served, like the coat-of-arms of later centuries, as a mark of identification.

The commonest variety of ring is formed of a plain band of gold which widens and thickens towards the bezel, and is set with a small stone. The latter is generally engraved, but is often quite plain. The similarity of the convex sardonyx to an eye often struck the ancients, and may account for this stone being frequently found not engraved in rings, and set in a collet, itself shaped into the form of a human eye. Such rings were no doubt worn as amulets.

Rings containing stones set in this manner have sometimes a flattened hoop and open-work shoulders. Other distinctly ornamental rings, known by the Romans as polypscpiii, are formed of two or more rings united together. A large number of Roman rings are of bronze, and the key rings referred to are, with a very few exceptions, of this material.

Iron and bronze rings were not infrequently gilded. Such rings, according to Pliny, were called Samothracian. Rings in the form of snakes were very popular, as were those shaped like a Herculean knot. Like other articles of jewelry, rings are sometimes set with gold coins of the late Empire.

A few ornamental rings have high pyramidal bezels which were sometimes hollow, and were made to contain poison. Hannibal killed himself with a dose of poison which he carried about with him in his ring; so did the officer in charge of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. ” Being arrested,” says Pliny, ” he broke the stone of his ring between his teeth and expired on the spot.”

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings
WATCH FOR OUR WEEKLY SPECIALS

Roman Jewelry Part 2 Necklaces, Pendants, Amulets, Bracelets

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings
Watch for our Weekly Specials

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

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings
Watch for our Weekly Specials

Early Egyptian Jewelry: Bracelets and Rings Part 3

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at Carmilita Earrings: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings

Sculptures and paintings represent bracelets by bands of red or blue color on the arms, and show that the Egyptians wore four—one on the wrist and one above the elbow of each arm. Some of the earliest are composed of glass and gold beads threaded so as to form various patterns. The more solid forms of bracelet are ornamented with inlaid work. Rings for the arms, as well as the ankles, are generally of plain gold—both solid and hollow—sometimes bordered with plaited chain-work. Bracelets of thick and occasionally twisted wire, found as early as the twelfth dynasty, usually have the ends beaten out into a thin wire, which is lapped round the opposite shank so as to slip easily over the wrist. Bracelets in the form of serpents belong to the Ptolemaic and early Roman periods.

The commonest ornament is the finger ring. The ring was not only an ornament, but an actual necessity, since it served as a signet, the owner’s emblem or badge being engraved either on the metal of the ring or on a scarab or other stone set in it.

There are three main types of Egyptian rings. The first and simplest, composed of a seal stone with a ring attached, is formed of a hoop with flattened ends, each pierced, which grasp the scarab. Through a hole made in the scarab was run a wire, the ends of which, passing through the extremities of the ring, were wound several times round it. The revolving scarab exhibited its back when worn on the finger and the engraved side when necessary to use it as a seal. The general outline of the ring is like a stirrup, a form which of course varied in accordance with the size of the scarab.

In a second type of ring the swivel disappears, and the ring is in one piece. Its outline retains the stirrup form, but the inside of the hoop is round and fits closely to the finger. Of this type are rings, dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth dynasty, formed of two hoops united at the top and having the names and titles of the owner deeply sunk in hieroglyphics on oblong gold bezels.

A third type, almost circular in outline, is of similar form to the signet-ring of the present day.

In addition to those which were actually worn in life, are models of real rings employed solely for funeral purposes to ornament the fingers of the wooden model hands which were placed on the coffins of mummies of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties.

The model rings are made of faience with fine glazes of blue, green, and other colors, with various devices, incuse or in intaglio, upon the bezels, which are generally of oval form.

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at Carmilita Earrings: https://www.etsy.com/shop/carmilitaearrings

Development of Bracelets, Armlets, and Finger Rings

Purchase Handmade Bead Jewelry at Carmilita Earrings

In Southern Europe circular plates have been found fitted with a pin. These plates appear’ to have been developed by the conversion of a primitive disc of spiral concentric wire into a circular plate. From the brooch of this type sprang the circular brooch of the Roman period, often inlaid with enamel, as well as the splendid circular brooches of Anglo-Saxon times, and all other disc-shaped brooches. In all early periods, and even in Roman times, the bow or safety-pin type of brooch was commoner than the disc and also more practical, as it offered room for the gathered folds of the garment. In modern times the disc-shaped brooch fitted with a hinged or sometimes with a spring pin has been principally used.

The two remaining groups of brooches—(3) the Celtic brooch and (4) the ring-brooch—are both developments of the simple pin in combination with a ring—in the former case pen annular and in the latter annular. The Celtic brooch, with pen annular ring and long pin, is apparently the result of fitting a pin to a prehistoric form of fastening for the dress—a pen-annular ring terminating with knobs, known as a mammillary fibula. The ring-brooch with complete ring, and pin of the same length as the diameter of the ring, which was popular in medieval times, is the outcome of fitting a complete ring of wire to a pin to prevent the head of the pin from slipping through the material—which ring in course of time became the more important member. It is improbable that the Celtic brooch originated in the same way, from the union of a long pin with a small ring. Nor is it likely that these two forms of brooches were evolved the one out of the other by the shortening or lengthening of the pins. As a matter of fact the two appear to have arisen independently side by side.

Bracelets and armlets may be considered together^ for though the bracelet is properly only a decoration for the wrist, the term has become descriptive of any ornament worn upon the arm. The bracelet, together with the necklace, were the earliest ornaments used for the decoration of mankind. Amongst savage tribes both were worn in some form or another—the necklace as an ornament pure and simple, but the bracelet serving frequently a practical purpose, sometimes as a shield for the arm in combat, sometimes covered with spikes, and used for offensive purposes. While used universally by women in the form of a ba^id, closed, or open on one side, or else in the shape of a spiral, or fashioned like a chain, the bracelet has been worn from the earliest times in the East by men also, especially by princes as one of the insignia of royalty, and by distinguished persons in general.

Of all jewels the simplest and at the same time perhaps the most interesting and important is the finger ring. It is universally employed as an article of personal ornament, and has been worn by both sexes at almost all times, and in nearly every country. Sometimes it is an object of use as the signet ring, or a token of dignity as the bishop’s ring. Sometimes it has a symbolical significance, as the wedding-ring. Sometimes it is purely ornamental.

Most finger rings may be said to be formed of two parts—the circular portion which surrounds the finger, known as the hoop or shank, and the enlarged or upper portion which is called the bezel. This latter term, applied to the upper side of the ring, which is broadened to receive an ornament of some kind, generally a stone, seems to have originally designated the basil or projecting flange, that retained the stone in its setting. The term collet, also used for the whole top including the stone or seal, is similarly derived from the flange or collet in which the stone is set. From its box-like shape this part of the ring is also called the chat on.

This post is connected to: https://carmilitashandmadejewelry.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/the-development-of-earrings-necklaces-and-the-brooch/