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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Roman Jewellery

Roman women were extremely over the top with their jewellery; so much so that a law was passed limiting the amount of gold one person could wear, as it was deemed ‘tacky’!


Compared to the Mayan civilisation for example, the Romans were not the flashiest of societies, preferring pearls to diamonds for their natural colouring – colour was a key element in Roman fashions, not how shiny or elaborate something was. Gem stones were often left in their natural state and were not polished or cut to catch the light.

Rings and bracelets were integral parts of accessorising in the Roman Empire; as well as wearing them as we do today, bracelets were pushed up to the upper arm and rings worn on the lower finger joint – hence their tiny sizes.

Small twisted finger ring

If a man was seen wearing any other form of jewellery that was not a signet ring, he would have been considered effeminate. The rings were used to determine the wearer’s status, position and as a means of sealing letters or identifying personal objects. The gemstone on the top was carved with the owner’s personal emblem, but often cheaper copies were made out of glass displaying cruder images of goddesses or emporers. Another type of ring that is frequently found is that of the betrothal band; these were placed on the ring finger (modern wedding ring finger) as Romans believed that this was directly connected to the heart via the nervous system.

Necklaces were most commonly worn short, similarly to modern day chokers, sitting just below the neckline. Materials varied from glass beads, metals and precious stones. One of the most common variations of necklace was the torc, believed to have originated from the Celtic inhabitants of Britain and Gaul as the symbol of the warrior. The Romans wore these to represent their status, and they were most commonly made from gold, although other materials, such as copper-alloy, were also used.

Contrary to popular belief, brooches were not primarily decorative items; they were mainly functional, working to hold Romans’ clothes together. There are many designs when it comes to brooches, from simple fibulas to more elaborate disc shaped ones. These variations suggest the status or wealth of the owner and let us know that everybody in society was wearing them.

Brooches from the Sacred Spring

Hair pins, as brooches, were practical items that held up a lady’s elaborate hair style, but they also added grandeur to her look. The longer pins were worn in larger, more complicated styles, whereas the shorter pins would have been used for simpler, lighter dos. Many were extremely detailed with carved goddesses and scenes at the tops, jewels were inlayed and the pins themselves made from silver or ivory. More commonly, the pin would have been made from wood or bone.

To have a look at some of the amazing, more elaborate pieces check out this website: http://www.allaboutgemstones.com/jewelry_history_ancient_roman.html


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