Knowledge Centre > Jewellery History > Design Periods > Roman

The Art of Roman Jewellery

jewellery from the time of ancient Rome

Thursday 9th January 2020

In Roman times if you were adorned in gold from head to toe it was a sign that you were of very high status. Images of real and mythical animals were often used in jewellery design and intaglio rings were extremely popular among the rich and important.

Finger rings were the most worn type of jewellery during the Roman period and were worn by men, women and children. Most male finger rings had a function to perform. These were signet rings used as a form of royal insignia by higher-ranking officials. Ladies rings however were used solely as decoration and were ornately carved out of precious metals or gem set with garnets, carnelians, agates and other gemstones.

Gemstone engraving was a very important art form in the Roman era, and due to the hardness of the gemstones it was something only the most skilled and specialist craftsmen could achieve. The designs would take months to be cut into the stone using abrasive powder ground from an even harder gem material. The complexity of the image was important in ensuring the seal could not be copied and used without the owner’s permission.

Earrings were commonly worn by women at the time and there were many different styles and types. Towards the end of the Roman period the custom became popular of making patterns in sheet-gold by cutting out portions of the metal with a chisel. The earrings were often hollow making them light and comfortable to wear but still extremely ornate. This process came into use in the second century AD and was popular for necklaces also. The gold earrings were often embellished with colourful glass beads.

As Roman jewellery was made chiefly out of gold, many decorative processes were available to the goldsmith. Some of the most ornate processes were filigree and granulation work. These closely related processes were used for decorating gold jewellery by the application of wires and grains of gold. Filigree consists of fine gold wires which are soldered in patterns on a background. We have many fine examples of these techniques in our collection.

This extraordinary jewellery has survived almost 2000 years and has stood the test of time. Ancient engagement rings and ancient jewellery were made to be worn and enjoyed during the Roman times and can still be worn today. Visit Berganza today in store or visit us online and discover and purchase your very own piece of Roman treasure.

front view Ancient Roman ring with jasper lion intaglio, circa 3rd century AD.
Ancient Roman ring with jasper lion intaglio, circa 3rd century AD.
Ref: 26313
front view Ancient Roman gold earrings berganza hatton garden
Ancient Roman gold lyre-shape earrings, circa 2nd-3rd century AD.
Ref: 25517
Ancient Roman 'EVT/VXI' gold signet ring berganza hatton garden
Ancient Roman 'EVT/VXI' gold signet ring, circa 2nd - 3rd century AD.
Ref: 27540
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Updated 18/05/2024 at 3:51PM

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