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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Ancient Jewelry : Roman Gold and Pearl Earring
Roman Gold and Pearl Earring - OS.070
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD
Dimensions: 1.90" (4.8cm) high
Collection: Classical Antiquities
Medium: Gold, Pearl

Additional Information: f
Location: Great Britain
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This exquisite Roman earring is composed of a single pearl suspended from a gold wire, around which another wire has been tightly twisted. A granulated bead has been inserted just above the pearl, and further granulation can be found on the hoop. This has both a decorative and a practical function as the granulations serve to keep the pendant in place. In ancient Rome gold jewellery was worn by men and women of status, but was especially valued by the latter as a means of self-expression. Whereas male jewellery was often limited to a single gold finger ring, women wore much more elaborate ensembles. Indeed attempts by the state to limit such conspicuous display were met with strong resistance. In 195 BC, for example, women actually took to the streets and protested against the Oppian Law (passed in 215 BC) which attempted to curb the use of jewellery in times of war.

Early Roman jewellery resembled Etruscan and Greek antecedents but by the 2nd century AD a discernible ‘Roman style’ had begun to emerge. In fact, despite their love of display, the Romans actually preferred simpler geometric designs to the extravagant mythological, figural and foliate creations of the Greeks. Goldsmiths were active in many centres of the Empire including Rome, Alexandria and Antioch but there was remarkable homogeneity in design. Likenesses of women wearing Roman jewellery have survived in the mosaics from Pompeii and Herculaneum, on Palmyran limestone funerary steles and most evocatively on the painted funerary portraits from Fayuum in Egypt. These images help to remind us this earring was once worn and treasured by a real person in antiquity.

For a comparable example with two strands see: F. H. Marshall, ‘Catalogue of the Jewellery Greek, Etruscan & Roman in the Departments of Antiquities British Museum,’ (Oxford, 1969), No. 2652. (AM) - (OS.070)


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