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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Ancient Jewelry : Pair of Roman Twisted Gold Earrings
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Pair of Roman Twisted Gold Earrings - OS.260
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD
Dimensions: 1" (2.5cm) high
Collection: Jewelry
Medium: Gold

Location: Great Britain
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This delicate pair of gold earrings are formed from spirally twisted wire which tapers at both ends. The fastening hoops are elaborate and an applied round boss survives on one of the earrings. 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. Nearly three centuries later, the taste for fine gold amongst women was denounced by the author Pliny in his ‘Natural History.’

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 pair of earrings was once worn and treasured by a real person in antiquity.

For a comparative example see: F. H. Marshall, ‘Catalogue of the Jewellery Greek, Etruscan & Roman in the Departments of Antiquities British Museum,’ (Oxford, 1969), No. 2473. (AM) - (OS.260)


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