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Luke wrote:

My 10 year old son is doing a project on Roman history. We have been trying to find some pictures of jewellery (Not much in my books), if you can direct me to any sites that are rich in images I would be very grateful.....AVE!


Dear Luke,

Most of the images to which I have access are copyrighted, so it would be unlawful for me to publish them. However, I just received word that a friend will be attending the San Jose Coin Club show this weekend, and he usually has several trays full of small artifacts. As I have recently purchased a digital camera with some limited macro capability, I may be able to get some photos. Most of the items are either Roman fibulae (cloak pins, much like a very ornate modern safety pin) Byzantine cross shaped reliquaries, bronze rings, and other small items. Most of these will have a gray or green patination and not have the colors they did when they were being worn by their original owners. I will email you if I get anything interesting, if you like.

We did attend this show and we have subsequently added a new series of mini - articles about Roman jewellery to this site.

The Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books about ancient Rome and Greece have a couple of nice pages on jewellery. They are a London publishing house, but that still does not guarantee that you have ready access to them. You can look at my pages on Roman women and get some sort of idea how jewellery was worn. Pearls seem to have been favorites, as well as heavy pendant earrings, often with three hanging lobes. Your son is welcome to take and use any of these images in his report, for what it might be worth.

Some of my books on rocks and minerals state that the Romans were fond of pearls, amber from the Baltic regions brought by German and Scythian traders, and any red stone. The general ancient term for a red stone was carbuncle, and little differentiation was made between rubies, garnets, and other red stones.

The Romans readily adopted fashions in jewellery from the Celts and the Egyptians. Roman soldiers during the Third Century and later were fond of wearing the large Celtic torcs or neck rings. I believe at that time it was a manly form of jewellery. Bracelets in the form of slim serpents were popular, and this style probably came from Egypt. Almost any kind of animal motif was popular as a style in jewellery.

There is a beautiful cameo extant bearing a likeness of the emperor Augustus. Its image is in many of the popular references. Also, Alaric, the Visigothic conquerer of Rome in AD 410 has left us a glass intaglio seal bearing his name and title ALARICVS REX GOTHORVM meaning Alaric, King of the Goths (and here all along I thought he was trying to tell everyone that all he wanted in life was to be a good Roman master general, and here he is signing himself King of the Gothic enemy, but then again, that is an entirely different story). It is an interesting piece with Alaric wearing a rather frilly shirt or blouse or tunic and with well - trimmed hair, giving somewhat the lie to his rather fierce reputation. The Frankish king Childeric also left us a similar glass seal from a few years later in the Fifth Century.

I am sorry but this appears to be the extent of my ability to help, with the possible exception of what might turn up this weekend. I wish the both of you Godspeed in this project.


Jay King

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