The ancient Romans considered jewellery to be an essential accessory, for it provided a public display of their wealth. Roman jewellery at first followed trends set by the Etruscans, using gold and glass beads, but as the power and spread of the Roman Empire increased, so too did jewellery designs became increasingly elaborate. Different cultural styles from Greece, Egypt, North Africa, and the Orient were all incorporated to reflect Rome’s prosperity as a dominant, conquering city. The wide range of natural resources enabled artisans to create ostentatious jewellery using a diverse selection of materials: this increasingly included sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, garnet and amber from India, and pearls (which were particularly prized). Archaeological finds of Roman jewellery are relatively rare, considering the magnitude of Roman civilisation, and the historical and geographical span of the Empire.
The custom of wearing rings was popular amongst the Romans, and was probably introduced by the Sabines, who are described in early legends as wearing gold rings with precious stones. During the Roman Republic it became customary for all the senators, chief magistrates, and at last for the equites also, to wear gold rings.
According to ancient Roman mythology and religion, Victoria was the personified goddess of victory. It perhaps comes as little surprise, then, that she was one of the most popular deities in ancient Rome. Numerous artistic and architectural dedications to her bear witness to the popularity of the goddess’ cult: Victoria appears widely on Roman coins, jewellery, architecture, and other works of art.
To find out more about intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post: Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome.