Ancient Roman Jewelry

When archaeologists stumbled on to a piece of glass while excavating some sites located in Israel, they did not imagine a distant possibility that this piece of glass was considered precious and was much coveted during the Roman period. The ancient Roman glass can be replicated no more despite modern technologies and techniques as the unique sand used in its making has vanished from the face of the earth, making the ancient Roman glass a rarity and the ancient Roman jewelry invaluable.

History of Ancient Roman Jewelry

As any of the ancient civilization, ancient Rome also had its distinct strata of social classes, with tunics and togas for men and stola for women being the prevalent style of dressing. In the Roman society, jewelry was less worn for beautification and more for attaching pieces of clothing and indicating the social status of a person. Gold, the most common metal for making jewelry, was used by the artisans and jewelers in ancient Rome for carving adornments and jewelry as it was believed to be the metal of the Gods and supposed to have descended from the sun. Other than gold, ancient Roman jewelry materials were bronze, Roman glass, bone beads and precious gemstones which have been excavated from far off places like Persia, Far East, Indus Valley, etc. Diamonds, emeralds, sapphires found its way from the silk route to the Roman land to appease the rich and mighty of this civilization.

Influence on Ancient Roman Jewelry

As the Roman empire reveled in its wealth and power, their art and culture also reached its splendor and gradually, not only did the higher sects of the society but also the working classes, started to don jewelry, thus making the variant forms of Roman ornaments a part of their traditional attire. Early Roman jewelry imitated the Greek and Etruscan jewelry but later on, the influence of Egyptian culture on the ancient Roman jewelry was apparent. An example of such an intrinsic influence of Greek and Egyptian cultures on Roman jewelry designs is the Herakles Knot which was worn explicitly to guard the wearer from evil spirits. Rome grew to become an empire when it conquered the Mediterranean region, North Africa, Europe and Egypt among other places, this led to the incorporation of different designs of the above mentioned cultures in the art of ancient Roman jewelry. During the rule of Augustus, a reign of peace named as Pax Roman prevailed in Europe and the Mediterranean regions and contributed in creating a prolific artistic arena, making ancient Roman jewelry especially the glass jewelry designs even more popular.

Ancient Roman Jewelry Styles


Among the different and valuable artifacts of Roman era, one of the most noticeable objects is the ring. The Romans liked to wear big rings which drew attention and revealed the status of the wearer. A gold ring often consisted a huge gemstone or Roman glass which was generally worn by the Senators and the bureaucrats. The common people referred as the Plebeians were allowed only to wear rings made of iron. But some Plebeians were awarded the right to wear the golden rings for their bravery or special service to the state. But gradually such stringent rules were relaxed during the reign of Justinian I. Women of ancient Rome were more inclined to wear multiple rings of varied materials and designs on their hands without the constraints of social classes.


Bracelets made of gold and pearls were equally in fashion in the ancient Roman era, worn in both the hands. They were usually made in pairs. Bracelets in the shape of coiling snakes were often seen in the hands of the Roman women and was fastened by a gold pin. The design of the coiling snake was particularly important to the Romans as it was considered as a self-eating, circular animal who was an perfectly constructed living organism, thus symbolizing immortality. As the bracelets had no practical use, they were worn purely for decorative purposes.


Even though Roman people loved to flaunt their jewelry with filigree, influenced by many other cultures, a common and most practical jewelry in that period was the brooch, the purpose of which was to attach pieces of clothing and also bring sophistication to it. Instead of sewing clothing items, they liked to fastened them with fibula and clasps which were made of gold or other precious metals. Fibula were decorated with a carved stone especially cameo portraits and other popular designs.

Other Jewelry Items:

Amulets called bullah were worn by young boys from the time of their birth which was believed to be a shield against evil eye. It was in the shape of a gold chain, containing a pouch and was a phallic symbol. The Romans believed that the males are the stronger out of the two sexes and thus, to protect the young ones of this gender, talismans or amulets were worn by young males. Gold rings with phallic symbol in its design were especially made for the young boys, supposedly for bringing good fortune. The practice of signet rings or seal rings was started by the Romans which helped them to imprint the seal with hot wax on important documents. These rings were usually worn by upper class prominent males of the society. Rings were also used as cryptic keys of the strong boxes, mostly used by men. Another accomplishment of this ancient Roman period was the creation of the coin rings which carried the portrait of the ruling Emperor or had engraving of Roman insignia on it. Roman women preferred to wear necklaces and earrings and a number of armlets, the total number of jewelry worn by them on an arm being seven or more.