Ciena Higginbotham, Jacob Kania, and William Wray
Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club
It all started with a son of Mars. Legend has it the city of Rome was founded by Romulus, son of the Roman god of war who was abandoned as an infant and raised by wolves alongside his brother, Remus. After killing his brother and taking control, Romulus founded the city of Rome, which is named after him. He became the first king of Rome. But wasn’t Rome an empire? Well, before it was an empire – or even a republic – the city of Rome was ruled by kings for hundreds of years. Historians estimate that around 509 BCE this system of monarchy ended, and a republic was formed after a people’s revolt which was staged in outraged response to the tyrannical rule of Lucius Tarquinius Suberbus and in particular the actions of his son, who behaved badly toward a noblewoman without her consent. This sparked a rebellious fervor in the common people, who went on to rebel and form a republic, which literally means “property of the people.”
|An example of Roman art style. Original watercolor © by Ciena Higginbotham|
The Roman Empire went on to conquer virtually all of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean and most of Europe. It stretched from Egypt to Scotland and was the biggest empire to ever exist in Europe, no other nation since has owned so much of the continent. For much of its history Rome had a solid, functioning economy and extremely formidable military. The empire was and still is renowned for its amazing art and architectural achievements. Later on, Rome adopted Christianity as its state religion in 325 CE, and shortly afterwards Rome began its decline. After hundreds of years of success, the empire became so fragmented that it split in two. While the eastern part of the empire went on to become the Byzantine Empire, the west imploded due to corruption, war, and a lack of communication. With that a great empire fell and a chapter in history closed.
During Rome’s height they were noted for their wealth and industry. This translated into a prestigious trade in jewelry and adornments of all kinds. Usually, skilled artisans were responsible for the crafting of these pieces of wearable art. Most Roman jewelry used gold as a base material which was then embellished by jewels such as pearls, emeralds, and turquoise. Because the Romans used gold as the cornerstone of their jewelry, they needed a lot of it. Since Central Italy is rather lacking in mineral resources, they sourced the bulk of their gold from provinces to the west, such as Iberia (Spain) and Gaul (France). They also received gold through trade with Africa and India. The basic techniques of jewel-crafting in Roman society, such as filigree (the practice of twisting tiny pieces of gold wire together and to form patterns) and granulation (the practice of molding tiny grains of gold onto a larger smooth piece) are still in use today. The goods produced were sold in markets and community gathering places referred to as forums. However, trade was not explicitly through markets, oftentimes the ruling class would commission special pieces from the best jewelers.
Since the dawn of time man has adorned himself with materials of rocks, minerals, fossils, and gems. The Romans were no different and show remarkable craftsmanship.
|Figure 3. This is a cylindrical bead made of granite circa 100 BC. These stone beads were traded throughout the Roman empire. Image © S.W. Veatch.|
|Figure 4. This bead is made of solid gold and had more intricate work done. This bead would have been part of a necklace worn by a man or woman who was wealthy. Image © by S.W. Veatch.|
|Figure 5. This piece, made of silver, was worn by a Roman over 1,200 years ago. The Romans prized their silver mines. Image © S.W. Veatch.|
|Figure 6. This unusual piece of abalone shell came from a mollusk. It was ground down to a size that would fit on a necklace. Perhaps his piece of adornment was worn by a slave held by the Roman Empire. Image © by S.W. Veatch.|
|Figure 7. This carved piece of Lapis Lazuli reveals specs of pyrite. This gemstone was highly prized for its blue color and was mined in Afghanistan and then brought into Rome. Image © by William Wray.|
|Figure 8. This unusual ornament was fashioned from a fossil sea urchin. This was worn as a pendant by a slave or a Roman citizen of the lower-class. Image © by Blake Reher.|
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Roman Jewelry. (2013). Retrieved May 19, 2015, from http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-clothing/roman-jewelry.htm
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