Period: 8th century BC. – 4th century AD.
For convenience, we will divide the ancient style into two parts – Greek and Roman. Let’s start with Greece!
The main features of the decorations of Ancient Greece:
- ornaments: flowers, insects, birds, sea creatures, snakes and lions;
- Plots of mythology, religion, historical events, figures, gods
- Sacred symbols (the knot of Hercules, the crescent moon)
- ornamental and precious stones: emeralds, pearls and amethysts, emeralds, garnets, carnelian, striped agates, sardonyx, chalcedony and rock crystal
- techniques: colored enamel, glyptics, granulation, filigree, casting, inlay
The ancient Greeks borrowed their goldsmithing techniques from the Egyptians, Syrians and Mesopotamians. The campaigns of Alexander the Great had a great influence on the style and variety of jewelry.
Jewelry in ancient Greece was a symbol of social status, amulets, a sign of worship of a particular deity. They were used more by upper-class women than by men in general.
The gradual departure from the tradition of rich burials allowed jewels to be passed down from generation to generation.
Among the specific Greek jewelry is the cameo. These are convex relief images on sea shells, precious and semi-precious stones. Cameos began to be made in the 4th century BC. Their subjects were quite limited and were preserved for centuries. As a rule they depicted the gods, historical events and mythology.
The opposite in technique to cameos are intaglios. These are depictions with deepened relief. Intaglios were used as independent ornaments and for seals.
Characteristic decorations for the ancient Greeks: sardonyx cameos, diadems, gold wreaths, earrings-rings with masks and animals, belts with pendants and shoulder necklaces.
The main features of Roman jewelry:
- motifs of a magical nature (crescent moon, wheel with four spokes); the serpent motif coiled into a double spiral, copied from Hellenistic models, was often used for bracelets, rings, headbands and earrings.
- Greek geometric ornaments, spirals
- ornamental and precious stones: topazes, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls
- techniques: nielloing, enameling, opus interassil
The style of Roman jewelry was reminiscent of Greek and Etruscan. Only with the development of the Empire did it acquire its own features.
The Roman Empire became a jewelry center. Together with precious stones and metals, lapidaries and jewelers from Greece and the Asian provinces came to the cities. The gold ring, once a mark of distinction and social status, appeared on the fingers of persons of lower social rank until it became common even among soldiers.
The finds at Pompeii and near Boscoreale speak of the exceptional wealth of the Roman nobility. Patrician families decorated themselves richly and used gold and silver furniture.
Precious and ornamental stones were imported from Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and what is now Europe. Amber was mined in what is now Gdansk. During the reign of the Emperor Nero it was documented (58 A.D.) that the “gold of the north” was enough for the construction of a gladiatorial stadium.
The engraved gems occupied a special place. The nobility, including Caesar himself, considered them to be collectors’ items.
Characteristic jewelry of the Romans: large rings, earrings with pendants, gold chains, necklaces with medallions and gold coins with portraits of emperors, torcs