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A delicate Roman penannular gold earring, C. 3rd - 4th Century AD. From Roman Palestine.

The majority of ancient jewellery was made from sheet metal and wire. The metal was heated and then hammers, files and chisels were used to create the desired form. Earrings were mostly made from fine gold sheet and they would use filigree, twists and granules as decoration. Repoussé features heavily in Ancient earrings, an embossing technique involving hammering the sheet metal to create a repeating textured pattern of differing reliefs. Stamping the sheet metal was a similar technique, often used to recreate the same motif on each ear piece.

Most of the decorative wirework was made from sheet metal, hammered and rolled into thin strips between two plates. The wire would then have been stretched to become finer still. For ornamental work, two wires would be wound together and twisted to form a broader more interesting design. Filigree was created with these wires, soldered onto the sheet metal into patterns of spirals and circles. Granulation, the crafting of fine spherical gold grains was a highly skilled technique and we are still not certain today how it was done.

These techniques made ancient earrings seem more substantial than they actually were and remarkably comfortable and light to wear. This ornamental metal work was seen throughout Ancient Greece and Rome, often combined with the use of coloured glass beads or precious stones. Styles varied from simple hoops and discs, to crescents with colourful beads, and intricate metal decoration. More elaborate examples extended further down the neck as pendant drops.

Roman earrings are surprisingly wearable and beautiful survivors of two thousand years of history. The craftsmen of Ancient Rome continue to inspire jewellers today.

Condition: Fine.

Dimensions: 1.5cm dia.

Provenance: Ex. Don Lee collection, UK. Don Lee was a prolific collector of antiquities and coins. A former school teacher from London, Don made some remarkable finds himself, including a fabulously rare Wuneetton type gold thrymsa while 'mudlarking' on the banks of the river Thames at the age of 76! His collection spanned thousands of years from Stone Age axe heads to Roman glass and Viking brooches. His collection of coins and antiquities was auctioned in the summer of 2007.


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