As in many ancient societies, jewellery was an important social marker used to demonstrate wealth. As a result of the expansion of the Roman Empire, Roman jewellery became more and more elaborate in its designs and materials used, such as precious and semi-precious gemstones. Roman jewellery often reflected the culture the Romans came into contact with, and can be viewed as a testament to the prosperity and power of the Roman Empire. The most popular type of Roman jewellery were rings, as Romans of Imperial Times enjoyed to wear big rings, extravagantly decorated with cameos or engraved precious stones. The custom of wearing rings was probably introduced into Rome by the Sabines, who are described in the early legends as wearing gold rings with precious stones. From the Roman Republic onwards it became customary for all the senators, chief magistrates, and at last for the equites also, to wear gold rings, known in Latin as annulus aureus, as a way to distinct themselves from the mass of the people. If initially the Romans only wore one ring, the nuptial fede , on the fourth finger on the left hand, very soon the custom of wearing rings on all the fingers of both hands started spreading. This was true with the exception of the middle finger, called impudicus or infamis, which was often used for an offensive gesture, and therefore left bare, without any rings. Both men and women would have worn multiple rings on each finger, competing in vanity for the one having the bigger or heavier ring. Rings composed of joined or carved gold cells set with coloured gems usually date from the late 4th century AD onwards and are an absolute rare find, with few examples on display at The Metropolitan Museum of New York and The British Museum in London.
To discover more about Roman jewellery, please visit our relevant blog post: Roman Jewellery: Gold Rings.