Bronze working in Roman Britain

The mastery of bronze working was complete in the Roman period. Copper and tin were used alloyed to produce bronze, and surviving evidence for smelting of the raw materials includes crucibles and moulds. At certain times the production of copper and tin seem to have been state controlled, although numerous manufacturing workshops were in existence. Some bronzesmiths made items in the classical style, but others, especially those based in the north and west of England, continued to manufacture items in the 'Celtic' designs.

Items made of bronze varied greatly in Roman Britain and included tools, horse fittings, statues, jewellery and body armour. Bronze vessels ranged from simple functional containers for cooking and serving food to highly decorative examples. Though the intrinsic value of bronze did not compare with that of silver, the craftsmanship and design of some bronze plate is comparable with that of silver vessels. Some elaborate bronze vessels were intended for religious rather than domestic use.

The skill employed by bronzesmiths is seen in their attention to detail in the various manufacturing techniques. According to the type of object being produced different mixes of metal would be chosen, whilst subtlety of colour and relief decoration was also important. Many colourful designs were achieved through the addition of gold, silver, and tin, and brightly coloured enamels were sometimes inlaid into containers and bronze jewellery.

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