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Jewellery from Roman Britain

Jewellery includes both valuable ornaments of gold and those set with gems, as well as humbler objects made of base metals, glass and organic materials such as wood and bone. Some types of jewellery were functional as well as decorative, such as brooches designed to secure clothing.

Jewellery was worn for adornment, to display wealth and awareness of fashion. It may also have been worn as protection against bad luck. Designs which seem to us purely decorative, like rings and bracelets in the form of snakes, or engraved gemstones with images of gods and goddesses, were carefully chosen for their protective power.

Both Graeco-Roman and native traditions influenced Romano-British jewellery. Precious-metal pieces tended to conform to the same fashions throughout the Empire, so that gold jewellery found at Pompeii or depicted in Romano-Egyptian funerary portraits is often quite similar to jewellery found in Britain. The more everyday and functional items such as bronze brooches are more likely to vary in style from region to region. Some types of ornament, for example wooden hairpins or necklaces made of small beads strung on wool or linen thread, were undoubtedly far more common than their rare occurrence in the archaeological record suggests.

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