Men and women all over the world partake in the custom of wearing some kind of adornment or jewelry. In the modern era, men and women may wear watches, rings, necklaces, wristbands and bracelets. In the past, men and women also wore a variety of jewelry as marks of distinction or as adornments. I wear a gold necklace that holds charms of significance. In the same tradition as the Romans, I own a cameo (a favorite among Romans for its beauty), a marriage ring, and a watch whose face is a gold coin (jewelry made from gold coins was another Roman preference). In a similar barbarian custom, I have pierced earlobes for earrings.
For those who enjoy the exquisite beauty of a classic cameo brooch, notice how this contemporary cameo echoes the ancient raised portrait of Medusa. They both have similar serpentine flourishes in white against a darker background. It’s still very much in style, 1,500 years later. In fact you can buy many fine variations at Amazon today, including this one.
Since the beginning of time, man has had to hold cloth together, especially after he started wearing cloth to cover his body. It is thought that thorns and flint found in Paleolithic age caves acted as the first ‘pins.’ The word ‘pin’ is the more common term that includes brooches and fibulas. Brooches or Fibulas (the older historical term) is the oldest type of jewelry that has both a utilitarian and decorative purpose. The fibula is the most ‘sharply defined in its historical usage while the meanings of pins and brooches have a much wider scope over time.’
The fibula had a necessary function: to fasten clothing together such as cloaks and draped garments. A clasp with a ‘simple pin, spring, and catch-plate mechanism’, the fibula somewhat resembles a modern day safety pin in its structural design. Some believe that the safety pin developed from the fibula. In the ancient and classical periods, there was no gender association to the fibula, but in modern times the brooch is worn by women as a decorative jewelry.
In the fifth century AD (the setting for my story) the fibula was worn by both men and women. They had a practical usage but could be decorative as well. The Roman and barbarian soldier might use a plainer pin that could withstand all kinds of wear, but the nobles also wore ‘elaborately decorated bow-shaped clasps with long thin sheaths covering the pin.’ Fibulas were made of gold, silver and bronze, worked with filigree, enamel and embellished with gemstones.
My hero, Garic, wears a Frankish style fibula/brooch to pin his cloak together and armlets that are engraved with an emblem of the Royal Bee, which later became a Merovingian symbol.
My heroine, Arria, also wears a decorative brooch, rings, hairpins and a gold cross, a gift from her father. Also popular in her time were Roman coins of the realm fashioned into jewelry, rather like this modern gold coin bracelet. This replica was inspired by the ancient coins the Romans crafted into jewelry. Made of rose gold, pure white gold, and rich yellow gold it’s sure to shine on anyone’s wrist today just as it did then.
Why do humans love to adorn themselves? Some experts believe it’s a way of representing age, gender, family and status. Others say it’s a way of communicating some of our basic needs, such as our desire for self-expression, religious/spiritual beliefs, and romantic attraction. What about you? Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry that reflects ancient times or just some connection to the past? Share it. I’m curious to hear.