Roman Shield & Grape Earrings, ca 1st century CE


$3,500 USD

Each earring with a conical shield centered with granules and framed with filigree wire, the back earwire supporting a rigid drop pendant below, composed of an indented collar that supports a pyramidal cluster of five hollow spheres that suggest grape clusters, the spheres ornamented with clusters of granulation at the base that again suggest grapes.

These earrings are a fine example of Roman culture, invoking two important symbols of the era. Firstly shields, a symbol of preserving the empire, soldierly prowess and solidarity. Secondly, and significant to Roman everyday life, grapes, or the main ingredients of wine. The Roman belief that wine was a daily necessity made the drink democratic and ubiquitous. Wine was available to slaves, peasants, women and aristocrats alike. To ensure the steady supply of wine to Roman soldiers and colonists, viticulture and wine production spread to every part of the empire. Early Roman culture was sharply influenced by the ancient Greeks.

Thus, wine had religious, medicinal and social roles that set it apart from other Roman cuisine. As Rome entered its golden age of winemaking and the era of expansion, an egalitarian approach to wine started to emerge. Wine was increasingly viewed as a necessity of everyday life rather than simply a luxury enjoyed by the elite. Though such gold jewelry may not have been enjoyed by lower classes, the grape motif celebrates Rome as the great Republic that it was, making the earrings not simply a symbol of excess and elitism. A similar pair of earrings can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 95.15.197.

Condition:  Expected signs of wear including some minor denting to the hollow grape beads coupled with minor surface mineral deposits, one earring with possible reattachment of the grape granules. Otherwise intact and in excellent condition overall. Attached to modern 18K gold posts for wear if desired, a very elegant example. 

Dimensions:  Overall Drop length: 6.5 cm (2.55 inches)

Provenance:  New York family private collection, acquired in Jerusalem in the 1960s.

Category: $1000 - $5000, Gold, Jewelry