Roman Glass Jewelry History
Roman glass is an ancient glass, discovered in archaeological excavation sites in Israel and in other Mediterranean countries. The fine Sterling Silver Roman glass Jewelry is one of the most popular types and styles originated from Israel enabling to wear an entirely unique piece of 2,000-year-old history.
What is Roman Glass
The Roman glass in this aqua-hued jewelry began life as a vase, jug, or vessel. Uncovered from ancient Roman archaeological sites in modern-day Israel, each fragment has been textured and colored by centuries of wind and weather. Each bears the marks of not only its past life as a household or temple object but also the very earth in which it rested until being transformed into a unique accent.
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The designs for the jewels are based on artifacts and drawings also discovered on the archeological digs.
The Roman glass is a beautiful piece of history dating back 2,000 years to the time of the Roman Empire. The Roman Glass used for jewelry today in Israel is found in archeological digs throughout the land of Israel. The natural phenomenon which the glass has undergone over the many years it has been buried have given it the unique and beautiful aqua shades we enjoy today in Roman Glass earrings, Roman glass necklaces and bracelets. Initially, in the Roman empire, glass was mainly used for vessels and available only for the wealthy. At that time, glass was manufactured by core forming, casting, cutting and grinding. However, since the invention of the glass blowing, glass was available to the public in vast numbers, mass produced in a large variety of shapes and forms.
Roman Glass Jewelry
Due to the great popularity of glass during those ancient times, we today are privileged to make use of these gorgeous historical pieces with which we enhance the beauty of our Roman glass jewelry.
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Ancient Israel, due to its large stretches of sandy dunes and beaches, was one of the largest glass producers of the Roman Empire. These same sands helped preserve the glass through the centuries, shaping and tempering it into the jewelry-quality pieces being excavated today. Today the fragments of the 2000 years old roman glass that were once part of the lip of a goblet, jar, or other vessel are used in Israel to create beautiful jewelry that mixes the typical blue and green old glass excavated from archaeological digs with silver or gold creating a piece of art and history to wear with love. A certificate of authenticity is available for the Roman glass jewelry. It is interesting to know some facts about the glass history and the Roman Glass history, collected from several sources.
The History of Glass
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Glass is formed when sand (silica), soda (alkali), and lime are fused at high temperatures. The color of the glass can be altered by adjusting the atmosphere in the furnace and by adding specific metal oxides to the glass "batch" (such as cobalt for dark blue, tin for opaque white, antimony and manganese for colorless glass). A venerable legend perpetuated as late as the seventh century A.D. in the writings of Isidore of Seville gives a suitable miraculous explanation for the discovery of this elemental--yet truly wondrous--material - This was its origin: in a part of Syria which is called Phoenicia, there is a swamp close to Judaea, around the base of Mt. Carmel, from which the Bellus River arises . . . whose sands are purified from contamination by the torrent's flow. The story is that here a ship of natron [sodium carbonate] merchants had been shipwrecked; when they were scattered about on the shore preparing food and no stones were at hand for propping up their pots, they brought lumps of natron from the ship. The sand of the shore became mixed with the burning natron and translucent streams of a new liquid flowed forth: and this was the origin of glass.(Isidore of Seville, Etymologies XVI.16. Translation by Charles Witke.) It is not surprising that the ancient authorities thought of Phoenicia as the birthplace of glass, for the Syro-Palestine region did indeed become a major center of glass production in antiquity, along with Egypt. However, glass seems actually to have been "discovered" not in Phoenicia, but in Mesopotamia. Archaeological research now places the first evidence of true glass there at around 2500 B.C.
At first it was used for beads, seals, and architectural decoration. Some 1,000 years elapsed before glass vessels are known to have been produced. Vessels of glass quickly became widespread in the second half of the second millennium B.C. They were popular not only in Mesopotamia but also in Egypt and the Aegean. The earliest vessels were core-formed. Opaque, dark glass in its molten state was wound around a clay core attached to a metal rod. The skin of hot glass was fashioned with tools in order to shape its external features. Lighter colored strands of hot glass were then trailed on the surface and often "dragged" to produce festoon patterns. The pot surface was marvered (that is, rolled on a smooth, flat surface to produce a level finish). Finally, it was cooled slowly before the clay core was scraped out of the hardened vessel. This glassware typically imitated forms originally established for ceramic, metal, and stone vessels .
Somewhat later, the molding technique was developed, whereby glass chips or molten glass were packed or forced into a mold and then fused. After a molded vessel was annealed (cooled slowly in a special chamber of the glass furnace), it was often ground and polished in order to refine the rim and any other rough edges. One typical shape for molded vessels of the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods (c. 150 -50 B.C.) was the so-called pillar-molded bowl. Here exterior ribs radiate up from the base, stopping abruptly near the rim to allow a smooth margin around the circumference. This type is ubiquitous; and it attests to the free and rapid exchange of ideas in glass-making throughout the Greater Mediterranean sphere.
Glass vessels were initially available only to the very wealthy and only in rather diminutive sizes. They were manufactured by core forming, casting, cutting and grinding. The invention of glass blowing around 50 BC brought glass vessels to the general public in vast numbers, mass produced in great variety of forms and hence brought ancient glass into the reach of the modern collector of even modest means. One can nowadays own a Roman glass bowl, or drink from a Roman glass beaker, or wear ancient jewellery where glass was used widely. In 63 BC, the Romans conquered the Syro-Palestine area. They brought back with them glassmakers to Rome.Soon after, the first transparent glass sheets were produced in Rome. The word vitrum, meaning glass, entered the Latin language.Rome's political, military, and economic dominance in the Mediterranean world was a major factor in attracting skilled craftsmen to set up workshops in the city, but equally important was the fact that the establishment of the Roman industry roughly coincided with the invention of glassblowing. The new technique led craftsmen to create novel and unique shapes; examples exist of flasks and bottles shaped like foot sandals, wine barrels, fruits, and even helmets and animals. Some combined blowing with glass-casting and pottery-molding technologies to create the so-called mold-blowing process.
Further innovations and stylistic changes saw the continued use of casting and free-blowing to create a variety of open and closed forms that could then be engraved or facet-cut in any number of patterns and designs. Core-formed and cast glass vessels were first produced in Egypt and Mesopotamia as early as the fifteenth century B.C., but only began to be imported and, to a lesser extent, made on the Italian peninsula in the mid-first millennium B.C. By the time of the Roman Republic (509-27 B.C.), such vessels, used as tableware or as containers for expensive oils, perfumes, and medicines, were common in Etruria (modern Tuscany) and Magna Graecia (areas of southern Italy including modern Campania, Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily). However, there is very little evidence for similar glass objects in central Italian and Roman contexts until the mid-first century B.C.
The reasons for this are unclear, but it suggests that the Roman glass industry sprang from almost nothing and developed to full maturity over a couple of generations during the first half of the first century A.D. Doubtless Rome's emergence as the dominant political, military, and economic power in the Mediterranean world was a major factor in attracting skilled craftsmen to set up workshops in the city, but equally important was the fact that the establishment of the Roman industry roughly coincided with the invention of glassblowing.
This invention revolutionized ancient glass production, putting it on a par with the other major industries, such as that of pottery and metalwares (as 20.49.2-12). Likewise, glassblowing allowed craftsmen to make a much greater variety of shapes than before. Combined with the inherent attractiveness of glass-it is nonporous, translucent (if not transparent), and odorless-this adaptability encouraged people to change their tastes and habits, so that, for example, glass drinking cups rapidly supplanted pottery equivalents. In fact, the production of certain types of native Italian clay cups, bowls, and beakers declined through the Augustan period, and by the mid-first century A.D. had ceased altogether.However, although blown glass came to dominate Roman glass production, it did not altogether supplant cast glass. Especially in the first half of the first century A.D., much Roman glass was made by casting, and the forms and decoration of early Roman cast vessels demonstrate a strong Hellenistic influence. The Roman glass industry owed a great deal to eastern Mediterranean glassmakers, who first developed the skills and techniques that made glass so popular that it can be found on every archaeological site, not only throughout the Roman empire but also in lands far beyond its frontiers.
Although the core-formed industry dominated glass manufacture in the Greek world, casting techniques also played an important role in the development of glass in the ninth to fourth centuries B.C. Cast glass was produced in two basic ways-through the lost-wax method and with various open and plunger molds. The most common method used by Roman glassmakers for most of the open-form cups and bowls in the first century B.C. was the Hellenistic technique of sagging glass (81.10.243) over a convex "former" mold. However, various casting and cutting methods were continuously utilized as style and popular preference demanded. The Romans also adopted and adapted various color and design schemes from the Hellenistic glass traditions, applying such designs as network glass and gold-band glass to novel shapes and forms. Distinctly Roman innovations in fabric styles and colors include marbled mosaic glass, short-strip mosaic glass, and the crisp, lathe-cut profiles of a new breed of fine as monochrome and colorless tablewares of the early empire, introduced around 20 A.D.
SOMETIME AROUND 70 B.C., in Jerusalem, someone realized that, if you took a glass tube -- then the stock for mass production of beads -- sealed one end and blew into the other, you could create a glass bulb. Blow hard enough and long enough, and you could make a small bottle. This was glassblowing at its most primitive. It is quite possible that, without further refinement, this moment of experimentation might have passed unnoticed. A couple of decades later, however, the introduction of a separate blowpipe, together with a tool-kit of variously-sized pincers and paddles, made it possible to blow and shape glass with much greater control, and with much greater novelty. The new technology revolutionized the Italian glass industry, stimulating an enormous increase in the range of shapes and designs that glassworkers could produce.
A glassworker's creativity was no longer bound by the technical restrictions of the laborious casting process, as blowing allowed for previously unparalleled versatility and speed of manufacture. These advantages spurred a rapid evolution of style and form, and experimentation with the new technique led craftsmen to create novel and unique shapes; examples exist of flasks and bottles shaped like foot sandals, wine barrels, fruits, and even helmets and animals. Some combined blowing with glass-casting and pottery-molding technologies to create the so-called mold-blowing process.
Further innovations and stylistic changes saw the continued use of casting and free-blowing to create a variety of open and closed forms that could then be engraved or facet-cut in any number of patterns and designs. But the potential of a technological idea will only come to fruition if its seed is planted in an encouraging cultural environment. During Rome's Republican Era, in the dictatorial times of Sulla and Julius Caesar, such encouragement seems to have been lacking. In the Hellenistic world, the firmly established traditions of working glass -- either by blending threads of it into closed vessel forms or by slumping glass over a pre-shaped model for open ones -- were producing fine wares with which the infant technique of free-blowing could not yet compete. In the Roman world, however, pottery was still the material of choice for everything domestic, from fish platters to perfume bottles, and no one seemed to be in any hurry to change that situation. Enter the Emperor Augustus. It is said that he had no love of foreigners; he viewed the appreciable numbers of them living in Rome around 10 B.C. as a potential source for the corruption of traditional Roman values. If I interpret his subsequent actions correctly, he wanted the Italian mainland to be far more self-sufficient wherever possible. So it was that Italian businesses in certain crafts -- most obviously, pottery- and cloth-making -- were encouraged to expand. The craft of glassworking now was adopted from the Hellenistic world with much energy and skill.
An ancient Industrial Revolution was underway. To get things moving, the Romans simply enslaved hundreds of skilled craftsmen in the eastern provinces, uprooting them from their homes and resettling them in the outskirts of rapidly-growing Roman cities. Pottery-makers were imported from Asia Minor, particularly from around Pergamum, and put to work at Arretium; Greek craftsmen were moved from Athens to Lyons and other cities in central Gaul; glassworkers were brought in from the provinces of Syria, Judaea, and Aegyptus -- most likely from the cities of Sidon, Jerusalem, and Alexandria -- and put to work in shops at Naples, Aquileia, and just outside Rome itself. There was an immediate market niche for glassware in Augustan times. Like many ancient peoples, the Romans believed in an afterlife that was an idealized form of their worldly experience. According to its means, the family of each dead Roman was obliged to provide furnishings for the grave. Such furnishings always included regular domestic items -- plates of food, flasks of wine, and so on -- but it was also a tradition to include offerings of perfume.
The Roman wealthy would put these offerings in bottles (unguentaria) made of silver or alabaster. The eastern craftsmen who brought with them the skill of glassblowing now offered the rest of the population an alternative in glass; to be sure, not something as elegant or colorful as might have been wished, but which everyone could afford. The free-blown unguentarium was one of the immediate and long-term successes of the newly emerging industry. Modern excavations have revealed many instances where a grave contains not just one or two but a couple of dozen of these, all mass-produced, each in a matter of minutes at most.
At the same time, glass captured the popular imagination by virtue of its translucency. You could see the color of wine in a beaker, or how well a bottle was filled even if it was sealed -- which could not be said for items made of pottery, or indeed of bronze, silver, or gold. The production of wine glasses soared in the Augustan era, actually causing the demise of some of the pottery workshops that specialized in traditional beaker types. It was glass's distinctive property of transparency that stimulated the Emperor Nero's tutor, Lucius Seneca to observe that " ... Apples seem more beautiful if they are floating in a glass." (Investigations in Natural Science I.6). And, from the middle of the first century A.D. onward, squared-sided glass bottles -- typically with capacities in the half- to one-liter range -- were used for a great deal of the short-range movement of liquids such as olive oil and the popular fish sauce known as garum. Thus the industrialization of glassworking in the Augustan era came about through the influence of three distinct forces: First, by virtue of certain historical events (Augustus's rise to power and his promotion of craft-centralization on the Italian mainland); second, because of a technical innovation (the invention of glassblowing in one of Rome's eastern provinces); and third, the social pressure related to fashion or taste (a traditional link between perfumery and Roman funerary ritual).
Change in the Roman glassworking industry was always most dramatic whenever all three of these forces came together at one time.
Uses of Roman glass
At the height of its popularity and usefulness in Rome, glass was present in nearly every aspect of daily life-from a lady's morning toilette to a merchant's afternoon business dealings to the evening cena, or dinner. Glass alabastra, unguentaria, and other small bottles and boxes held the various oils, perfumes, and cosmetics used by nearly every member of Roman society. Pyxides often contained jewelry with glass elements such as beads, cameos, and intaglios , made to imitate semi-precious stone like carnelian, emerald, rock crystal, sapphire, garnet, sardonyx, and amethyst. Merchants and traders routinely packed, shipped, and sold all manner of foodstuffs and other goods across the Mediterranean in glass bottles and jars of all shapes and sizes, supplying Rome with a great variety of exotic materials from far-off parts of the empire.
Other applications of glass included multicolored tesserae used in elaborate floor and wall mosaics, and mirrors containing colorless glass with wax, plaster, or metal backing that provided a reflective surface. Glass windowpanes were first made in the early imperial period, and used most prominently in the public baths to prevent drafts. Because window glass in Rome was intended to provide insulation and security, rather than illumination or as a way of viewing the world outside, little, if any, attention was paid to making it perfectly transparent or of even thickness. Window glass could be either cast or blown. Cast panes were poured and rolled over flat, usually wooden molds laden with a layer of sand, and then ground or polished on one side. Blown panes were created by cutting and flattening a long cylinder of blown glass.
AN INDUSTRY THOUGH Roman glassworking certainly was, it was one that maintained a remarkable degree of dynamism over the centuries. The shape and decoration of two of its main products -- the unguentarium and the wine beaker -- were being modified every few decades, sometimes quite sharply, and there were many new items of glassware introduced that expanded the glassworker's repertoire in significant ways. The way that the Romans committed themselves so heavily to the maintenance of good ports all around the Mediterranean coastline and of fine roads that criss-crossed the entire Empire on land was also critical for keeping the Roman glassmaking industry so dynamic. Of course, the main purpose of such maintenance was to assure the easy movement of troops from one trouble spot to another, and of administrative information from one city to another. But these ports and roads also allowed the movement of people and their ideas. Signatures and inscriptions in Greek indicate clearly enough that eastern Mediterranean craftsmen settled at various places in northern Italy and central Gaul; that north African and Syrian soldiers were conscripted to serve in the army in northern England, thereafter to settle there as tradesmen; and that businessmen of every background and philosophical persuasion traded wherever it was to their advantage to do so. Thus, every Roman city became a social melting-pot where technical innovations could be passed on, blending with or displacing old ideas, sometimes in the space of just a decade or two. The industrial activities of the Roman world responded accordingly, with a freshness of purpose and an ongoing rise in skill.
Jewelry in the Roman Times
Ancient Roman glass jewelry reached its height during the Augustan age, at the beginning of the Empire. This meant that in many ways the glass jewelry were deprived of much of the expressive freedom one might expect and hope for. The buyers of this fine artistic jewelry were the conservative political. The period of peace achieved during the rule of Augustus and Augustus made this possible, especially after the vicious fighting of the Roman civil wars. Ancient Roman jewelry in earlier times was derived from both Hellenistic and Etruscan jewelry. In addition, as Roman jewelry designs freed itself of Hellenistic and Etruscan influences, greater use was made of colored stones such as: topazes, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls. Trojan and Cretan artisans of the Minoan period, although working at opposite ends of the Aegean region, crafted earrings, bracelets, and necklaces of a common type that persisted from about 2500 BC to the beginning of the Classical period of Greek art 479 BC - 323 BC. Roman jewelry was highly influenced by some of the designs of the places they conquered and established connections with. The creators spared no effort in making some of the most exquisite and ornamental compositions. Rings were a major symbol in the body of ancient Roman glass jewelry. Ornamental Roman jewelry was worn by women of high status. They often wore jewelry on their ears, neck, arms and hands. Ancient Roman designs and fashion jewelry also included seal rings, amulets and talismans. The cameo and hoop earrings were introduced in ancient Roman times.
Ancient Roman glass jewelry reached its height during the Augustan age, at the beginning of the Empire. This meant that in many ways the glass jewelry were deprived of much of the expressive freedom one might expect and hope for. The buyers of this fine artistic jewelry were the conservative political. The period of peace achieved during the rule of Augustus and Augustus made this possible, especially after the vicious fighting of the Roman civil wars. The gold beads of ancient Rome were artfully shaped to create images of flowers and animals. The most common fact that is assumed by most is that the ancient Roman jewelry has a similar resembles to the Greek and Etruscan jewelry.