Roman Gold and Emerald Necklace (1st-2nd century CE)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art [Public Domain]

Emeralds, or smaragdi as they were called, were extremely popular before, during, and after Imperial Rome. This Roman chain necklace of emeralds is an amazing extant example of emeralds of the time. Emeralds are a part of the beryl family. It’s an interesting family that includes emerald, aquamarine and a green variety which is often just called “beryl,” and some color variations in between. Non-emerald green beryl, or green beryl to keep things simpler, does not have the qualities to be considered an actual emerald. To make matters more confusing, you’ll see the term “emerald beryl or “beryl emerald.” Green beryl was likely used as a less expensive alternative for emerald in Ancient Rome, as it was common to do such things. Because of the natural crystalline structure of emerald it was often just cut and drilled. This shape gave credibility to its authenticity. Not that stones weren’t shaped (but not faceted as we know it) during this time, as you can see in the middle round emerald bead. It was said that the best emeralds came from the “mines of Cleopatra.” Frederic Cailliaud visited, and drew pictures of, the old mines, the emerald mountains, the “Mons Smaragdus” on his expedition to Egypt in 1817. And that brings us to an interesting rabbit hole called, “Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ,” better known as the last of Ptolemaic dynasty, the Grecian Queen, Ruler of Egypt and the rest of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and the last pharaoh of Egypt: Cleopatra VII.


Etruscan Gold and Enamel A Baule Earring (6th century BCE)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (link to source)

This is a typical example of Etruscan jewelry, albeit a bit more elaborate. It contains flower motifs along with two women on the top of the earring. Roman jewelry is kind of the awkward child of Etruscan and Greek jewelry.