Period: 3rd century A.D.
Material: Gold and amethyst
Dimensions: Height: 2.7 cm Width: 2.8 cm
Ex collection Feuardent, Paris; collected in the 19th century.
The pin of the brooch is restored.
In this splendid brooch, a large, oval amethyst cabochon is mounted in a plain, gold frame that is surrounded by a broad border of pierced decoration. The decorative design of the openwork is based on an ornament called pelta, as it resembles the shield of the Amazons, for which the name was originally used. Although already part of the Roman repertory of decorative motifs from the first century A.D. onward, the heart-shaped pelta ornament became a particular favorite of Roman metalworkers and goldsmiths of the third century A.D. The shape allowed a number of variations and was often used for the pierced decoration of late Roman gold work, the so-called opus interrasile. On the back, the brooch is fitted with a modern pin.
Both large, decorative brooches and similarly shaped pendants became fashionable in the late second century A.D. In both cases, the usual composition included a colored stone, its imitation in glass, or an engraved gem, respectively a cameo. Most inlays are mounted in a box setting, but in this period Roman goldsmiths were already aware that light enhanced the color of a translucent gemstone, so the large amethyst on this piece was set in an open frame.
The ornamental frames of large Roman brooches offered various possibilities for decoration: ornamental wire, repoussé, colored inlays oras on this pieceone of the most sophisticated decorative techniques of later Roman gold work, the pierced work or opus interrasile. The openwork border on this example relates it to a large brooch allegedly found in Aleppo, now in the Antikenmuseum Berlin.
For the brooch in Berlin, see :
GREIFENHAGEN A., Schmuckarbeiten in Edelmetall, vol. I (1970), pl. 54,7.
For brooches from the third century A.D. in general, see :
OLIVER A. Jr., Roman Jewelry: A Stylistic Survey of Pieces from Excavated Contexts, in : CALINESCU A. (ed.), Ancient Jewelry and Archaeology (1996), pp. 139f.
For related material in the British Museum, London, see :
MARSHALL F. H., Catalogue of the Jewellery, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman, in the Departments of Antiquities, British Museum (1911), nos. 2745, 3007. For examples from the late second century A.D., see :
MUSCHE B., Vorderasiatischer Schmuck zur Zeit der Arsakiden und der Sasaniden (1988), pl. LXIIIf.
For more on shape and decoration, see :
DEPPERT-LIPPITZ B., Goldschmuck der Römerzeit im Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum (1985), no. 11.
For the openwork technique, see :
OGDEN J. M. and SCHMIDT S., Late Antique Jewellery: Pierced Work and Hollow Beaded Wire, Jewellery Studies 4 (1990), pp. 5f;
DEPPERT-LIPPITZ B., L’Opus interrasile des orfèvres romains, in : ELUERE C., Outils et ateliers d’orfèvres des temps anciens (1993), pp. 69ff.