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Roman Antiquities, Roman Glass Beads and Intaglios

In the 2nd millennium BC, the Romans emerged from a small settlement near Rome to begin a course of expansion that was to make them the dominant power in the Mediterranean. By the 1st Century AD, Roman territories expanded from Britain in the north to Egypt in the south. Much of the Roman culture and crafts reflected the preceding Hellenistic period, however, their extensive trade network provided them with a great variety of materials. Artisans often combined styles and materials creating their own unique designs. While personal adornment was frowned upon by the early Romans, their attitude of austerity had diminished by the 1st Century BC and a rich variety of jewelry abounded. Roman jewelry reflected both the Hellenistic influence and the Eastern taste for colored stones.

Roman period, is considered to be 100 BC to 400 AD. This included all the many glass working centers throughout the Roman Empire (what is now Syria, Egypt, Italy, Switzerland, the Rhineland, France and England) however, probably did not consist of any production actually in Rome itself. Many technologies were both rediscovered and newly invented over this time period. One of the most significant was the invention of the blow pipe (Sidon). It was used to make drawn beads, but the technique differed from the earlier methods in India. In fact, it does not appear that they were familiar with these other techniques and the blow pipe method was developed independently. This was a faster cheaper means of making beads in mass than the individual wound method that had been being used in Europe and the Mediterranean before. The blow pipe also allowed the artisan to expand a bead (or other glass object) from the inside, thereby eliminating the weight and shear amount of glass needed for the core formed methods. This might explain the disappearance of the core formed beads, and vessels around the 1st c. BC. Due to these more efficient methods, there were more glass beads produced in the 1st century AD than in the previous 1500 years.

An Intaglio is an engraved or incised figure in a hard material. The shapes of the gems cut in Rome or for the Romans do not differ much from those of the Hellenistic Greek world. Circular stones are perhaps less common and oval ones rather broader. The subjects chosen for engraving were notables, generals and emperors. Heads and figures of divinities are common, especially those most favored by the Romans or appropriate as signet devices like Fortuna.

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