chapter  5
38 Pages

Necklaces and bracelets

Necklaces and bracelets were part of feminine costume in the Roman world, and were intended purely for adornment, having no utilitarian function. Gold bracelets in particular would have been valuable possessions, as they use substantial quantities of metal. While finger-rings and earrings can quite easily be lost, larger objects such as chains and bracelets made of gold and silver rarely found their way into the ground by accident, and we must rely on graves and treasure hoards for the actual examples on which to base our survey of the types worn in Roman Britain. The number of surviving gold ornaments of these types is therefore fairly small. But new finds can come to light at any time and can demonstrate the presence of types that were formerly thought to be absent from Britain: this point was well illustrated by the discovery of the extraordinary Hoxne hoard in November 1992. While the Hoxne and Thetford treasures prove that some very opulent gold jewellery was extant in late fourthcentury Britain, there is little evidence from the previous century for material of the same quality. The adjacent provinces of Gaul, however, have produced several important assemblages of that date, and it is reasonable to infer that similar jewellery would have been in use amongst the most affluent inhabitants of Britain. By contrast, necklaces and bracelets of non-precious materials are found both in graves and on settlement sites.