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Two finger Roman betrothal ring

Coming up for sale at our 7 December auction are two intriguing items of Roman jewellery - an armlet and a two finger ring. Rings were exceedingly popular with Roman women and were a sign of their status and wealth, just like today. In the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, rings were so popular they were often worn on all 8 fingers and on both thumbs! Unlike today though, the rings were usually worn in front of the knuckle, and were therefore a lot smaller.

The two finger ring from the third century AD is interesting, because it shows the attitude of society to women and marriage. A man led a woman into marriage, a woman was married to a man, men ruled OK! The two fingered ring was a sign that the woman was betrothed to a man and was definitely showing her position as subservient. Nevertheless, a Roman matron was a figure of very considerable power and influence and very much someone not to cross; the position of women was far more complex than would at first appear. The vendor wore this ring for two or three years and is certainly not a lady to be underestimated.

The empire obtained very considerable supplies of gold leading to ten tonnes annually by 100 AD, a total not to be exceeded for a thousand years. The Romans also had access to a number of natural resources and gemstones, often from very far flung places - sapphire, emerald, topaz, aquamarine, cornelian, amber and uncut diamonds. Several of these gemstones have been used in our two delightful items of Roman jewellery.

Our catalogue will be online from Thursday 19 November, or for more information, contact Simon Rufus, jewellery specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent.