In Ancient Rome the ladies of society loved beautiful textiles, perfumes and jewelry. Sumptuary laws imposed to limit ostentation and frivolous expenditure had been rarely successful. With increasing wealth and the expansion of the Empire women enjoyed wearing opulent jewels made of exotic gemstones from faraway regions. Pliny expressed his disapproval of the ever increasing size of gold rings and other contemporary authors their indignation about women wearing pearls of the same value of their estates. Emeralds from Egypt were highly prized and most fashionable especially worn in combination with pearls. These were traded from the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and Southern India and were most desirable commodities because of their rarity. Pearls in Antiquity symbolized beauty, purity and fertility, all attributes of Venus, the goddess that had risen from the “foam of the sea”. Emeralds were associated with the glamorous queen Cleopatra, who is said to have given emeralds to all those whom she favored. Emeralds and pearls were a Roman ladies’ best friend.
Whether it is made of natural miracles or marvels of human invention and skill, jewelry has adorned the human body since prehistoric times. The Newark Museum has been collecting jewelry since 1911, and has one of the most comprehensive holdings in the country.
This Les Enluminures exhibition will open in London in November and travel to New York through December. It explores the eternal forms, inspirations, and aesthetics of finger rings across many cultures throughout history, with over forty rings deriving from China, the Middle East, Europe, and America.