The Ides of March - Beware!
“Beware the ides of March,” the soothsayer famously warns Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s version of the story—to no avail. But since togas and stab wounds are so last millennium, this ides I’ll be-wearing Roman revival pieces: classical cameos, intaglios, and micromosaics. Clever jewelers have been “reviving” Rome practically since it fell, with styles and materials in keeping with the trends of the times.
For the Romans, the “ides,” which fall near the middle of each month, were sacred to Jupiter. The chief deity of the city and the equivalent to the Greek Zeus, he would definitely not have been too modest to appreciate this high-relief coral cameo of himself. Cameos came into fashion on the heels of Neoclassicism under Napoleon and Josephine, who collected them, and have made regular resurgences in popularity ever since (see Alessandro Michele’s grandma glam at Gucci).
The micromosaic, still closely linked with Italian tourism, provided another popular medium for Roman revival. Nobody loved a souvenir more than 18th and 19th century travelers on the Grand Tour of continental Europe, and many micromosaics featuring Roman ruins were created for this market. (We’ve put the pieces of micromosaic history together for you over at our sister site, Antique Jewelry University
What better way to both recall and show off your newfound worldliness than a little Roman Forum descending into your décolletage or a Coliseum around your wrist? My current favorite example from the Lang vaults is this substantial six-mosaic bracelet featuring a tiny tour of the Forum, Coliseum, and surrounding ruins.
If Brutus and the gang strike you as a little too…well, brutal, the color-change luster of opal really cools this hotheaded centurion down. The black enamel stripes around his frame add a little touch of “Et tu, Brute?” mournfulness to this stately piece.
Friends, Romans, countrymen…I’d rather lend my ears to this handsome pair of Roman soldiers, carved in banded agate circa 1880. Throw in a border of pearls and fleur-de-lys embellishments for the perfect Victorian pastiche.
So, until next ides, keep your cameos close but your enemies closer…and don’t forget to watch your back as you enter the Senate!