roman millefiore brooch
roman millefiore brooch
roman millefiore brooch

72. Roman Millefiore Disc Brooch

C. 2nd - 3rd Century A.D.

Incredible and stunning are two words that are often used to describe this type of Roman disc brooch. Enamelled in the millefiori technique, with a chequer motif in blue and white glass rods between red glass panels, fused together into a bronze disc brooch. The result is an intricate pattern of checkerboards. Very rare. Roman 2nd - 3rd Century A.D. For an example of a chequer pattern enamelled disc brooch see Hattatt, 'Brooches of Antiquity', Oxford, 1987, fig. 1037, p. 171. Also see a very similar example from the Roman settlement in Bush Hill Park now in the museum of Enfeild.

Millefiore enameling was widely popular in Gaul and the Rhineland, where it was often used to decorate disk brooches and vessels. In this technique, the artist fuses together glass rods of different colors. The multicolored rods are then cut into cross sections, which are placed in a metal base and heated sufficiently for them to adhere. The result is an intricate pattern of checkerboards.

Condition: Wear around the rim of the disc, otherwise all the enameled glass cells are intact and in lovely condition. Pin missing as usual.

Dimensions: Dia. 2.8 cm.

Provenance: Ex. Don Lee collection UK, formed between 1950 - 2007.

Don Lee was a prolific collector of antiquities and coins. A former school teacher from London, Don made some remarkable finds himself, including a fabulously rare Wuneetton type gold thrymsa while 'mudlarking' on the banks of the river Thames at the age of 76! His collection spanned thousands of years from Stone Age axe heads to Roman glass and Viking brooches. His collection of coins and antiquities was auctioned in the summer of 2007.


Roman Brooches

Brooches are one of the most popular Roman antiquities for sale to collectors. They can all be dated due to changes in fashion and thus types of brooches through Roman history. In Britain, their appearance in the archaeological record allows us to trace the spread of the Roman army and culture after the invasion in 43 AD.

Pre-Roman Colchester type brooches continued to be used after the Romans arrived. These were made in one piece with the bow, spring and pin all fashioned from a single copper alloy casting. The Romans introduced new brooch types. The bow and pin mechanisms were made easier to produce by casting them separately. This method was taken up by local makers leading to new brooches like the Dolphin type, clearly based on the earlier Colchester models. Other common brooches of the conquest period included the Langton Down, Hod Hill and Aucissa brooch, (named after its maker).

In the later first century a variety of new brooch types arose called Plate brooches, and peaked during the second and third century. Where Bow brooches had a simple functional purpose, Plate brooches had a far more decorative role, in some ways resembling modern badges. It is therefore believed that they would have been worn by the wealthier parts of society who wore finer and more expensive clothing.

In the fourth and fifth centuries two primary brooch types were predominant: the Crossbow brooch and the Penannular brooch. The Crossbow brooch seems to be associated with status and persons of rank. Penannular brooches continued to be popular into the early medieval period.

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