Gilding the Lilly: Jewelry on Coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by kevin McGonigal, Feb 21, 2021.

  1. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    The other day I saw a coin posted in an article on horses and one of our members, Curtis, put up an absolutely gorgeous coin of Carthage, a splendid electrum stater with the goddess, Tanit, on it. It was so beautiful I called my wife over to view it. She agreed it was beautiful and said, "Look at that necklace and those ear-rings". Necklace and ear-rings? I paid attention to mintmarks and control marks, not ear-rings and necklaces. Even after decades of collecting ancient coins I had never once taken note of anybody ever wearing any kind of jewelry, but as I looked more and more at Tanit's necklace and ear-rings I asked myself why I had never paid any attention to something like that. I decided that maybe I ought to. I might even be able to get the wife to spring for another coin or two by getting a couple with nice jewelry on them.

    Anyway, I thought that I would research ancient jewelry as it appeared on ancient coins. Pretty quickly I noticed a few things. If any guys or gods wore jewelry it was not the kind (except maybe crowns) that was likely to make onto a coin. Also i learned that big ear-rings and big brooches don't look very big when found on hemi drachmas and denarii. I also learned that one cannot Google "coins and jewelry" without getting solicitations for hundreds of pieces of jewelry with coins embedded in them. Plenty of articles on coins in rings and necklaces, but none on rings and necklaces on coins. This was not going to be easy.

    I started checking my coin library and found nothing written about jewelry being placed on coins. Some of the coin books mentioned that rings or necklaces were present but on small coins they could have been miniature toadstools for all I could tell. The only way I could do this was to go through my collection with a magnifying glass, spot something that looked like a ring, or bracelet and then look it up to see if the written description mentioned it. Eventually I started to find a few, especially on the denarii of the Roman Republic. Strangely I did not find much on the Roman coins, even the big dupondii and sestertces, of the Imperial ladies. The Greek coins, especially the staters, did have a number of female divinities, and they were wearing some pieces that were identifiable as in the Carthaginian electrum stater mentioned above.

    So the reason why I have posted this thread is to encourage members with better eyesight than mine to research their ancients, and medievals while we are at it, to see if jewelry might be more common than it appears to me to be, specially something that might not appear to us to have been jewelry or which just escaped the masculine eye. I have noted here some of the kinds of articles that might be considered jewelry: ear-rings, finger rings, bracelets, necklaces, torcs, diadems, fillets, fibulas and combs. I ask the ladies to forgive me if I left something out. We know from archaeology and literary sources that wearing articles of jewelry was an important advertisement of status and wealth but what we don't know is how much of it made it to numismatic material. I have posted a few images that I have found among my own coins and would like it if members could find other examples and post images and descriptions of what numismatic connections with jewelry they might find.

    Images of coins. The large 2 shekel piece of Carthage has Tanit with a noticeable ear-ring. it is Sear 6506, 1979 edition. The Greek stater on the left is of Metapontum and shows Demeter, again with an ear-ring. It is Sear 416. The denarius on the upper right is of Pietas with ear-rings and maybe some kind of diadem or fillet along the hair line. It is Sear 185. The denarius at the lower left is Roma, who always seems to have ear-rings. Sear 176. On the lower right is a denarius of Roma from Narbon with both ear-rings and a necklace. Sear 157 2,000 edition.

    One last point. I hope this can be an actual investigation by members of their own coins, or others, that will reveal that other kinds of jewelry can be found on coins if closely examined. I have not posted any Byzantine coins here because the emperors and empresses are featured with so much regalia on their heads I can't figure if they are just parts of their crowns or there is something else there. Also I cannot tell if they are wearing robes closed with fibulae or what might be something else. Thanks for any thoughts, comments or additional images. IMG_1936Jewelry on coins.jpg IMG_1936Jewelry on coins.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  3. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    Athena has quite large earrings...

    Attica Tetradrachm, 454BC-404BC
    Silver, 24mm, 17.19g (HGC 4, 1597).

    As does Vologases III...(or any Parthian king)...

    Vologases III Drachm, 105-110
    Ekbatana. Silver, 23mm, 3.44g (Sellwood 78.2).

    Fausta seems to have a necklace...

    Fausta AE3, 324-325

    London. Bronze, 19mm, 2.93g (RIC VI 300).
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  4. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Ah, geeze. I have both those coins and missed seeing what they had. Better get back to the optician. Thanks for those, especially the Parthian as I cannot find males wearing any kind of jewelry and in all those "Sword and Sandal" movies Eastern potentates and merchants always seem to have huge rings on every finger.
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  5. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    This Galeria Valeria is wearing two necklaces...
    Galeria Valeria AD 305-311, AE follis of Thessalonica. 27.63mm/ 5.79 grams
    Obverse > GAL VALE-RIA AVG, Diademed bust facing, head right, hair weaved in rows and curled around side of head at base of neck, wearing embroidered robes with two necklaces.
    Reverse > VENERI V-ICTRICI,Venus standing facing, head left, apple in uplifted right hand, raising drapery over left shoulder with left hand. Star in left field,Gamma in right field.
    Mintmark > dot SM dot TS dot. RIC VI #36 Thessalonica ; Officina 3, AD December 308- May 310.
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  6. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Right you are. It's interesting what one can find when knowing what to look for. Your coin, by the way, has a very pleasing appearance.
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  7. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Well I TRIED to see any jewelry that XERXES wore, but nothing on my coin... :D

    PERSIA, Achaemenid Empire.
    Darios I to Xerxes II. Circa 485-420 BCE
    AV Daric (14mm, 8.30 g).
    Lydo-Milesian standard.
    Sardes mint.
    Persian king or hero, wearing kidaris and kandys, quiver over shoulder, in kneeling-running stance right, holding spear in right hand, bow in left /
    Incuse punch.
    Carradice Type IIIb, Group A/B (pl. XIII, 27);
    Meadows, Administration 321; BMC Arabia pl. XXIV, 26
    Ex: CNG

    But, I really enjoy Carthage coinage for exactly as you were discussing.

    Africa, Zeugitana, Carthage
    EL Stater (also circulated as a Dekadrachm)
    Anonymous, BCE 310-290
    18.5 mm x 7.27 g
    Obv: Grain-Wreathed head of Tanit left, triple-pendant earring and necklace; pellet before neck
    Rev: Horse standing right; two pellets below ground line
    Ref: Jenkins & Lewis Group V, 259–79; MAA 12; SNG Copenhagen 136
    Ex: Private Collection in Colorado
    Ex: Nathan Miller
  8. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Denarius, Sicily, 209-208 BC, 4.19 gm.jpg
    Roman Republic, Anonymous, 209-208 BC, Mint in Sicily. AR Denarius: 18.5 mm, 4.19 gm, 11 h. Obverse: Roma. Reverse: Dioscuri on horseback armed with spears, six spoked wheel. Crawford 79/1, Sydenham 519.

    This coin features Roma wearing a pearl necklace, not unusual, but she is also wearing an earing in the form of a bunch of grapes. The island of Sicily has been famous for their wine, so this earing is a subtle advertisement for that wine :D. I sold this coin at CNG 483, slabbed by NGC, for $418.00.

    Let's not forget that the Romans were very fond of coin jewelry. The 3 gold aurei of Postumus, in custom made mounts pictured below, were reported missing from the collection of the Bibliotheque Museum in Paris, last month :eek:! This looks like an inside job :shifty:. I don't think we'll see these treasures on eBay anytime soon :smuggrin:.

    01-11 (2).jpg 01-11 (3).jpg
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  9. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Wow, what a great thread. If anyone has a mind to, this would be an excellent topic for a book. I can also envision a number of students making this the subject of a thesis or dissertation. I know I would read such a book.

    I would love to do it myself because it would be lots of fun. Unfortunately my time is occupied taking care of 600 undergrad students.:confused:
  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Bacchus/Liber appears on the obverse of this Vibius Varus denarius, and it certainly looks like he's wearing an earring. So that would be an exception to your rule:

    Vibius Varus (Bacchus-Panther) Waddell photo jpg image.jpg

    Earrings and/or necklaces (not to mention diadems!) seem very common on the female deities and personifications shown on the Roman Republican denarii I own. Here are seven examples:

    Roma on C. Servilius M.f. coin:

    Servilius - Dioscuri denarius jpg version.jpg

    Diana(?) on Allius Bala coin:

    Allius Bala orig. jpg version.jpg

    Venus (or Juno) on Naevius Balbus coin:

    Naevius Balbus -triga both sides combined jpg.jpg

    Pietas on Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius coin:

    Q. Cec. Metullus denarius (Pietas-elephant) jpg version.jpg

    Diana on Hosidius Geta coin:

    New Hosidius Geta Diane-Boar COMBINED.jpg

    Cybele on Aulus Plautius coin:

    Plautius (Cybele-Camel) Obv 1.jpg

    Plautius (Cybele-Camel) Rev 1.jpg

    Salus on Manius Acilius Glabrio coin:

    Man. Acilius Glabrio denarius jpg version.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  11. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Those people sure knew hoe to make a beautiful coin. I wonder if their ships were as beautiful.
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  12. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Any idea who they were made for originally or maybe what they were made for?
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  13. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Assign it as a semester project.
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  14. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Betcha dimes to dollars they were!
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  15. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Bacchus was probably drunk when he put it on.
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