ABOUT ROMAN by ELLO

ROMAN by ELLO

ROMAN by ELLO is a Danish-based jewelry brand combining a material of global historical significance with a clean Scandinavian design. 

The jewelry consists of 2000 year-old Roman glass, set in gold or silver, and customizable according to the individual styles and wishes of our customers. Each piece is hand-made in Denmark.

Roman glass is a historical material dating back to the ancient Roman Empire. Left in the ground for more than 2000 years, the glass has acquired a special patina, which is unique to each individual shard, making a piece from ROMAN by ELLO singular and personal. 

With ROMAN by ELLO you get more than just a piece of jewelry. You become the unique wearer and owner of a part of World history, letting this historical material tell new stories in modern times.

Fragments of roman glass before they are turned into jewellery.  

ROMAN by ELLO uses glass from archeological excavations in Israel, sold in limited quantity by authorized antiques dealers, of whom several are qualified archeologists, who can vouch for the authenticity of the glass. A certificate of authenticity will, of course, be provided with each purchase.

ROMAN by ELLO uses only fragments and shards, which are then carefully ground and sanded to the desired shape. The surface is left untouched, allowing it to appear natural in the final piece. The glass comes in shades of blue, green, and red, and with varying degrees of patina. It is possible to select the piece of glass used to create your own piece of jewelry.

Should have further inquiries, you are more than welcome to contact ROMAN by ELLO directly.

ROMAN by ELLO at antique dealers in Israel

THE LEGEND OF THE ORIGIN OF GLASS

In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder writes of the discovery of glass:

 

That part of Syria which is known as Phoenicia and borders on Judea contains a swamp called Candebia amid the lower slopes of Mount Carmel. This is supposed to be the source of the River Belus, which after traversing a distance of 5 miles flows into the sea near the colony of Ptolemais (…) There is a story that once a ship belonging to some traders in natural soda put in here and that they scattered along the shore to prepare a meal. Since, however, no stones suitable for supporting their cauldrons were forthcoming, they rested them on lumps of soda from their cargo. When these became heated and were completely mingled with the sand on the beach a strange translucent liquid flowed forth in stream; and this, it is said, was the origin of glass.” [1]

 

Pliny’s description of Roman glass is important, because it is one of the oldest known descriptions of glass, and because it helps shed light on the Roman fascination with glass as a material. To the Romans, there was something almost supernatural about glass, which, inexplicably, emerged by mixing and heating the most prosaic of materials, whereby, as Pliny describes, a ”strange translucent liquid flowed forth” [1]

THE HISTORY OF GLASS

Actually, glass is much older than Pliny the Elder suggests, as archeological discoveries from Mesopotamia can date glass to at least 3500 BC.

The oldest known glass is in the form of beads, but from around 1500 BC glass was used to manufacture containers of various kinds. These containers were made by covering clay pots in molten glass, letting it cool, and finally grinding it by hand [2, 3]. It was a very time-consuming process and glass was, consequently, a costly product reserved for the wealthiest citizens [4].

Around the first century BC the technique of blowing glass was invented in Phoenicia (the area around Lebanon, Syria and the Belus River) [4], and production time was dramatically reduced. In addition, several new techniques, designs, and shapes were developed and glass was used to make jars, cups, drinking glasses, containers, and mosaics [2, 3].

The reduction in production time meant an increase in total production, which caused a more wide-spread use of glass, no longer restricted to the highest strata of society [4].

THE VALUE OF ROMAN GLASS

Roman glass is more than just glass. Contemporary sources describe this exclusive material as ”liquid gold” or the most valuable of materials - equivalent to platinum or diamonds today. For this reason, the Roman upper class were buried with artefacts of glass along with other valuables, to bring some of the glamour of their earthly lives into the afterlife [5].

 

Most valuable of all was transparent glass [1] - the glass that today seems ubiquitous and most of us hardly notice. Transparent glass was, in fact, so valuable that the narrator of Revelation equates it with gold: ”…the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”[6]

Not only was transparent Roman glass extraordinarily valuable; according to Pliny the Elder it took over the market for drinking glasses, replacing drinking glasses made of silver and gold. Pliny even compares it to fine gems, since glass could appear like ”blue sapphires or lapis lazuli” [1].

ROMAN GLASS AS A TRADABLE COMMODITY

Besides being a luxury item and an object of art, Roman glass was important as a tradable commodity. Even after the invention of glassblowing in the first century BC, which resulted in a wider distribution of Roman glass, it remained a sought-after commodity - in Rome as well as abroad.

The Vikings happily payed cow hides, slaves, amber and the like for artefacts of Roman glass. Even back then, Scandinavians had high regard for this precious and unique material, and Roman glass has been discovered in several burial chambers across Denmark and these finds are on display in various museums around the country [7]. The largest such discovery is from Hobygraven on Lolland, and the biggest collection of Roman glass in Denmark is at the National Museum [8].

 

Picture: The National Museum of Denmark. The glass can be seen at the museum. 

GLASS - CHEMICALLY

Glass consists primarily of quartz, which is commonly found in sand. Glass also contains soda, which lowers its melting point during production, as well as various oxides, primarily sodium oxide and calcium oxide. The chemical composition of the glass defines its type and determines its color. The production of glass requires temperatures between 1500 and 2000 degrees Celsius, depending on the type of glass produced [2].

Analyses of Roman glass have revealed a characteristic chemical composition. Roman glass consists primarily of quartz, mixed with 8% lime and up to 3% aluminum oxide. To reduce its melting point, soda was used, which was found naturally in saline natron. Large stores of natron were found, among other places, in Egypt [9].

Roman glass also contains 1-2 % chlorine, which is believed to come from the addition of salt to reduce the temperature or as a by-product of natron [9].

 

Picture: Shutterstock

SOURCES

1) Pliny, and Eichholz. Natural History, Volume X: Books 36-37. Harvard University Press, 1962.

 

2) Mouritsen, Peter and Peder Meyhoff. Teknologihistorie. Systime, 2005.

3) Kurth, Heinz. Glas Og Glasfremstilling. Sesam, 1978.

4) Chambers, Karen S. and Tina Oldknow. Clearly Inspired: Contemporary Glass and Its Origins. Pomegranate, 1999.

5) Smith, R. W. (1949). The Significance of Roman Glass. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin,8(2), 49. doi:10.2307/3257460

6) The revelation of Saint John 21: 21. 

7) Christiansen, Erik. Romerriget og Danmark. Danmarkshistorien. dk, 2011.

8) https://natmus.dk/historisk-viden/danmark/oldtid-indtil-aar-1050/aeldre-jernalder-500-fkr-400-ekr/hoevdingegraven-fra-hoby/romerske-genstande-i-danmark/

9) Freestone, I. C. Glass production in Late Antiquity and the Early Islamic period: a geochemical perspective. Geomaterials in Cultural Heritage, Geological. 2006.