Did you know we’ve been losing gems from our jewellery - or the piece altogether - as far back as Ancient Roman times? Archaeologists recently uncovered over 30 gems from the drain of an ancient roman pool in Carlisle. They also found over 40 women’s hairpins and 35 beads, possibly from a single necklace. The recent discovery of intricately carved gems and jewels sends us a poignant message: do not go swimming with your good jewellery!

Keep it dry

Wearing your valuables into a swimming pool - or the sea for that matter - is always a risk. In Ancient times the gems were set with vegetable glues, which likely softened in the steamy heat of the baths, causing the gems to fall out. Contemporary setting styles hold gems in place using metal prongs (l) or bezels (r).
Contemporary colombian emerald Toi-et-Moi ring in secure cutaway/prong setting by ronan campbell atd esignyard contemporary jewellery gallery dublin irelandContemporary mēdēəm bezəl diamond ring in secure rubover bezel setting by ronan campbell at designyard contemporary jewellery gallery dublin ireland
Although gem setting techniques have come a long way since those days, the risk of losing precious jewellery in the water remains. The cool water temperature may shrink fingers and the water itself acts as a lubricant making it easier for your precious items to slip off.

Keep it safe

Another word of caution from the past: make sure your jewellery is stored safely to keep it out of the clutches of thieves. Nowadays we have social media for a good rant over stolen possessions, but back in the day it took a bit more effort: victims of thievery might express their rage as curses inscribed on flat stone or clay slabs - also known as a "curse tablet".

Several “curse tablets” have been found in Roman bathhouses in Bath and elsewhere. One tablet eloquently targets a ring thief:

“So long as someone, whether slave or free, keeps silent or knows anything about it, he may be accursed in blood, and eyes and every limb and even have all intestines quite eaten away if he has stolen the ring.”

The exquisite miniature carvings uncovered in the pool drain - ranging from 5mm to 16mm - are something contemporary lapidaries don’t even attempt by hand anymore. From the passionately expressed curses we conclude they were highly prized in their time too.

Luckily most pools and gyms nowadays offer lockers for storing your valuables. But if you’re headed for the beach it is wise to leave them at home or in a hotel safe.

Book your appointment to view our contemporary jewellery in person. We're happy to guide you through different setting styles to suit your lifestyle.


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February 10, 2023 — Nicole van der Wolf
Tags: tips