It’s a well-known saying that ‘all roads lead to Rome’, but it actually turned out to be true when I was researching my last Mothers’ Day post. Almost every source on the origins of Mothers’ Day mentions the Roman festival of Matronalia, so I did a bit more exploration.
Matronalia, celebrated on 1st March, was the first day in the Roman festival year. It’s thought to have originated as a celebration of the new temple dedicated to Juno Lucina (Juno the lightbringer, long-suffering wife of Jupiter and ‘mother’ of the women of Rome) on the Esquiline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, in 375BCE.
The festival, a celebration of mothers and of women in general, involved gift-giving by husbands and daughters. Gifts would often include gourmet food, jewellery and perfume. Women also gave their household slaves the day off, and often cooked them a meal, which is interesting, because it’s reminiscent of the Mothering Sunday tradition where girls in domestic service were given the day off to go and visit their mothers, as well as to eat richer food than was generally permitted during Lent.
So, what sort of jewellery might Roman mothers have received at Matronalia? If you answered ‘probably garnet’, you’re bang on. The Romans loved garnets and imported them in their thousands. The garnet was also symbolic of friendship and affection, making it a perfect gift for Matronalia.
Jewellery expressing love and affection between husbands and wives was another popular gift:
Roman jewellers were also fond of wire-wrapping other stones, including pearls, to create some gorgeous earrings:
And if earrings weren’t a Roman woman’s thing, rings were always a popular choice. Interesting fact: the reason Roman rings are so tiny isn’t just because previous generations tended to be smaller than we are now, it’s also because Roman men and women often wore their rings above the first knuckle. Yep, the Romans were ahead of the midi ring trend by more than 2000 years.
If you’re looking for an unusual gift for your mum this Mothering Sunday, look no further than my Etsy shop, where you can find historically-inspired handmade jewellery like this ammonite pendant:
The ammonite above is reminiscent of the Roman pin on the left, but if you’re looking for something more modern or themed around different historical periods, there is a whole range of delicate silver pieces in my store: