The Empire Strikes Back

Gold ring with antique micromosaic of the Arch of Titus, Rome circa 1830 and later

The ruins of the city of Rome leave hardly anyone untouched. Even after millennia, the sublime buildings still convey the power and grandeur of the Roman Empire, but also remind us of the inevitable transience of all earthly splendor. Travellers who visited the Eternal City in the 19th century were particularly fond of bringing home views of the ancient legacies in the medium of the finest micromosaics as souvenirs. The present brooch from the early 19th century is one such piece. Set in a field of royal blue glass and surrounded by so-called "murines", the oval ring head shows one of the most famous testimonies to Roman power in finely laid micromosaic. It is the triumphal arch of the Emperor Titus on the Forum Romanum. The arch spans the Via Sacra, the sacred road, and was built to mark the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The famous reliefs in the passageway of the arch show the treasures captured by the legionaries during the destruction of the Jewish Temple, such as the seven-branched candelabrum of pure gold. In the Middle Ages, the ancient arch was built over and formed the entrance to the fortress of the Frangipani family. It was only in 1822 that the architect and archaeologist Giuseppe Valadier uncovered the monument and rebuilt it in the state that we can admire today during a trip to Rome. In this form, shortly after its uncovering but still overgrown by plants, we see the arch on our mosaic. Therefore, we date the mosaic to the years after 1822. For comparison, we show the state of the Arch of Titus before its uncovering in 1822 in a view by Piranesi from 1748. The view from the west shows a fortress wall to the right of the lushly overgrown monument. A plain setting of gold, probably added to the mosaic in the mid-20th century, holds the fine glasswork and allows it to be worn as a ring.

Around 1775, Giacomo Raffaelli and Cesare Aguatti in Rome invented a new technique of working glass into tiny mosaics, which became known as "mosaici filati" (spun mosaics). Using this technique, it was now possible to decorate jewellery and small everyday objects snuffboxes, boxes, paperweights with mosaics that had previously adorned the walls and floors of Italian churches. The most famous mosaic factories of the 18th and 19th centuries were located in Rome, especially in the Vatican, and their most beautiful and sought-after works show, besides especially views of the city of Rome and its famous buildings, which were bought by travellers who visited the "Eternal City" and wanted to take a souvenir.

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You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.