Beyond being items of commerce and stores of wealth, they also can be
objects of personal adornment. Since ancient times coins have been
used in jewelry, and today, some of the finest and most expensive
jewelry incorporating coins is produced by the Italian firm Bulgari.
The American Numismatic Society has loaned 18 ancient Roman coins to
Bulgari for the exhibit “Bulgari & Rome: Eternal Inspiration,”
described as a Roman-inspired jewelry exhibition celebrating Bulgari’s heritage.
The show, which runs from Oct. 15 through Nov. 22, is open to the
public at Bulgari’s flagship store, 730 Fifth Ave., New York City. A
tour can be scheduled by calling 212-315-9000.
Particular highlights from the ANS include a gold Treveri medallion
from A.D. 293 to 294 that features busts of Diocletian and Maximian on
one side and busts of Maximian and Constantius on the other side, each
wearing the imperial mantle; and a Nero bronze sestertius, dating
between 66 and 68, with a portrait of Nero on the obverse and the
Temple of Janus on the reverse.
The Bulgari exhibition showcases jewelry from Bulgari’s archive and
from private collections, inspired by the architecture and monuments
of Rome, including the Pantheon and Via Appia, one of the oldest roads
in ancient Rome.
Bulgari’s Monete Collection incorporates coins from ancient Greek,
Roman and other cultures, with the ancient coins showcased in
typically 18-karat pink or yellow gold jewelry settings.
The collection was introduced in the 1950s and updated in the 1960s
and 1970s. Today, Bulgari incorporates a wider range of coins in its
jewelry and handbags, and it remains popular — and expensive. The
collections include earrings, necklaces and bracelets and recent
collections have included leather and gold necklaces that are designed
for men and women.
For gentlemen, the Monete Collection includes a cufflinks set in
18-karat gold, and the antiques and luxury goods site 1stdibs.com
lists several pairs with common late Roman bronze coins, priced at the
$3,500 to $5,000 level. The most exceptional pieces, generally massive
gold necklaces, can sell for six-figure prices.
Ute Wartenberg, ANS executive director, wrote in a Sept. 23 press
release, “The ANS is pleased to loan a selection of coins to Bulgari
for this fascinating exhibit which brings ancient Roman history and
architecture into the present-day in a most beautiful display. The
coins and jewelry represent the monumental contributions the Romans
made to modern society and remind us that the past still serves as
inspiration. This project with Bulgari is a great opportunity to
highlight works inspired by Rome and to bring the beauty of
numismatics to a wider audience.”