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Roman cosmetic set

Many Romans must have taken pride in their appearance, for cosmetic sets were available. I’ve no idea what they cost but as they were made of copper-alloy the price wouldn’t be high. Besides individual instruments, whole sets occasionally turn up as detecting finds. Here is one such set, which came in to the website from Richard Lyon.

Richard’s find is made up of tweezers, a nail cleaner and an ear scoop, all held together by a metal loop. It’s fairly obvious what the nail cleaner was used for but the tweezers would come in handy for many different purposes. The scoop could be used for cleaning ears but continued use for that purpose could damage the internal working of an ear. Perhaps during the Roman period but certainly during later periods, scoops were used to extract wax when heavy duty materials were being sewn; adding wax to a needle helped it slide through such things as thick leather.


The individual instruments in this cosmetic set are in good condition. Whilst the separate pieces are not uncommon as detecting finds, whole sets are far scarcer. I’d suggest a pre-sale auction estimate of £80 – £120. On a not particularly good day it might sell for the lower figure but with competition in a saleroom the hammer price might even push through the higher estimate.

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