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About The Byzantine Jewelry
Byzantine jewelry was a full continuation of the Roman
traditions which were kept alive behind the high walls of the new capital,
Constantinople. The Roman techniques and styles continued to form the
foundation of Byzantine goldsmith's skills who weren't complete copycats; some
innovations such as the use of Christian iconography and further specialization
of new and old techniques occurred. Production in the old jewelry centers of
Alexandria and Antioch gave way to an increased production in Constantinople.
Byzantine jewelry had a huge influence on the manufacturing of personal
decoration in the rest of the medieval world. The Carolingian (early 742 AD)
and the later Ottonian courts (start 962 AD) were linked to the Byzantine
Empire and adopted their fashion resulting in the northern European Romanesque
In the Byzantine Empire jewelry played an important role.
It acted as a way to express ones status and as a diplomatic tool. In 529 AD,
Emperor Justinian took up laws regulating the wearing and usage of jewelry in a
new set of laws, later to be called the Justinian Code. He explicitly writes
that sapphires, emeralds and pearls are reserved for the emperor's use but
every free man is entitled to wear a gold ring. This may tell us something about
the widespread use and great popularity of jewelry. One could easily argue that
there hadn't been a need for such a law if jewelry had been a purely
The Byzantine Empire was wealthy. It had gold mines within
its borders and its geographical position was perfect for trade between the
East and West. Successful traders, military officers and high officials in the
empire's administration would all have been in the position to afford luxurious
jewelry. In an attempt to keep jewelry exclusive Justinian ruled that only he
got to decide who wore the finest jewels by presenting his favorite 'servants'
with presents from the imperial workshops. It is important to note that the
emperor's monopoly didn't mean that only a few high ranked people wore jewelry,
on the contrary, all other precious stones and gold in general were allowed to
be worn. Items that are expected to be made in the imperial workshops have been
found throughout the empire. These items could have been diplomatic gifts to
local rulers or have been carried there on the bodies of military leaders and
diplomats of the empire itself.
Just like in Roman times gemstones were extremely popular
and the display of gems became more important than the surrounding gold work.
Precious stones came mainly from the East. Flourishing trading contacts with
India and Persia brought vast amounts of garnets, , corundum and pearls to
Constantinople. Gold was being mined within the empire's borders in modern day
Greece, the Balkans and in Turkey, where silver was found with gold. The people
of the Byzantine Empire liked their jewelry colorful. In addition to gemstones
the desired polychrome effect was achieved by the use of enamel.
About This Ring
This very symbolic ancient medieval bronze
ring is of excellent condition with very well-preserved details of a carved
stylized head (with three dots) and bust and a falcon on top, framed by a
border. It has retained its original golden-hued bronze, is incredibly smooth
and symmetrical all around and is fully intact and solid. This ring would have
been made for, and given as a gift to a lover in hopes to capture her heart.
In medieval times, falcon hawking was not
just a leisure pastime. It was a status symbol and the height of
"conspicuous consumption." The imagery and language of the hunt
permeated art, poetry, language, and even Shakespeare's plays.
However in other cases, the art carried
hidden meaning, for the complex dance of the falcon and the quarry was an
oft-used symbol of love. Both men and women participated in the sport, though
the most prized hunting falcons were female, not male. In an image, the bird
could stand for the woman, the man, or love in the abstract.
This piece is a reminder that even the most
well-trained bird is still a wild thing, no more "owned" by the
hunter than a lover. Each time the bird returns to the falconer's fist is a
choice, as is each return of a faithful lover. No amount of training or force
can capture a wild heart.
Circa: 1100-1300 AD
Inner Diameter: 19 mm
Top to Bottom: 21 mm
US Ring size - 9
Type of material/s used – Bronze
Condition – Very fine
Region of ancient origin – Jerusalem, Israel
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