Authentic Antique Byzantine Jewellery - History
Byzantine JewelryThe Byzantine Empire was really a continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire, centred around Greece, and it continued from its creation in 330AD for a further 1000 years. Continuing the rich traditions of the diverse Roman Empire, the vintage jewellery from the time is highly prized and very decorative. Byzantine antique jewelry employed various techniques such as delicate filigree work, chasing, an intricate process combining punching and hammering designs on the metal, and embossing. Embossing is similar to engraving, but the results are more durable. Byzantine jewellers also worked with niello, a black and unusual combination of copper, silver and lead which was commonly used in rings.
Niello originated in Mycaenean times, but it was overlooked in terms of Byzantine jewelry making until the Roman Era. It is usually used on bronze, gold and silver to produce an unusual contrasting effect which is typical of Byzantine ancient silver jewellery. Opus Interrasile is another jewellery-making technique which originated in the East, and is prominent in Byzantine jewelry. Effectively, the design is sketched directly onto the metal, and then sections are cut away using different sizes of cutting tools such as drills and saws. The resulting decoration is very similar to lacework.
Byzantine jewelry-making techniques such as embossing, filigree, granulation and inscription were not new, they were tried and trusted methods that had been used for centuries. However, as the Byzantine Empire was situated in the East, these ancient skills were combined with new and lavish forms of decoration. Gemstones such as emeralds from Ceylon, pearls from the Persian Gulf and sapphires from India and Egypt were shipped into the Empire and used as priceless decorations on Byzantine jewellery. Byzantine jewelry may have had its origins in the Roman Era, but its unique concepts and characteristics were evident in the early decades of the fourth century, and it was very quickly influenced by its own time and geographical location.
Heavy, solid old gold jewelry was overlooked in favour of lightweight, delicate gold leaf, which produced fine, fragile pieces of jewellery. Gemstones were also much more evident in Byzantine jewelry than in the earlier Roman jewellery. Throughout the period of the Byzantine Empire, rings and other jewellery were perceived as status symbols by high-ranking court officials. Signet rings in particular featured complex and innovative monograms, and prosperous Byzantine ladies were even more enamoured of the jewellery of the period, using it to decorate the neck, hair wrists and hands. This is particularly evident in the stunning mosaics and other artworks of the Byzantine period. Evil Eye Jewelry was also popular in warding off evil spirits and bad luck. Jewellery achieved a unique status in this period, as women became more fascinated with enhancing their looks.
As for the Byzantine men, they regarded jewellery and mens rings as a statement of their wealth and power, which they flaunted on every possible occasion. Byzantine and mediaeval artefacts and jewellery are of more recent manufacture than, for example Celtic and Roman pieces. Therefore there is less degradation of the products, and there are more of them around. Christianity featured prominently in the Byzantine Empire for around one thousand years, so there are still a number of decorative crosses and other items of Christian iconography and practice around.
By modern Western standards of dress, the people of the mediaeval and Renaissance periods wore a lot of jewellery, several rings and necklaces was a common sight, along with elaborate and decorative belts, buckles and other fastenings. Renaissance Man and Woman had no understanding of the modern concept of less is more when it came to accessorising their clothing. Mens jewelry ever more popular. More was infinitely better!