History of Jewelry: The Jewel in Byzantium

This week we will continue with a new stage in the History of Jewelry, The jewels in Byzantium.

The founding of the city of Constantinople in 330 (present-day Istanbul, Turkey ) and the division of the Roman Empire are two events of vital importance for artistic history.

While in the rest of Europe the Germanic troops stop the continuity of Roman Art with the destruction of the Empire, in the Middle East they remain until 1453, that is, throughout the Middle Ages.

From the 6th century, Byzantine culture began with great influence from the Hellenistic period as a continuation of the Art Paleochristian. Becoming a culture of great creators, thus influencing the western culture of the rest of Europe, throughout the entire Middle Ages.

The Jewel in Byzantium

To understand the Jewel in Byzantium, we must highlight the three most important periods of the Byzantine Culture, known as the Golden Ages.

necklace of Byzantium

The first Golden Age is the time of Emperor Justinian, which takes place in the first half of the 6th century.

In the second half of the 9th century, the Second Golden Age begins, where the authentic aesthetics of Art in Byzantium is defined. And it lasts until 1204 with the taking of the city of Constantinople by the Crusaders.

The third Golden Age develops throughout the fourteenth century, and ends with the new capture of Constantinople in 1453, by the Ottoman Empire.

Most of the Byzantine jewels can be seen in the mosaics found in the churches or temples of the time.

Byzantine craftsmen made earrings, large medals for necklaces, bracelets combined with pearls.

The most common techniques were stamping, filigree, graining, and embossing. They were usually decorated with enamels and thus enriched the decoration. They also worked with fine gemstones, setting rubies and emeralds in rings of considerable dimensions.

The perforation is used to highlight the contrast of the pieces and they were decorated with “pearls”. To exalt the color they resorted to the niello technique (drawings by means of incisions that were filled with metal threads or enamels), gold of different colors, enamels, amethysts and lapis lazuli, etc.

earrings of Byzantium

The earrings were made up of numerous small reliquaries, the necklaces were made up of pearl and emerald reliquaries with irregular profiles.

According to Pijoán (1994) [1] “ … represent illustrious characters always jeweled; perhaps excessively. The women wear earrings, necklaces and bracelets adorned with pearls and gemstones. Consuls and magistrates used large clasped fibulae to fasten the chlamines. Goldsmithing is part of the clothing.

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