Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Byzantine Cross Pendant with Chain

Byzantium, 7th century AD

Gold, emerald, garnet, pearls, amber (?)

  • 46.800 €
  • £41,600
  • $55,000
  • Byzantine Cross Pendant with Chain

    Byzantium, 7th century AD
    Gold, emerald, garnet, pearls, amber (?)
    Weight 3.7 gr. (9.8 gr. with chain), pendant 39.5 x 33.8 mm.; Length of chain 44 cm.

    Under the reign of Emperor Justinian the Great (r. 575-565) the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium, expanded and gained in importance in the Mediterranean area. Constantinople, the capital, became the centre of the arts and the goldsmiths were renowned beyond the borders of the Empire for the high quality of their craftsmanship.

    Cross-shaped candelabra, made of bronze, rock crystal or jasper enriched the churches of this period, as in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Crafted in a miniature scale from gold, cross pendants were often suspended from elaborate chains and worn as pectoral crosses. Red colored gemstones set in the center, such as rubies, spinels or garnets, symbolized the sacrificial blood of Christ and the salvific significance of the Crucifixion. Pearls sourced from the Gulf were highly prized gems and in Christian iconography were a symbol of purity and of Christ. The use of emeralds dates back to Late Roman traditions, and these would have been sourced from Egypt.  Based on the sumptuary laws enacted by Emperor Justinian in his Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) written between 529-34 AD, such gems would have been solely preserved for the sovereign and high ranking officials. 

    Description:
    The cross is constructed from gold sheet metal and ornamental filigree wires with globules and hemispheres. The central collet-set garnet cabochon on a square base is surrounded by cross arms with drop-shaped emerald cabochons, also in collet settings made of folded and layered ribbons of gold, partly with beaded borders. The cross ends in the same technique consist of an open setting with a natural pearl on a swivel and scroll-like ornaments in gold with hemispheres. The gold chain made of double-looped links has a hook and loop clasp of wire, and soldered on the ends are two decorative drop-shaped cabochons of reddish amber with a frame of twisted wire. The cross and chain shows traces of age and is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    A Byzantine cross with similar drop-shaped emeralds and central garnet cabochon is in the collection of Albion Art, Tokyo (Chadour-Sampson/ Bari 2013, p. 41, fig. 34, 600-700 AD), however the settings are different in technique. Distinctly characteristic on this cross are the gemstone settings made of layered sheet metal in combination with the filigree ornament, and most of all the open-set pearls on swivels. This type of setting can be found on the jewelry from the Preslav Treasure from Bulgaria, which is thought to have been buried in the tenth century dated by coin finds. Some of the excavated pieces date from the third to seventh century and have been linked with the Royal Palace in Preslav, and thought to have belonged to a collection with objects traded with Byzantium (see: Totju Totev, Preslav Treasure, Shoumen, Rousse 1993; Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie, Byzantinischer Schmuck des 9. bis frühen 13. Jahrhunderts, no. 62a with further references to similar settings, cf. nos. 76 and 77).

    For the chain type with double-looped links, cf. a necklace in the Byzantine collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., which belongs to a jewelry treasure attributed to be possibly from Constantinople, and dated late 6th century (Ross, 1965, no. 179 B).

    Reference number: 35039

  • Emerald

    Hard, green precious stone , emeralds (and all forms of beryl) have large, perfect, six-sided crystals. Before the discovery of the new world, emeralds came mostly from Egypt; the finer emeralds come from the New World.

    Garnet

    Any of a group of semi-precious silicate stones that range in color from red to green (garnets occur in all colors but blue). The pyrope is the familiar deep red garnet. Garnets were plentiful in Europe, and vary significantly in quality; they were mined in Bohemia and elsewhere in the medieval era.

    Pearls

    Organic gems grown within oysters and a few other mollusks, pearls are formed when a foreign object (like a tiny stone) has made its way into the mollusk's shell. The mollusk secretes nacre , a lustrous substance that coats the intruding object. As thousands of layers of nacre coat the intruder, a pearl is formed. This process takes up to seven or eight years (an oyster's useful life span).

    Birthstone

    January-Garnet: Safe travel and a speedy homecoming
    February-Amethyst: Power to overcome difficulties
    March-Jasper: Courage
    April-Diamond: Everlasting love
    May-Emerald: Love and fidelity
    June- Pearl: Purity, Celebrate a birth
    July- Ruby: Prosperity (if worn on the left hand); Everlasting love (if worn on the right)
    August-Peridot and Sardonyx: Strength and growth; Happiness in a relationship
    September-Sapphire: Sincerity and faithfulness
    October-Opal and Tourmaline: Confidence and hope
    November-Citrine and Yellow Topaz: Strength and friendship
    December-Turquoise: Protects against evil and ill health

  • Gemstone

    Gemstone (also called a precious stone) is a mineral that is valuable, rare and often beautiful.

    Filigree

    Ornamental work composed of fine grains or beads, or sometimes of wires soldered to a background but often left as openwork.

    Cabochon

    Precious or semi-precious stone that is merely polished without being cut into facets and was much used in the Middle Ages.

  • Early Christian & Byzantine

    Information about rings in late Antiquity comes from Roman authors, such as Pliny, Martial, and Clement of Alexandria. In his Natural History Pliny states: “... many people do not allow any gems in a signet-ring, and seal with the gold itself; this was a fashion invented when Claudius Caesar was Emperor.” The Roman poet Martial remarked in the first century A.D. he had seen a middle-class citizen wearing no less than six rings on each finger; although under Septimus Severus (died 211 A.D.) a decree was issued allowing each soldier to wear a single gold ring. The Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, discouraged wearing any jewelry at all. However, they did permit Christians to wear one ring, either the seal of their family or the wedding ring; and rings bearing Christian symbols such as fish, birds, and inscriptions of religious character were deemed acceptable.

    The types of rings from this period include examples with nominative inscriptions or plain gold monograms for sealing, marriage and betrothal rings, devotional and religious rings, and decorative rings. Some marriage and fidelity rings are expressly related to the formal institution of marriage and its vows. The symbolic linking of the couple that is expressed in the dextrarum junctio, or the joining of hands, persisted from ceremonies from Roman times. One type of marriage ring thus displays two joined hands. Portraits of the bride and groom, sometimes with crowns over their heads (actually used in ceremonies) or a cross between them, also exist in rings. The man is typically portrayed on the left, in the position of greater importance. Such rings suggest that men and women shared an emotional bond and a practical partnership. Other strictly Byzantine examples depict the bride and groom flanking Christ to indicate that he officiates over the union of bride and groom, sealed by his cross. Typical inscriptions include OMONOIA (Concord) and XAPIC (Grace). In the seventh century, Isidore of Seville wrote: “The ring is given by the espouser to the espoused either as a sign of mutual fidelity ... therefore the ring is placed on the fourth finger because a certain vein, it is said, flows thence to the heart.”

    Other types of rings of the period include decorative rings with attractive gemstones, cameos, and intaglios, sometimes set in beautifully wrought bands made with pierced, twisted, and beaded gold. The excesses associated with the later Roman Empire find expression in two-, three-, and four-finger rings, many made in Alexandria, and in the proliferation of baby rings perhaps not only intended for infants and small children but also meant to adorn statuary as votive offerings. In the Byzantine East, devotional rings like small icons depict frontal standing figures of saints, God the Father, or the Virgin Mary. The love of bright, gleaming colors, so evident in Byzantine mosaics, metalwork, and manuscript illumination, has its counterpart in richly enameled rings.

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Byzantine Cross Pendant with Chain

Byzantium, 7th century AD
Gold, emerald, garnet, pearls, amber (?)
Weight 3.7 gr. (9.8 gr. with chain), pendant 39.5 x 33.8 mm.; Length of chain 44 cm.

USD $55,000

Under the reign of Emperor Justinian the Great (r. 575-565) the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium, expanded and gained in importance in the Mediterranean area. Constantinople, the capital, became the centre of the arts and the goldsmiths were renowned beyond the borders of the Empire for the high quality of their craftsmanship.

Cross-shaped candelabra, made of bronze, rock crystal or jasper enriched the churches of this period, as in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Crafted in a miniature scale from gold, cross pendants were often suspended from elaborate chains and worn as pectoral crosses. Red colored gemstones set in the center, such as rubies, spinels or garnets, symbolized the sacrificial blood of Christ and the salvific significance of the Crucifixion. Pearls sourced from the Gulf were highly prized gems and in Christian iconography were a symbol of purity and of Christ. The use of emeralds dates back to Late Roman traditions, and these would have been sourced from Egypt.  Based on the sumptuary laws enacted by Emperor Justinian in his Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) written between 529-34 AD, such gems would have been solely preserved for the sovereign and high ranking officials. 

Description:
The cross is constructed from gold sheet metal and ornamental filigree wires with globules and hemispheres. The central collet-set garnet cabochon on a square base is surrounded by cross arms with drop-shaped emerald cabochons, also in collet settings made of folded and layered ribbons of gold, partly with beaded borders. The cross ends in the same technique consist of an open setting with a natural pearl on a swivel and scroll-like ornaments in gold with hemispheres. The gold chain made of double-looped links has a hook and loop clasp of wire, and soldered on the ends are two decorative drop-shaped cabochons of reddish amber with a frame of twisted wire. The cross and chain shows traces of age and is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
A Byzantine cross with similar drop-shaped emeralds and central garnet cabochon is in the collection of Albion Art, Tokyo (Chadour-Sampson/ Bari 2013, p. 41, fig. 34, 600-700 AD), however the settings are different in technique. Distinctly characteristic on this cross are the gemstone settings made of layered sheet metal in combination with the filigree ornament, and most of all the open-set pearls on swivels. This type of setting can be found on the jewelry from the Preslav Treasure from Bulgaria, which is thought to have been buried in the tenth century dated by coin finds. Some of the excavated pieces date from the third to seventh century and have been linked with the Royal Palace in Preslav, and thought to have belonged to a collection with objects traded with Byzantium (see: Totju Totev, Preslav Treasure, Shoumen, Rousse 1993; Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie, Byzantinischer Schmuck des 9. bis frühen 13. Jahrhunderts, no. 62a with further references to similar settings, cf. nos. 76 and 77).

For the chain type with double-looped links, cf. a necklace in the Byzantine collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., which belongs to a jewelry treasure attributed to be possibly from Constantinople, and dated late 6th century (Ross, 1965, no. 179 B).

Reference number: 35039

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