Byzantine jewelry is a beautiful style dating from the Byzantine period. There are some authentic pieces remaining from this era; however, most Byzantine jewelry is a replication intricately designed and crafted to imitate originals. Original Byzantine jewelry was designed and handmade during the reign of the Byzantine Empire. This period was from 4 AD until the middle of the 1400s. Each time period that followed has made replications of Byzantine jewelry. Most of this jewelry and its gorgeous design have been influenced by the Byzantine civilization’s art work. Most being designed with religious symbols such as the Christian cross.
Original Byzantine pieces used a great deal of abundant gold metal readily available as this was a period of time full of riches and other wealth. Pieces used a great deal of gorgeous gemstones as well. Many of the popular gemstones that were used as ornamentation were pearls, beryls, corundum and garnets. These gemstones were often obtained by trading with Eastern countries such as Persia and India. Most of the original Byzantine jewelry pieces are housed in museums around the world.
A Rich, Deep History
Jewelry played a very important role in the Byzantine Empire. Jewelry was used as an expression of status and a tool in diplomacy. During 529 AD, the Emperor Justinian enforced new laws that regulated how jewelry could be worn and used. These laws became known as the Justinian Code. In the Code, only emperors were to wear and use such stones as pearls, emeralds and sapphires. These laws also stated that any man that was free could wear a ring of gold.
The wealthy Byzantine Empire owned gold mines. With the Empire’s position geographically, trading with the West and the East was somewhat easy. Luxurious jewelry could be afforded by many of the more successful traders and lots of military officers. High officials in the Empire could also afford these pieces of jewelry. Justinian attempted to have the Byzantine jewelry as an exclusive. He chose the individuals that were to wear the finest pieces. Justinian’s favorite servants were often presented with fine jewelry crafted by the imperial workshops.
Mimicking the Roman era, many gemstones became very popular. Displaying the precious gems was of more importance than even the gold work surrounding them. Most of the gold was mined within Greece, Turkey and the Balkans. Silver was discovered in the mines as well. Some of the Byzantine jewelry was desired with an effect of polychrome. This was done using enamel. This aided in making the jewelry very colorful.
Designing the Jewelry
Craftsmen strived to continue to make Byzantine jewelry that was magnificent. Brilliant gemstones were rounded if needed. Afterwards, these stones were polished. Stones were drilled and gold wires put through the hole made in drilling. Often, a loop was formed at each side. Gemstones were then attached to make a necklace or bracelet. This technique was also used to create pendant earrings.
Today’s Byzantine Jewelry
Pictures are used in designing Byzantine jewelry as symbols and not literal meanings. This is characteristic of the style. Byzantine bracelets often depict religious painting renditions or often form the shape of crosses. Some say each piece has a meaning of its own. Silver, gold and titanium chains own very involved designs as well. Religious figures as well as popular hip hop artists are often seen wearing these long and splendid pieces. Many consider the look of the long chains on the body to be very appealing. Many of the Byzantine rings showcase religious symbols. Others may be designed using a metal rope chain. Byzantine rings are being crafted that have inlaid crystals and other stones. There are some rings being made using a flattened style of the chain. There are various styles of Byzantine earrings. Many have a filigree style that dangles ever-so gracefully from the ear. These are often a bit lighter and more comfortable than heavier styles. Heavier styles include the denser filigreed ones and those made using bronze. Different sizes and length of earrings are also crafted using the Byzantine chain which can be dyed into an array of colors. Semi-precious stones are often added to give color and allow for matching to a specific color of clothing.