History of Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire for Kids

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Byzantine Empire Jewellery

Byzantium began when the fourth century Emperor, St. Constantine, Christianized the Roman Empire and established Constantinople in Byzantium as the capital. During this era a synthesis of classical Greek, Roman, and Christian culture gave birth to unparalleled achievements in art, architecture, and jewelry. Many of these achievements can be seen in the magnificent Byzantine jewelry and Byzantine cross pendants found in archaeological digs.

The commonest pendant in Byzantine jewelry became the cross, although jewelled pendants were not uncommon. Many Byzantine finger rings came to bare Christian symbols, more often of gilded bronze than of gold. Enamel work, especially cloisonné enamel, was developed to a high point in Byzantine culture and had a strong influence on European jewelry of succeeding periods.

In the early centuries of the Christian era, various types and designs were used by pagans and Christians alike. True Christian themes began to emerge in Byzantine jewelry of the 5th and 6th centuries.

The jewellery-making techniques, such us engraving and embossing, filigree, granulation, enamelling were virtually the same as those used in antiquity. However the Byzantine Empire's direct contact with the East led to the adoption of new methods of decoration. One of the distinctive traits of Byzantine jewellery is the lavish use of precious stones. Pearls from the Persian Gulf, emeralds from Egypt and India, sapphires from Ceylon were brought to the Empire to embellish valuable objects.

Byz. jewelry is further characterized by the extensive use of Christian iconography and sacred objects, worn thus for protection as well as ornament. These pieces could incorporate an inscription or symbol, an image, a cross or Christogram, or be carried in an enkolpion, an invention of the Byz. Jewelry was not only an outward symbol of faith or wealth but also served as a badge of office.

From the beginning to the end of the Byzantine empire, jewellery was highly valued by high-ranking officials at the Byzantine court, whose signet-rings were decorated with ingenious, complicated monograms, and even more so by wealthy Byzantine ladies, who never ceased to adore it.

Evolution of Byzantine jewelry was from simple to complex, from light to heavy, from small to large, but these criteria must be applied with care. Earrings started out in the 4th C. as simple hoops and, by the 10th–12th C., were open filigree work with multiple projections in a three-dimensional form.

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