Byzantine jewellery was a continuation of Roman traditions. As in many other cultures throughout history, Byzantine jewellery acted not only as an embellishment, but most importantly as a direct display of someone’s wealth and social status. Interestingly, it also acted as a diplomatic tool. Christian religion was very much at the heart of Byzantine culture, politically, socially and artistically. It was an empire run as a theocracy, ruled by God working through the Emperor, and political ideals were largely informed by Christian values. This permeated visual culture as well, not only in terms of art that was explicitly religious in its purpose. With Christian religion becoming the primary religion across the Byzantine Empire, Christian iconography became an extremely popular decorative motif displayed on many smaller decorative items and wares. Crosses as a symbol of the crucifixion and the promise of salvation and everlasting life were the first Christian imaginary to appear on earrings, rings and necklaces, while depiction of saints, angels and the Virgin appeared around the 6th century AD.
To discover more about Byzantine art, please visit our relevant blog post: The Byzantine Empire, Art and Christianity.