Despite there being much continuity in the style of rings between the Roman and Byzantine eras, some significant changes also took place during the early years of the Byzantine period. The overwhelming preference of the Byzantines for religious iconography is a conspicuous example. Jewels were produced in vast numbers throughout the Byzantine Empire, and, in accordance with the changes mentioned above, they often bore a religious significance beyond their simple decorative purpose.
During the time of the Byzantine Empire, production in the old jewellery centres of Alexandria and Antioch gave way to increased production in Constantinople. As in so many cultures across history, the jewellery acted as a way conspicuously to assert one’s wealth and social status. Interestingly, however, it also functioned as a diplomatic tool. In 529 AD, the emperor Justinian established a new set of laws regulating the wearing and usage of jewellery – this was later to be called the Justinian Code. He explicitly wrote that sapphires, emeralds, and pearls were reserved for the emperor’s use, but that every free man was entitled to wear a gold ring.