Following the trends set by the Romans, Byzantine jewellery became a continuation of Roman jewellery traditions. As in many other cultures throughout Antiquity, Byzantine jewellery acted not only as an embellishment, but most importantly as a direct display of someone’s wealth and social status. Byzantine rings were often engraved with religious images and served as personal, miniature icons. Typical representations included the Corpus Christi, archangels, saints, and the Virgin Mary with Child. The composition showing the enthroned Virgin derives from monumental church decorations, but was also commonly used on small objects during the early Byzantine period.
Niello is a metallic alloy with sulphur, used as a surface decoration technique which was fused to a metal base. It comes in a variety of black tones and was commonly applied to silver due to the high contrast between the two materials. Applications to gold, such as this ring, were popular in Byzantium and featured on many objects.
To discover more about Byzantine jewellery, please visit our relevant blog post: The Byzantine Empire, Art and Christianity.