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 Virgin Hodegetria, ‘She who points the way’, refers to the prototype of the miraculous icon of the Virgin in the Hodegon Monastery of Constantinople. Such iconographic formula shows the Virgin holding Christ and gesturing to him with her free hand, whilst the infant Jesus answers his mother’s prayer by raising his right hand in blessing.
To discover more about Byzantine jewellery, please visit our relevant blog post: The Byzantine Empire, Art and Christianity.