Late Roman and Byzantine jewellery was a continuation of Roman traditions. As in many other cultures throughout history, 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 and ideals became an extremely popular decorative motif displayed on many smaller decorative items and wares.
Wedding rings in the Byzantine Empire were not only a visual signifier of marriage but were also important amuletic objects. The bust type, as shown here, was the earliest type of marriage ring, well used by the 4th century AD. The composition of bride and groom facing each other was a motif well established from Roman traditions. Later styles of this bust type would often include a cross between the two figures or a Greek inscription. The cross became the dominant feature from the 5th century AD.
To discover more about Byzantine art, please visit our relevant blog post: The Byzantine Empire: Art and Christianity.