What Is Byzantine Jewelry?

Byzantine jewelry is timeless with intricately designed pieces of craftsmanship that are a continuation and adaption of the Roman Empire. Jewelry including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings were engraved with images or inscriptions mostly relating to religion or political alliances. This rich culture is captivated in our modern Cypriot jewelry and influenced by the style of the Byzantine era. 

politia byzantine rings


What is Byzantine Jewelry made from?

Byzantine jewelry is often only made from inscribed metal. The jewelry was commonly made from silver and more popularly gold. However, Byzantine jewelry was also made from less valuable materials such as ceramic, glass, bronze, and copper. Higher-status individuals would’ve also included gemstones in their jewelry. An example of this is the Emperor who included precious gemstones that others couldn’t access such as emeralds to show his hierarchy.


What are the characteristics of Byzantine Jewelry?

Byzantine jewelry is characterized by its huge focus on size and color. The pieces of jewelry were expected to be as big and heavy as possible. The amount of gold that was included in the jewelry represented the status and wealth of the wearer so for some people they were made as big as possible. Each piece was also expected to be set with as many gemstones as possible making it colorful and impressive to show the wearer’s wealth. Byzantine jewelry is also found with enamel in the place of gemstones from when materials were scarce. Enamel jewelry was valued for its artistic qualities and wasn’t seen as having less importance than standard jewelry that included gemstones.


Where does Byzantine Jewelry originate from?

During the fourth and fifth centuries, wealth still existed within the Western Roman Empire, encompassing Gaul, Britain, North Africa, and Rome. However, the Empire had a weak political system and migrating tribes resulting in its shift toward the East. This resulted in Rome being relinquished in favor of Constantinople – the newly established capital. The inhabitants perceived themselves as the rightful heirs to the ancient Roman Empire and specifically their jewelry. This is the era that historians refer to as Byzantium. By the end of the fifth century, the Roman Empire fell, and Byzantine continued to grow reclaiming wealthy territories ensuring an abundance of gold. Although basing their jewelry on the ancient Roman Empire, it is evident that goldsmiths began to explore various innovative designs, especially in rings. It is believed that divine inspiration guided the designs of their jewelry. One of the provinces taken over by the Byzantines was Cyprus. This created a base for one of the many parts of the rich culture evident in Cyprus and the inspiration for its beautiful jewelry.


How is the history reflected in the Jewelry?

The Byzantine era left a significant mark on the art and culture of the time. Byzantine jewelry is known for its exquisite craftmansship, intricate designs, and the use of precious materials. During its early stages, Byzantine jewelry closely resembled the jewelry of ancient Rome. This was mainly used as a symbol of Royalty. As the Empire grew, their jewelry also evolved and transformed into something of their own. The Empire’s rich gold mines in the Balkans and Anatolia lead to a shift in focus towards gold in Byzantine jewelry. A wide range of jewelry was made including, Elaborate gold chains, golden rings, and golden bracelets that were worn in large quantities up the arm. These then became symbols of wealth and supremacy during the Byzantine Empire.


The symbolic meaning of Byzantine Jewelry

Byzantine jewelry carried multiple layers of symbolic meaning including wealth, status, religion, and diplomatic relationships. The jewelry was primarily used to represent someone’s status, but it was also used to symbolize the heavy influence of religion. It often incorporated religious motifs and symbols including engravings of Christ, angels, and saints. These symbols were used in the hope to give the wearer divine protection. These religious elements not only added spiritual significance but also served as a means of expressing one’s allegiance to the Byzantine Orthodox church, which held a central role in Byzantine society.

Read more on Byzantine Christianity


The status behind Byzantine Jewelry  

People of all genders and ages covered themselves with various forms of jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, body chains, rings, and earrings. Jewelry held significant importance as a symbol of social status during this period. Common citizens were permitted to wear golden rings. These could be engraved with images or religious symbols but although very detailed, they did not include precious gemstones and were not the best available. This status that Byzantine jewelry held was even further enforced during a period of rarity of gold making it even more valuable and evident of the hierarchy in place.


The use of Jewelry in Royalty

Jewelry was an explicit representation of the hierarchy that the Royals had. The Royal’s jewelry was a lot more luxurious, often including gemstones. The inclusion of gemstones drastically increased the value and status of Byzantine jewelry. This is why Emperor Justinian ruled that precious gems such as emeralds, pearls, and rubies were only to be used in his jewelry. This was then created into a law called the Justinian Code in 529 AD. The court workshop employed the best artisans to make the highest quality for the Emperor. The details of the techniques and the making of this jewelry were kept secret to keep its value and exclusivity only for the Emperor. The Emperor presented a select group of people such as diplomats, military personnel, and high-ranking officials with the exclusive jewelry made in the court workshop.

Read more on the Justinian Code


Our Byzantine Jewelry


We make contemporary jewelry in the style of traditional colorful Byzantine jewelry. Byzantine jewelry is among some of the most extravagant jewelry available both in the Roman Times and now. This unconventional jewelry goes against modern trends of minimalism and makes the perfect gift for people who want to stand out or wear something that nobody else has.

Browse our Byzantine collection