DETAIL: A nicely styled Roman-Byzantine bronze ring of a simple “solitaire” design, with a classic five-rib design band. This style of band, which bears a very elaborate pattern on the sides of the band wrapping all the way around to the back of the band, was popular in Eastern Europe from the Middle Ages all the way through the late Renaissance and early Victorian period. It is a very elaborate pattern in high relief, the center panel a twisted rope motif, flanked on each side by two additional panels. The ring was clearly originally designed to hold a gemstone. The ring was not actually recovered with the gemstone intact, however usually this style of bronze ring was set either with a glass gemstone (glass was quite costly) or with some form of quartz crystal; i.e. clear quartz, orange quartz (“carnelian”), or purple quartz (“amethyst”). The ring is of simple but durable construction, the bands brazed onto a “cup” style bezel, the bezel itself also possessing an elaborate twisted rope embellishment surrounding the base of the bezel.
The ring itself actually evidences very little wear if you limit your search to indications of the ring being worn in ancient times. There is some flattening to the raised elements of the beaded chain motif bands, however only very light wear is evidenced. Of course the fact that there is wear evidenced should not be a source for disappointment. You must keep in mind that the ring was produced by an artisan and sold to a patron or consumer with the idea that the ring would be enjoyed and worn by the purchaser. And without any regard to twenty-first century posterity, that precisely what happened! The original Roman-Byzantine owner of this ring wore it, enjoyed it, and probably never could have in his most delusional moment ever dreamed that a thousand years into the future their ring would still exist.
However both the bands as well as the bezel have been significantly degraded due to porosity, telltale evidence that the ring spent many centuries buried in soil. Porosity is fine surface pitting (oxidation, corrosion) caused by extended burial in caustic soil. Many small ancient metal artifacts such as this are extensively disfigured and suffer substantial degradation as a consequence of the ordeal of being buried for millennia. It is not at all unusual to find metal artifacts decomposed to the point where they are not much more substantial than discolored patterns in the soil. Actually most smaller ancient artifacts such as this are so badly oxidized that oftentimes all that is left is a green (bronze) or red (iron) stain in the soil, or an artifact which crumbles in your hand.
This specimen is not so heavily afflicted it remains intact and possesses fairly good integrity (though it is fragile). Close examination reveals that the ring was indeed extensively disfigured and the metal degraded and left brittle and corroded. You can see large areas where corrosive elements within the soil corroded the bands and the ring’s bezel. To the cursory inspection of the casual admirer, it simply looks like an ancient ring, and these blemishes are not immediately discernible. However anything more than the most cursory glance will reveal clear evidence indicating the ring was buried for many centuries. Keep in mind that this artifact spent almost a thousand years buried, and most such artifacts are going to bear mute testimony to the ability of the earth to oxidize (decompose) buried metal.
The bands were also mangled a bit due to the soil pressure exerted on the ring during the many centuries it was buried. If desired, the ring could be heated and the bands “tweaked”; however generally it is better just to leave well enough alone. Though the bands are slightly misshapen, the ring “wears” quite nicely. The ring however is in fragile condition due to the porosity. I can be worn and worn safely, but it must be worn gently and with care. You would not want to play rugby or tackle football while wearing it. You might consider having it mounted on a plaque as suggested above.
The stone was lost in antiquity. We reset the ring with an orange carnelian so as to preserve a sense of continuity. Carnelian is an orange-colored form of quartz which was enormously popular with the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Sumerians, etc. Orange carnelian, blue lapis lazuli, and green turquoise were the “big three” gemstones of antiquity. This particular gemstone was mined in India, source for much of the ancient world’s carnelian, and was handcrafted by a Russian artisan into this beautiful four carat gemstone in eighteenth century Yekaterinburg, Russia, home of one of Russia’s most famous gemstone and jewelry production centers, famous for producing the elaborate jewelry of Czarist Russia. The gemstone is not particularly valuable, but it is very beautiful and compliments the ring nicely.
The ring has a very nice medium bronze, almost “golden” tone, unmistakably bronze, but very attractive. The ring dates to a time when the Western Roman World had collapsed – plunging Western Europe into 1,000 years of darkness. But at the time the Eastern Roman Empire still flourished as one of the globe’s great powers. The Romans and their Byzantine successors were of course very fond of ornate personal jewelry including bracelets worn both on the forearm and upper arm, brooches, pendants, hair pins, earrings, intricate fibulae and belt buckles, and of course, rings. The ring is an interesting historical relic which pertains not only to the history of Roman Byzantium, but also to the history of jewelry production. Despite the evidence of ancient usage and the moderately heavy porosity, this specimen is an exceptional piece of ancient Roman-Byzantine jewelry, a very handsome artifact, and of done so gently and with care, still wearable.
HISTORY: The Byzantine Empire was the eastern remainder of the great Roman Empire, and stretched from its capital in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey) through much of Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, and small portions of North Africa and the Middle East. Prior to the fifth century collapse of the Western Roman Empire, one of Rome’s greatest emperors, Constantine the Great, established a second capital city for the Roman Empire in the East at Byzantium, present day Turkey. Constantine The Great sought to reunite the Roman Empire, centered upon Christian faith, by establishing a second "capital" for the Eastern Roman, away from the pagan influences of the city of Rome. Established as the new capital city for the Eastern Roman Empire in the fourth century, Constantine named the city in his own honor, “Constantinople”.
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, the “Byzantine Empire”, lasted for another thousand years as the cultural, religious and economic center of Eastern Europe. At the same time, as a consequence of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, most of the rest of Europe suffered through one thousand years of the "dark ages". As the center of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople was one of the most elaborate, civilized, and wealthy cities in all of history. The Christian Church eventually became the major political force in the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine art, God rather than man stood at the center of the universe. Constantine the Great is also credited with being the first Christian Roman Emperor, and was eventually canonized by the Orthodox Church. Christianity had of course been generally outlawed prior to his reign.
Under the Byzantine Empire, Christianity became more than just a faith, it was the theme of the entire empire, its politics, and the very meaning of life. Christianity formed an all-encompassing way of life, and the influence of the Byzantine Empire reached far both in terms of time and geography, certainly a predominant influence in all of Europe up until the Protestant Reformation. In Byzantine art, God rather than man stood at the center of the universe. Representations of Christ, the Virgin, and various saints predominated the coinage of the era. The minting of the coins remained crude however, and collectors today prize Byzantine coins for their extravagant variations; ragged edges, "cupped" coins, etc. Other artifacts such as rings, pendants, and pottery are likewise prized for their characteristically intricate designs.
Bronze is the name given to a wide range of alloys of copper, typically mixed in ancient times with zinc or tin. The Bronze Age followed the Neolithic, and as the name implies, saw the production of bronze tools, weapons and armor which were either hard or more durable than their stone predecessors. Traditionally archaeology has maintained that the earlier bronze was produced by the Maikop, a proto-Indo-European, proto-Celtic culture of Caucasus prehistory around 3500 B.C. Recent evidence however suggests that the smelting of bronze might be as much as several thousand years older. Shortly after the emergence of bronze technology in the Caucasus region, bronze technology emerged in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), Anatolia (Turkey) and the Iranian Plateau. By the late fourth to early third millennium B.C. many Bronze Age Cultures had emerged. Some of the more notable were the Celtic cultures of Middle Europe stretching from Hungary to Poland and Germany, including the Urnfield, Lusatian, and (Iron Age Transitional) Hallstatt Cultures.
The Shang in ancient China also developed a significant Bronze Age culture, noted for large bronze burial urns. Britain’s Bronze Age cultures included the Beaker, Wessex, Deverl, and Rimbury. Cornwall was the principle source of tin not only for Britain but exported throughout the Mediterranean, and copper was produced from the Great Orme mine in North Wales. Though much of the raw minerals may have come from Britain (and to a lesser extent Spain), it was the Aegean world which controlled the trade in bronze. The great seafaring Minoan Empire appears to have controlled, coordinated, and defended the Bronze Age trade. Tin and charcoal were imported into Cyprus, where locally mined copper was mined and alloyed with the tin from Britain. It appears that the Bronze Age collapsed with the Minoan Empire, to be replaced by a Dark Age and the eventual rise of the Iron Age Myceneans. Evidence suggests that the precipitating event might have been the eruption of Thera and the ensuing tsunami, which was only about 40 miles north of Crete, the capital of the Minoan empire.
It is known that the bread-basket of the Minoan empire, the area north of the Black Sea lost population, and thereafter many Minoan colony/client-states lost large populations to extreme famines or pestilence. Thus with the end to the shipping of tin throughout the Mediterranean the Bronze Age trade network is believed to have failed, and the end of the Bronze Age and the rise of the Iron age is normally associated with the disturbances created by large population movements in the 12th century B.C. The end of the Bronze Age saw the emergency of new technologies and civilizations which heralded the new Iron Age. Although iron was in many respects much inferior to bronze (steel was still thousands of years away), iron had the advantage that it could be produced using local resources during the dark ages that followed the Minoan collapse. Bronze also resists corrosion and metal fatigue better than iron. Bronze was still used during the Iron Age, but for many purposes the weaker iron was sufficiently strong to serve in its place. As an example, Roman officers were equipped with bronze swords while foot soldiers had to make do with iron blades.
With the exception of pearls, used as gemstones by prehistoric man, carnelian, turquoise, and lapis lazuli are the oldest gemstones utilized in the manufacture of jewelry. Carnelian is a form of quartz crystal which due to the inclusion of iron oxide is colored somewhere between yellow and red. The red variety of carnelian was most popular in the ancient world. Carnelian was widely favored by the Sumerian/Mesopotamian cultures and then their successors the Greeks and Romans for its use in jewelry. However it was just as popular for use in carved intaglio seals, which originated in Mesopotamia (Sumeria) sometime in the 5th millennium B.C. The production of such incised carnelian seals was a highly developed art form by the 4th millennium B.C. Aside from being quite beautiful, carnelian seals and signets had the practical advantage of not sticking to wax. There are many splendid examples of intaglio carnelian rings and signets produced by ancient Roman and Greek craftsmen still in existence today. A particularly noteworthy collection is housed at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.
SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.
Our order fulfillment center near Seattle, Washington will ship your purchase within one business day of receipt of your personal check or money order. If you wish to pay electronically, we accept both PayPal and BidPay. However we ask that you PLEASE WAIT before remitting until we have mutually agreed upon method of shipment and shipping charges and you understand our PayPal limitations and policies (stated here). We will ship within one business day of our receipt of your electronic remittance.