DETAIL: A very ornate silver/bronze alloy ring of late Renaissance origin, probably seventeenth or eighteenth century, provenance is Southern Russia, the Crimean Region. The Crimean, now part of present-day Ukraine, was home of the Tartars (and before them ancient Greek settlements during the first millennium B.C.), across the Black Sea from what was at the time this ring was produced, the Ottoman Empire, modern day Turkey. The ring bears a very ornate pattern on the sides of the band which would have originally extended almost all the way around to the back. A similarly intricate double beaded chain embellishes the bezel skirt.
However a minor portion of this ornate metal work no longer remains discernible, as there is some wear particularly to the sides and back of the band. This is wear the band would have come in contact with the wearer’s adjacent fingers, and the back of the band with objects that the wearer might hold in his or her hand. Consequentially the sides and back of the band show somewhat accelerated wear. However most of the original embellishments remain distinguishable and in preserved in good detail. The most noticeable area of wear would be from the mid-way point of the bands thence to the back. Some of the ornate metal work, mostly confined to the back third of the band, has been worn smooth or mostly smooth. However this rearmost portion of the band was originally the trailing end of the design to begin with and as such started in lower profile.
As a result of course, it is this portion of the intricate metalwork of the bands which will wear smooth first. However even then, the majority of the ornate features of the band remain visible in entirety. It is only the very back of the band, sparse in detail and low in profile to begin with, which has worn flat. Likewise there is also wear to the beaded chain embellishment of the bezel skirt. The wear is not excessively heavy, and you can follow the double beaded chain embellishment all around the bezel skirt except for a few spots where the topmost beaded chain embellishment is worn smooth. But for the most part, both of the beaded chain embellishments are still discernible.
Of course, some signs of wear are to be expected from a ring several centuries old, and the fact that the ring does evidence wear should not be a source of disappointment. It was produced with the idea that someone would purchase it and wear it, and that is exactly what happened. It is clear that several centuries ago this was amongst someone’s favorite rings and that they wore it with pleasure and frequency. The ring was probably designed to be worn by a man, and is bold and handsome enough to be worn by a man today. However the design is elaborate, elegant, and intricate enough to be worn with good taste by a woman as well. And despite the wear, the ring remains very study, not frail or delicate at all, and it could be worn and enjoyed for many years, even decades into the future.
The gemstone is quartz orange carnelian. Agate and quartz carnelian gemstones and jewelry were not only very popular throughout the Medieval Period and into the Renaissance and Victorian Periods, by also as far back as the Roman Empire. And before the Romans, the Greeks, Phoenicians, and Egyptians as well as the Sumerians also fashioned carnelian into jewelry. The ring itself is silver alloyed with bronze, moreso silver than bronze judging by appearances. This style of ring was popular throughout much of Eastern Byzantine Europe for centuries, so it is difficult to place a precise date on the artifact. However it is likely to have been produced sometime in the 17th or 18th century, and based upon where it was found, it was produced either in Ottoman Turkey and exported to the Crimean (which only a century before was part of the Ottoman Empire), or produced in the Crimean Region itself. In any event, this elaborate piece of Byzantine/Renaissance jewelry is in a very good state of preservation, and is quite wearable.
HISTORY: 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. Since before recorded history evidence suggests that carnelian was one of the most favored gemstones for at least the past 10,000 years. Two of the richest archaeological treasures, the tombs of both the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen and Sumerian Queen Queen Pu-abi's tomb at Ur contained many splendid examples of carnelian jewelry. Carnelian was widely favored by the Sumerian/Mesopotamian cultures and then their successors the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans for its use in jewelry.
Aside from its uses in the manufacture of jewelry, Carnelian 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. Carnelian gemstones and jewelry was very popular throughout the Roman Empire, and was widely used to carve cameos and signet/intaglio rings. 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.
After gold, silver is the metal most widely used in jewelry and the most malleable. The oldest silver artifacts date from ancient Sumeria about 4000 BC. The first large-scale silver mines were in Anatolia (ancient Turkey). Around 900 B.C. Greek Athenians began producing silver from the Larium mines, and would supply most of the ancient Mediterranean world with its silver for almost 1,000 years. This ancient source was eventually supplanted by the massive silver mines found in Spain by the (Phoenician) Carthaginians (operated in part by Hannibal’s family). With the defeat of Carthage by Rome, the Romans mined massive amounts of silver from Spain, stripping entire forests regions for timber to fuel smelting operations. In fact, it was not until the Middle Ages that Spain’s silver mines (and her forests) were finally exhausted.
Although known during the Copper Age, silver made only rare appearances in jewelry before the classical age. Despite its infrequent use as jewelry however, silver was widely used as coinage due to its softness, brilliant color, and resistance to oxidation. It was also widely used as ornamental work and in other metal wares. In ancient cultures, especially in Rome, silver was highly prized for the making of plate ware, household utensils, and ornamental work. Silver later lost its position of dominance to gold, but, during the European Middle Ages, it once again became the principal material used for metal artwork. Large quantities of silver from the New World also encouraged eager buyers in Europe.
The art of silver work flourished in the Renaissance, finding expression in virtually every imaginable form. Silver was often plated with gold and other decorative materials. Though less costly than gold, silver was nonetheless the domain of royalty and the wealthy. Although silver sheets had been used to overlay wood and other metals since ancient Greece, an 18th-century technique of fusing thin silver sheets to copper brought silver goods called Sheffield plate within the reach of most people. At the same time the use of silver in jewelry making had also started gaining popularity in the 17th century. It was often as support in settings for diamonds and other transparent precious stones, in order to encourage the reflection of light. Silver continued to gain in popularity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and by the 20th century competed with gold as the principal metal used in the manufacture of jewelry.
The Tatars of the Crimean Black Sea Region are one of the ethnic sub-populations of Russia (present-day Ukraine). Prior to the current era (before 0 A.D.) the vast lands of South Russia were home to various Proto-Indo-European tribes such as the Scythians. Between the third and sixth centuries A.D., the steppes were overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions when swept through Europe, as was the case with Huns and Turkish Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled South Russia through the 8th century. They were important allies of the Byzantine Empire and waged a series of successful wars against the Arab Califates. The Early East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia from the 7th century onwards and slowly assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, such as the Merya, the Muromians and the Meshchera.
In the mid-9th century, a group of Scandinavians, the Varangians, assumed the role of a ruling elite at the Slavic capital of Novgorod. Although they were quickly assimilated by the predominantly Slavic population, the Varangian dynasty lasted several centuries, during which they affiliated with the Byzantine, or Orthodox church and moved the capital to Kiev in A.D. 882. In the 10th to 11th centuries this state of Kievan Rus became the largest in Europe and one of the most prosperous, due to diversified trade with both Europe and Asia. However the opening of new trade routes with the Orient at the time of the Crusades contributed to the decline and defragmentation of Kievan Rus by the end of the 12th century.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, the constant incursions of nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, led to the massive migration of Slavic populations from the fertile south to the heavily forested regions of the north. The medieval states of Novgorod Republic and Vladimir-Suzdal emerged as successors to Kievan Rus, while the middle course of the Volga River came to be dominated by the Muslim state of Volga Bulgaria. Like many other parts of Eurasia, these territories were overrun by the Mongol invaders known as the “Golden Horde”, which would pillage Russia for over three centuries. Later known as the Tatars, they ruled the southern and central expanses of present-day Russia, while the territories of present-day Ukraine and Belarus were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland, thus dividing the Russian people in the north from the Belarusians and Ukrainians in the west.
The name “Tatars” eventually become a collective name applied to the Turkic people of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The majority of Tatars today live in European Russia, and are the descendants of the Eastern European Volga Bulgars who were conquered by the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. The original Ta-ta Mongols inhabited the north-eastern Gobi in the 5th century and, after subjugation in the 9th century by the Khitans, migrated southward, there founding the Mongol empire under Genghis Khan. Under the leadership of his grandson Batu Khan they moved westwards, driving with them many stems of the Turkic Ural-Altayans towards the plains of Russia. On the Volga they mingled with remnants of the old Bulgarian empire (Volga Bulgaria), and elsewhere with Finno-Ugric speaking peoples, as well as with remnants of the ancient Greek colonies in the Crimea and Caucasians in the Caucasus.
The name of Tatars, given to the invaders, was afterwards extended so as to include different stems of the same Turkic-Mongol branch in Russia, and even the bulk of the inhabitants of the high plateau of Asia and its northwestern slopes, described under the general name of Tartary. This name has almost disappeared from geographical literature, but the name Tatars, in the above limited sense, remains in full use. Most current day Tatars live in the central and southern parts of Russia (the majority in Tatarstan), Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Lithuania, Belarus and in Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Romania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. They collectively numbered more than 10 million in the late 20th century.
The Crimean Tatars may still be found in Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine on the northern coast of the Black Sea occupying the Crimean peninsula. The Crimean Tatars are actually descendants of a number of Turkic peoples. The ethnicity of the Crimean Tatars is quite complex as it absorbed by both nomadic Turkic and European components (in the first place, the Goths and the Genoese) which is still reflected in their appearance and language differences. A small enclave of the Karaims, possibly of Khazar (i.e. Turkic) descent but members of a Jewish sect, was founded in the 8th century. It existed among the Muslim Crimean Tatars, primarily in the mountainous Çufut Qale area.
The territory of Crimea was conquered and controlled many times through its history. The Cimmerians, Greeks, Iranians, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Khazars, the state of Kievan Rus', Byzantine Greeks, Kipchaks, and the Mongols all controlled Crimea in its early history. These were followed by the Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire in the 15th–18th centuries, the Russian Empire in the 18th–20th centuries, Germany in World War II, and now, the independent Ukrainian state. The Crimean Tatars were forcibly expelled to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's government, but have begun returning to their homeland in recent years.
The ancient Greeks called Crimea Tauris (later Taurica), after its inhabitants, the Tauri. The Greek historian Herodotus mentions that Hercules plowed that land using a huge ox ("taurus"), hence the name of the land. The earliest inhabitants of whom we have any authentic traces were the Cimmerians, who were expelled by the Scythians (Iranians) during the 7th century B.C. The remaining Cimmerians that took refuge in the mountains later became known as the Tauri. According to other historians, the Tauri were known for their savage rituals and piracy, and were also the earliest, indigenous inhabitants of the peninsula. In 5th century B.C., Greek colonists began to settle along the Black Sea coast, among those were the Dorians from Heraclea who founded a sea port of Chersonesos outside Sevastopol, and the Ionians from Miletus who landed at Feodosiya and Panticapaeum (also called Bosporus).
Two centuries later (438 B.C.), the Archon (ruler) of the latter settlers assumed the title of the Kings of Cimmerian Bosporus, a state that maintained close relations with Athens, supplying the city with wheat, honey and other commodities. The last of that line of kings, Paerisades V, being hard-pressed by the Scythians, put himself under the protection of Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus, in 114 B.C. After the death of this sovereign, his son, Pharnaces II, was invested by Pompey with the kingdom of Bosporus in 63 B.C. as a reward for the assistance rendered to the Romans in their war against his father. In 15 B.C., it was once again restored to the king of Pontus, but since ranked as a tributary state of Rome.
Throughout the later centuries, Crimea was invaded or occupied successively by the Goths (A.D. 250), the Huns (376), the Bulgars (6th century), the Khazars (8th century), the state of Kievan Rus' (10th–11th centuries), the Byzantine Greeks (1016), the Kipchaks (the Kumans) (1050), and the Mongols (1237). In the 13th century, the Republic of Genoa seized the settlements which their rivals, the Venetians, had built along the Crimean coast and established themselves at Cembalo, Soldaia, Cherco and Caffa, gaining control of the Crimean economy and the Black Sea commerce for two centuries.
After the destruction of the Golden Horde by Timur in 1441, the Crimean Tatars founded an independent Crimean Khanate under Haci I Giray, a descendant of Genghis Khan. The Crimean Tatars controlled the steppes that stretched from the Kuban and to the Dniester River, however, they were unable to take control over commercial Genoese towns. After the Crimean Tatars asked for help from the Ottomans, an Ottoman invasion of the Genoese towns led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha in 1475 brought Kaffa and the other trading towns under their control. In 1774, The Crimean Khans fell under the Russian influence in the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca. In 1783, entire Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire.
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