DETAIL: A nicely styled Roman-Byzantine bronze ring of a simple “solitaire” design, ordinary bands with a simple serrated bezel 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, simple bronze bands brazed onto an ordinary, “cup” style bezel with a serrated periphery.
The bezel of the ring evidences very light wear, nothing particularly heavy, however the bands were mangled a bit due to the soil pressure exerted on the ring during the thousand years 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 stone however 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 construction is of the more archaic style, characteristically made in two pieces; an incomplete ring (a “shank”) with a separately crafted bezel which was brazed to the shank in order to assemble the ring. This as opposed to the more modern style of construction prevalent in the following centuries whereby the bands and bezel are integrated (fashioned from a single piece of metal). Fate has been kind, and the ring has been preserved in wonderful condition. Of course the ring does evidence some moderately light all-over wear. However this 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.
It should likewise come as no surprise that upon close inspection are detected the telltale signs that the ring spent thousands of years in the 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.
However this specimen is not so afflicted, and certainly has not been disfigured. To the inspection of the casual admirer, it simply looks like an ancient ring, nicely surfaced, no immediately discernible blemishes. You have to look very closely to detect the telltale signs indicating the ring was buried for millennia. This ring spent somewhere around one thousand years buried, yet by good fortune there is only a very light degree of porosity evidenced. It happened to come to rest in very gentle soil conditions. Consequentially, the integrity of the artifact remains undiminished, and despite the wear, the rings remains quite handsome, and entirely wearable. The ring is well preserved and reasonably sturdy, and could easily be worn and enjoyed on a daily basis. It is an interesting historical relic which pertains not only to the history of Roman Byzantium, but also to the history of jewelry production.
The ring is almost modern and quite distinctive in appearance, a classic and timeless design. 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. Despite the evidence of ancient usage, this specimen is an exceptional piece of ancient Roman-Byzantine jewelry, a very handsome artifact, and eminently wearable.
BYZANTINE 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.
HISTORY OF BRONZE: Bronze is the name given to a wide range of alloys of copper, typically mixed in ancient times with zinc, tin, lead, or arsenic. The discovery of bronze enabled people to create metal objects which were better than previously possible. Tools, weapons, armor, and building materials made of bronze were harder and more durable than their stone and copper predecessors from the “Chalcolithic” (the “Copper Age”), i.e., about 7000-3500 B.C., and the Neolithic (“New Stone Age”), i.e. about 12000 to 7000 B.C.). Of particular significance were bronze agricultural implements, tools for cutting stone, and weapons. Culturally significant was bronze statuary, particularly that of the Romans and Greeks. The ancient Greeks and Romans had a long history of making statuary in bronze. Literally thousands of images of gods and heroes, victorious athletes, statesmen, and philosophers filled temples and sanctuaries, and stood in the public areas of major cities. In fact, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes are two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Initially bronze was made out of copper and arsenic. It was only later that tin was used, becoming (except in ancient Egypt) the sole type of bronze in the late 3rd millennium B.C. Tin-alloyed bronze was superior to arsenic-alloyed bronze in that the alloying process itself could more easily be controlled, the alloy was stronger and easier to cast, and unlike arsenic, tin is not toxic. Toxicity was a major factor in the production of arsenic bronze. Repeated exposure to arsenic fumes ultimately led to nerve damage in the limbs. Evidence of the long agony of Bronze Age metalsmiths came down to the ancient Greeks and Romans in the form of legend, as the Greek and Roman gods of metalsmiths, Greek Hephaestus and Roman Vulcan, were both lame. In practice historical bronze alloys are highly variable in composition, as most metalworkers probably used whatever scrap was to hand. In one instance of ancient bronze from Britain, analysis showed the bronze to contain a mixture of copper, zinc, tin, lead, nickel, iron, antimony, arsenic, and silver.
Other advantages of bronze over iron include that bronze better resists corrosion, particularly seawater corrosion; bronze resists metal fatigue better than iron; and bronze is a better heat conductor (and thus is better suited for cooking vessels). However ancient bronze, unless conserved properly, is susceptible to “bronze disease”, wherein hydrochloric or hydrosulfuric acid is formed due to impurities (cuprous chloride or sulfur) found within the ancient bronze. Traditionally archaeology has maintained that the earliest 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 (bronze artifacts dating from about 4500 B.C. have been unearthed in Thailand).
Shortly after the emergence of bronze technology in the Caucasus region, bronze technology emerged in ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer), Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization of Northern India, the Aegean, the Caspian Steppes (Ukraine), the Southern Russia/Central Mongolia Region (the Altai Mountains), the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), Anatolia (Turkey) and the Iranian Plateau. By the late third millennium B.C. many Western European 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. The ancient Chinese were the first to cast bronze (using the “lost wax” technique) about 2200 B.C. Prior to that time all bronze items were forged. Though weapons and utilitarian items were produced in great numbers, the production of bronze in ancient China was especially noteworthy for ornamented ritualistic/religious vessels (urns, wine vessels, water pots, food containers, and musical instruments), many of immense size.
Britain’s Bronze Age cultures included the Beaker, Wessex, Deverl, and Rimbury. Copper and tin ores are rarely found together, so the production of bronze has always involved trade. Cornwall was one of the most significant sources of tin not only for Britain, but exported throughout the Mediterranean. Other significant suppliers of tine were the Taurus Mountains of Anatolia (Turkey), as well as Spain. Enormous amounts of copper was produced from the Great Orme mine in North Wales, the island of Cyprus, the European Alps, and from the Sinai Peninsula and other nearby sites in the Levant. Though much of the raw minerals may have come from Britain, Spain, Anatolia, and the Sinai, it was the Aegean world which controlled the trade in bronze. The great seafaring Minoan Empire (about 2700 to 1450 B.C.) appears to have controlled, coordinated, and defended the trade.
Tin and charcoal were imported into Cyprus, where locally mined copper was mined and alloyed with the tin from Britain. Indicative of the seafaring trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, a shipwreck from about 1300 B.C. off the Turkish coast revealed a ship carrying a ton of copper ingots, several dozen small tin ingots, new bronze tools, scrap metal, and a blacksmith's forge and tools (along with luxury trade goods from Africa). It appears that the Bronze Age collapsed with the fall of Minoan Empire, to be replaced by a Dark Age and the eventual rise of the Iron Age Myceneans (on mainland Greece). Evidence suggests that the precipitating event might have been the eruption of Thera (Santorini) and the ensuing tsunami, which was only about 40 miles north of Crete, the capital of the Minoan empire.
Some archaeologists argue that it was Santorini itself which was the capitol city of the Minoan World. However where Crete or Santorini, it is known that the bread-basket of the Minoan trading 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. Inasmuch as the Minoans were the principals of the tin/copper shipping network throughout the Mediterranean, the Bronze Age trade network is believed to have failed. The end of the Bronze Age and the rise of the Iron Age is normally associated with the disturbances created by large population disruptions in the 12th century B.C. The end of the Bronze Age saw the emergence of new technologies and civilizations which included the large-scale production of iron (and limited scale production of steel).
Although iron was in many respects much inferior to bronze (and steel was inefficiently produced in very limited quantities), iron had the advantage that it could be produced using local resources during the dark ages that followed the Minoan collapse, and was very inexpensive when compared to the cost of producing bronze. Bronze was still a superior metal, resisting both corrosion and metal fatigue better than iron. And 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.
Pliny the Elder, the famous first century Roman historian and naturalist, wrote about the reuse of scrap bronze and copper in Roman foundries, noting that the metals were recast as armor, weapons or articles for personal use, such as bronze mirrors. The melting and recasting foundries were located at the Italian port city of Brindisi. Located on the Adriatic coast, Brindisi was the terminus of the great Appian Way, the Roman road constructed to facilitate trade and military access throughout the Italian part of the Roman Empire. The city was the gateway for Roman
penetration into the eastern parts of her empire (Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea Region, the Danubian Provinces, and eventually Mesopotamia).
CARNELIAN HISTORY: Aside from pearls, which were "discovered" as gemstones by prehistoric man, carnelian, turquoise, and lapis lazuli are the oldest gemstones utilized in the manufacture of jewelry. Carnelian is a translucent form of (chalcedony) quartz, and ranges in color from yellow to a deep red, the color due to the presence of iron oxide. Some of the most ancient examples of jewelry included carnelian. Queen Pu-abi's tomb at Ur in Sumeria dated from the 3rd millennium B.C. In the crypt the upper part of the queen's body was covered with a robe made of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, carnelian, agate, and chalcedony beads. In Egyptian jewelry the use of gold was predominant, and it was generally complemented by the use of three colors of carnelian, as well as turquoise, and lapis lazuli. For example the orange accents in the famous mask of Tutankhamun were provided by carnelian gemstones. The blood red varieties of carnelian gained great popularity in the ancient world, and were widely used to produce engraved gemstones. Intaglio-incised carving was probably first used to produce seals. The art form is believed to have originated in southern Mesopotamia, and was highly developed by the 4th millennium B.C.
The source for most carnelian in the early Mediterranean were simply gemstones found on the surface of the Egyptian and Arabian deserts. However by the first millennium B.C., carnelian was coming to the Mediterranean from India. The gemstones would reached the Mediterranean either via the Silk Route (if overland) or if by sea, they would have crossed the Arabian and Red Sea by ship, then overland to Alexandria in Egypt, before being distributed by trade across and around the Mediterranean. The ancient Indians were very fond of carnelian. Long beads in excess of 12cm in length (6 inches) were very popular with the Indus Valley populations (present-day Punjab), specimens having been excavated by archaeologists which date back to before 2,000 B.C. By 1700 B.C. the Minoans (of ancient Crete) had established trade routes from Knossos to Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Scandinavia. Carnelian was one of their major trade goods, along with amethyst, lapis lazuli, and gold. Even as far away as Japan carnelian has been found in Iron Age burials. In earthquake-prone lands such as Babylon and Greece, carnelian served as a talisman of good luck. An ancient saying went: "no man who wore a carnelian was ever found in a collapsed house or beneath a fallen wall."
Carnelian was mentioned a number of times in the ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead”. A "tet" amulet made of carnelian was placed on a mummy's neck to protect the soul of the departed in the afterlife. The amulet was consecrated by steeping it overnight in flower-water, after which it was empowered by reciting the appropriate spell from the Book of the Dead over it. The ancient Egyptians often referred to carnelian as “the blood of Isis”. According to legend, the goddess Isis shed tears of blood upon the death of her husband, Osiris. The tears turned into carnelian, which she then shaped into a tet amulet. Isis placed the tet around the neck of Osiris to protect her husband as he journeyed to the underworld. In Egyptian mythology Isis was the equivalent of the universal mother-god found in virtually all civilizations, and was worshipped as the mother of Ra. Isis was the sister of Osiris (who was also her husband), Nepthys and Seth, the daughter of Nut and Geb and the mother of Horus, the winged Falcon God. Other early Mediterranean cultures as well believed that carnelian would protect the deceased in the journey between this world and the next. Carnelian was also believed an aid to astral travel in ancient Egypt, and Siberian shamans believed likewise. Ancient shamans believed that carnelian boosted all psychic and magical powers, especially intuitive gifts like psychometry, dowsing, clairvoyance, and astral travel.
Carnelian was widely used throughout ancient the ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Minoan and Phoenician worlds, as well as in ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia for the carving of intaglio gemstones for signet rings and other seals used by dignitaries and merchants to authenticate documents with their own unique personal “signature”. Many of the intaglio carnelian rings and signets produced by ancient Roman and Greek craftsmen and still in existence today, have retained their high polish better than many harder stones. A particularly noteworthy collection is housed at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Carnelian was probably the favorite gemstone for Roman artisans as they produced the intaglio gemstones so popular in signet rings. Aside from being quite beautiful, carnelian seals and signets had the practical advantage of not sticking to wax.
The ancient Mediterranean cultures, particularly the Romans, recommended carnelian gemstones for those of weak voice or timid on speech. It was also thought to give courage to those who wore the gemstone, and also to provide a positive influence on the reproductive system. As with amber, ancient Romans believed that the darker carnelian represented males and the lighter carnelian, females. In the world of the ancient Mediterranean, carnelian was also believed to be strong protection from the evil eye, referring to the almost universal belief in the ancient world that some evil sorcerers or witches had the ability to transmit evil with just a glance. The ancient Muslims also believed carnelian to protect against the evil eye, as well as bringing happiness to the owner. Carnelian was called “the Mecca stone”. Legend has it that Mohammad's seal was an engraved carnelian set in a silver ring, quite possible since carnelian was often used for signet seals. In ancient Islam carnelian stones were also engraved it with the name of Allah to promote courage in the wearer.
In ancient Tibet, it was believed that the seven treasures of material wealth were gold, silver, lapis lazuli, seashell, agate, pearl, and carnelian. Carnelian was used during the Middle Ages to enhance fertility, requiring that it be worn both by the male and female for those couples seeking a child. It was also believed to protect from miscarriage during pregnancy. The Medieval Christian Mystic Saint Hildegard recorded that carnelian was used to relieve headaches and as a child-birthing aid. In the Renaissance era cameos were frequently carved of carnelian in the belief that it would ward off depression and insanity. It was also believed that carnelian set in jewelry would help overcome shyness or social inhibitions. Napoleon is said to have carried a carnelian amulet he found in Egypt, as a talisman, echoing the ancient belief that carnelian would bring victory to the wearer in all contests except love.
Like earlier civilizations, medieval Europe believed carnelian to be a powerful healer, using it as a remedy for bleeding wounds. A leading medical treatise of the 17th century said of carnelian, “the powder is good to drink against all infections. Carried about, it makes cheerful minds, expels fear, makes courage, destroys and prevents fascinations and defends the body against all poisons. It stops blood by a peculiar property; and bound to the belly keeps up the birth.” "Carnelian" gets its name from the Latin "cornum" (cornel berry or carnelian cherry). The color of carnelian, which can range from yellow to orange to red and even to brown, is due to the presence of ferric oxide (iron). If the ferric oxides become hydrated, i.e., the stone absorbs moisture, the stone will be more yellow or brown. Conversely, if excess moisture is removed, it will become more red (which explains why it was often heated in the ancient world, even if by laying it out in the sun, so as to enhance the red hues). Carnelian is also fluorescent, showing under ultra violet light either a light blue or yellow-green coloration.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B.C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world carnelian had many medicinal applications, believed useful in the treatment of open wounds, sores, spasms, fever, infections, nose bleeds, arthritis, and even infertility. It was also believed that a carnelian worn about a woman’s neck would relieve cramps. Carnelian was also believed to relieve back pain, arthritis, fight infections, as well as to improve circulation to help purify the blood. On the metaphysical plane, it was widely believed in Medieval Europe that a carnelian amulet would protect the home from fire and misfortune. It was also believed helpful in finding the right mate, and to help wearers achieve the perfect balance between creativity and mental processing (left and right hemisphere functions), and thus a useful aid for daydreamers and the absent-minded. Carnelian was also worn to enhance passion, desire, and sexuality.
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.
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