DETAIL: A nicely styled Roman-Byzantine bronze ring with very ornate and elegant features. The ring sports a large integral bezel which bears what was a quite popular “faux intaglio gemstone” motif. This consisted of an oval shaped, raised “faux engraved gemstone” intended to give the impression of an engraved, intaglio-style (“seal”) center gemstone. On the surface of the faux gemstone is what appears to be a deeply engraved floral motive, which itself is surrounded by an oval boundary line at the periphery of the raised center oval. The design is continued on the bands where if you look closely, you can see (at least on one side of the bands) that the engraved pattern was carried on from the center bezel, and includes very elaborate fringe trim to the bezel which appears like flower petals. You can see faint evidence (and we know from other rings of this motif) that the bands were engraved from the bezel to at least half-way toward the back.
However as you can see, the ring is heavily worn, and much of the original engraving has been worn smooth. The bezel itself is mostly intact, at least to the point where you can clearly see that it was of a recessed, incised floral motif. The perimeter line which encircles the waist or down-sloping shoulder of the bezel is mostly visible. And the ornately engraved floral motif bands, starting with the flower petal fringe on one side is very distinct, partly discernible on the other side, and from there onwards half-way toward the back of the bands, on both sides of the ring, there are few hints that the bands were originally engraved. The wear has in no way imperiled the integrity of the ring, it is still sturdy and quite wearable. However much of the engraving has been worn smooth. Nonetheless it’s a very elegant and well-crafted ring, designed to give the impression that the ring is set with an intaglio gemstone (known as a “seal” or “signet” to some).
An intaglio ring was used to press the wearer's "seal" into lead, clay, or wax, leaving an impression created by the ring's bezel. Though oftentimes the carved intaglio seal might be in the form of a gemstone such as carnelian, carved and then mounted onto a ring; frequently the intaglio seal was created by simply carving into a metal bezel, such as is the case here. Although this ring was not really intended as an intaglio, it was intended to give the impression that the ring was set with an intaglio gemstone, and in fact, though the engraving is somewhat shallow compared to an actual intaglio gemstone, it nonetheless could actually have been used to create a seal in wax or clay or lead. Beyond the raised centerpoint of the bezel, the faux intaglio gemstone, the bands themselves are likewise very elaborate.
Fate has been very kind. Clearly the ring was worn extensively some thousand years ago by the original owner. 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 forty or fifty generations later the ring would still exist. Nonetheless even though moderately worn, all of the metal work exhibits very fine workmanship, and is notwithstanding the wear, entirely intact and sturdy.
It should likewise come as no surprise that also detectable are the telltale signs that the ring spent thousands of years in the soil. The evidence is known as “porosity”, which 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 heavily afflicted, and certainly has not been disfigured. To the cursory inspection of the casual admirer, it simply looks like an ancient ring, nicely surfaced, no immediately discernible blemishes. You have to look closely to detect the telltale signs indicating the ring was buried for millennia. No denying, there is oxidation, you can clearly see the evidence in these photo enlargements, or if in hand you inspect the ring intently. However the extent is very mild. This ring spent a thousand years buried, yet by good fortune there is only a very modest degree of porosity evidenced. It happened to come to rest in reasonably gentle soil conditions. Consequentially, the integrity of the artifact remains undiminished, and despite the mild porosity, the ring remains quite handsome, and entirely wearable.
The ring is very modern and 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 ring is very elaborate, and its integrity uncompromised. This is an exceptional piece of Roman/Byzantine jewelry, a very handsome artifact, eminently wearable, and there is little discernable degradation due to corrosion, oxidation, porosity, except for moderate wear consistent with usage. It is a quite remarkable artifact.
The ring 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 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. Aside from being significant to the history of ancient jewelry, it is also an evocative relic of one of the world’s greatest civilizations and the ancient world’s most significant military machines; the portion of the Roman Empire which survived the fall of Rome for another thousand years; the glory, might and light which was the “Byzantine Empire”.
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.
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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