A Brief History of Byzantium – Silver and More of Its Jewelry


Around 650 B.C., a leader named Byzas sailed a ship from Megara, fifteen miles west of Athens, approached the Bosporus and landed at Chalcedon. Colonists consulted the oracle priestess before leaving. They didn’t understand, for she had said that they would find a new home opposite the city of the blind. The Bosporus was twenty miles long and very narrow. There, they could control trade between the Black and Aegean Seas. They went from Chalcedon two and a half miles northwest to the other side of the Bosporus. Chalcedon’s harbor facilities couldn’t compare to the wide beautiful, large harbor they had founded; it could hold any number of ships and with water on three sides, it was easily defended. While they couldn’t understand Chalcedon’s inferior choice of neighborhood, they did come to understand that the oracle had been speaking of Chalcedon as the city of the blind. The city of Byzantion, named from Byzas’ vanity, we know from Latin as Byzantium. Though ancient Geeks founded it, perhaps Byzas never existed and the name came from Byzantium’s meaning of “compact”, its city pressed together on their tongue of land.

The Byzantine Empire lasted approximately 2000 years, 1129 if counted from 324 when Constantine moved his capital there from Rome. By 1453, the Byzantines had lost their empire to the Ottoman Turks, Constantinople continuing as the capital in the new Ottoman Empire, which changed to Istanbul in 1930 in Turkey. When Constantine (1st) ruled western Rome and Licinius dominated eastern Rome, Byzantium (Constantinople) included, commercialism prospered the Byzantines busily, but with little renown. They were the crossroads between Europe and Asia.

July of 323 to September, Constantine (1st) chased Licinius through Byzantium to Chrysopolis, just north of Chalcedon, for the last battle settling the dispute, and Constantine won the rest of the Roman Empire. After Byzantium’s surrender, he wiped their commercial center. Expanding, he had walled it off and built his imitation of Rome, the new capital known as “New Rome”, which was completed on May 11, 330. People referred to it as Constantine’s city, Constantinople to us. Byzantium with its new name became the largest, the wealthiest, the most cultured, and the most famous city of its time. The Byzantines did not lose influence. No, not at all, for a new coin that Constantine created was called a “bezant”, and Byzantine silver and other jewelry fabricated then remain well known and are still very popular to this day.

By that time, Rome interwove itself with Christianity and as Roman tradition continued in early Byzantine jewelry, Christian themes emerged in the 5th century. Crosses and Byzantine chain necklaces became very popular. Byzantine silver and many finger rings bore Christian symbols. Christ, his mother, angels, and saints widely represented in sterling silver Byzantine jewelry surfaced with other precious metals and precious stones along with many allegorical representations, which brought out earlier floral, faunal, and geometric designs. From their illustrious passion to connect their values, their arts to the world, jewelers in Constantinople savored their renown far, far beyond their borders. In the eighth century, Byzantine styles greatly influenced European jewelry: heavy Byzantine necklaces-4mm-12mm, Bali Byzantine silver, Byzantine chain necklaces, heavy Byzantine bracelets 4mm-12mm, Byzantine chain bracelets and more. Early Byzantines and Romans also favored emeralds while jewelers fancied adding gold and silver, enamel, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones to the same pieces of Byzantine jewelry. They created colorful effects in many pieces with enamel, which became popular and oxidizing sterling silver enhanced the vintage feel of Byzantium medieval times.

While most Christian articulations surfaced in the 5th and 6th centuries, Byzantine crosses date back to the fourth century with the beginning of Constantinople, created impassionedly as a result of Constantine Christianizing the Roman Empire. The Byzantine crosses unearthed in digs showed-off attributes possessing the ardor of the craftsmen infused with holiness and spiritual tincture that illuminated Byzantium heart and soul. Before today’s mass production, Byzantines brought mastery to their artisanship in an era elucidating exceptional virtuosity, provocative architecture, and creating immaculate jewelry only the focused attention enlivened in one piece at a time can endow.

We hope this leaves you enlightened about a very famous Byzantine society and the art they loved in medieval times. Click the resource link and discover many Byzantine silver styles available for your selection.