The Art of Medieval Jewelry

An Illustrated History


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About the Book

What are the origins of the imagery and designs on common jewelry and portable artwork between late antiquity and the Middle Ages? These dynamic centuries encompass the transformation of the Greco-Roman world into the nascent kingdoms and medieval states upon which most modern European nations are based. The choices of jewelry and other forms of personal expression among the lower classes in ancient times is notoriously difficult to contextualize for a number of reasons. Nonetheless, these precious articles were expressions of individual identity as well as signifiers of rites of passage. As such, they reflect not only the people who wore them, but also the social milieu and artistic trends at that moment in time.

This new study assists in identifying the types, origins and routes of transmission of personal artwork, particularly finger rings, across Europe and Byzantium, an area of study that has been neglected in previous works. Some of this material represents the first time relevant research from Central and Eastern Europe has been translated and made available to the general reader in the English-speaking world.

About the Author(s)

T.N. Pollio is a researcher and historian who lives in East Haven, Connecticut.

Bibliographic Details

T.N. Pollio
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 191
Bibliographic Info: 229 photos, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8175-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4047-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v

Preface 1

Introduction 3

Part I: Late Antiquity and the Migration Period 7

The Dark Ages  7

Hannibal ad Portas: the Barbarian Onslaught  9

Part II: The Diffusion of Jewelry Designs Since Late Antiquity 17

Part III: Difficulties in Dating and Identification 21

Part IV: Medieval Societies of Western Europe 24

Frankish and Germanic Kingdoms  24

Frankish Tribes  25

Germanic Tribes  26

Frankish and Germanic Ring Types  28

Scandinavian and ­Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms  33

Part V: Influences from Asiatic Cultures 43

Trade Routes Between Europe and Asia  43

Ancient Cultures of the Eurasian Steppe  45

Asiatic Origin of Certain Zoomorphic Motifs  52

“Saltovo” and Related Types from the Steppe  61

Kievan Rus and Kipchak Khanate  64

Part VI: The Roads Less Traveled: Central and Eastern Europe 68

Medieval and Modern States  72

The Successor States of the Former Yugoslavia  79

Notable Medieval Cultures  83

Part VII: Common Ring Types from Central and Eastern Europe 89

Religious Rings  91

Magical/Apotropaic and Geometrical Symbols  97

Ring and Dot Patterns  99

Heraldic and Pseudo-Heraldic Rings  101

Heater Shield, Flame and Heart-Shaped Designs  102

Fleur-de-lis  103

Portcullis and Similar Cross-Hatched Patterns  104

Star and Crescent  106

Sword and Arm  107

Avian and Zoomorphic Motifs  109

Architectural, Crowns and Similar Designs  111

Monograms, Merchant’s Marks and Personal Seals  112

Quatrefoil, Rosette and Similar Decorative Motifs  114

Plain Hoop and Twisted Wire Designs  117

Cast Types with Faux Gemstones  119

Part VIII: Anthropomorphic Rings from Central and Eastern Europe 121

Part IX: Slavic Stolovat and Similar Jewelry Types 139

Part X: Common Signet Ring Configurations 145

Part XI: Star and Floral Patterns 150

Glossary 155

Chapter Notes 171

Bibliography 177

Index 181