Byzantine Jewellery? Amethyst Beads in East and West during the Early Byzantine Period
“Intelligible Beauty”: Recent Research on Byzantine Jewellery, (London, 2010)
Precious stones are an integral part of Byzantine jewellery throughout the life of Byzantine culture. This contribution focuses on the time-span between the 5th and the 7th centuries; thus a snapshot from the early Byzantine period. It saw a widespread use of gemstones not only within the Byzantine Empire, but also beyond its borders, for example in the Germanic kingdoms of the West where amethyst and amethyst beads were highly appreciated. These are often found on necklaces from women’s graves, particularly in the regions inhabited by Franks, Alamanni and Bavarians, but they are also known from Anglo-Saxon England, Langobardic Italy and, of course, from Byzantine jewellery found throughout the Mediterranean. This paper presents some considerations on the appearance of amethyst within Byzantine jewellery, about the possible deposits that were exploited for the raw, mineral material, and about the connections between East and West that are clearly visible in the archaeological record.