Medieval Jewelry

Medieval jewelry. Jewelry from Medieval Ages. Short guide to medieval jewelry. Medieval earrings, seal rings, crown jewels, reliquary. Jewelry history.

The medieval age was the time of the Dark Age that lasted for 1000 years and was mainly restricted to Europe and Byzantine. During the middle age, the main material used for jewelry was gold. There were various concepts for jewels at that time. Christianity discouraged wearing jewels as grave goods. Only the royals were allowed to wear them. There was a rule that they should be buried wearing jewels and best clothes. However, the Islamic burials had no concept to bury the dead laced with jewels. Most of the jewelry from that time was lost. There was no progression in making the jewels at that time. No new decoration forms or jewelry making techniques were introduced. Techniques like soldering chasing, plating, gilding, stamping, casting and striking were used for making the jewelry. The nobility and royal coronation jewels were silver, gold and gems.

Medieval earrings

Byzantine earrings

The common jewelry included necklaces, broaches, rings and bracelets. That was not all; the medieval jewelry also included another rare form of jewels that are not found in the modern era now. There were fittings for clothes that included buttons, buckles, laces, hat badges, purses, decorated pins, weapons, belts and other similar accessories.

Jewelry during the early medieval times could only be worn by the riches.  They could afford to get fine gems and jewels for themselves. When the crusades begin, and trade and commerce expanded, the middle class also started to afford jewelry. Precious stones were bought through trade. Stones like rubies, sapphires, diamonds, emeralds and turquoises were bought and various jewels were made out of them.

At the end of the 13th century, wearing jewelry became so much common that there were laws passed that restricted people to wear jewelry on the basis of their social ranks and the lands they own. As the middle class had jewels, they still wore it ignoring the content of the law. The nobility in order to distinguish them started wearing more lavish jewels.  With innovation and technology, goldsmiths came up with new designs and styles in jewelry. New discoveries were made and so new jewels amuse the people were also designed.

Seal Rings
Finger ring engraved with a seal worn by nobility and officials. These rings were used for document signing.

Seal ring

Templar seal ring

Reliquary was a container for relics. These may be the physical remains of saints. Reliquary was often standalone piece of art. It was often made of gold and decorated by gems and pearls.
St. Maurice reiliquary (12th century).

Medieval jewels-Reliquary

Reliquary of St. Maurice

Crown Jewels
Coronation crowns is a set of jewels usually containing crown, royal orb, sceptre and other artifacts like swords, coats etc.

Saint Wenceslas Jewels – one of the most beautiful crown jewels ever made. Jewels are stored in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Crown is made of gold and decorated with precious stones and pearls. It contains a total of 19 sapphires, 44 spinels, 1 ruby, 30 emeralds and 20 pearls.
Bohemian crown jewels contains Crown of Saint Wenceslas, the royal orb and sceptre, the coronation vestments of the kings of Bohemia, the gold reliquary cross, and sword of St. Wenceslas.

Crown Jewels St. Wenceslas

St. Wenceslas crown jewels. Prague.


Medieval jewelry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *