Byzantine Gemstone Ring Set with an Emerald
This high stepped bezel holds an Egyptian emerald, the stone prized by Cleopatra and Nero. Imposing and colorful, the ring makes a clear fashion statement worn on the finger.
The ring is made of two parts. Its hollow hoop, expanding toward the bezel, is concave on the interior and convex on the exterior. The bezel, made separately and pinned to the hoop, is fashioned out of a high, inverted square pyramid on a short plinth. It is set with a rectangular cabochon emerald of deep green color.
How striking the splendid emerald is, encased in this prominent bezel that protrudes high on the finger. In his Natural History (77–79 AD), Pliny emphasized the beauty of the emerald, reporting “no color is more delightful in appearance.” They must also have been expensive, even if we have little concrete information from antiquity about the prices of diff erent gemstones. Emeralds were among the stones Emperor Justinian (483–565 AD) sought to regulate as solely for the adornment of the sovereign (along with pearls and hyacinths). This ring belongs with a group of similar rings, now widely dispersed in museums and private collections, that may come from a single workshop, probably in Constantinople.