Byzantine Marriage Ring
Heavy gold ring with an octagonal hoop set with a rectangular-shaped bezel. The hoop is composed of a central rib with angled sides, flat edges, and a plain interior. The edges of the bezel taper towards the raised gem-like centerpiece displaying a marriage scene. Christ in the center with halo joins the hands of a male and female figure, husband and wife. The ring is in good wearable condition.
The Shlomo Mousaieff Collection, London. Mousaieff (1925-2015) was the founder of the famous Mousaieff Jewellers, a family tradition going back several generations and of Bukharan Jewish descent. He amassed a significant antiquities collection.
Marriage or betrothal rings go back to a Roman tradition and were given as a promise of marriage, rather than during the wedding ceremony. By the late Roman period in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, rings depicted an image of husband and wife facing each other (Spier 2012, nos. 6, 14d., 16, 17, 18; Hindman/Scarisbrick 2017, no. 11). This tradition continued during the Byzantine period; however, by the sixth and seventh century AD, the marriage ceremony is depicted, often with Christ shown joining the right hands of the couple in a gesture of blessing. On some rings the presence of accompanying saints suggests the ceremony took place in the holy sanctuary of a church, while other rings include a cross symbol or inscriptions that bear special wishes for the couple. For marriage rituals in antiquity, see: Chadour-Sampson, Beatriz, The Power of Love Jewels Romance Eternity, London: Unicorn Publishing, 2019, pp. 11 ff. On Byzantine marriage rings, as well as examples in museum collections see Vikan, Gary, “Art and Marriage in Early Byzantium,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44 (1990), pp. 145-163 and for the angular hoop shape, figs. 25 and 26.