Antique 19thC Russian Ukrainian Crimea Tartar Silver Turquoise Niello Ring Sz10
Beautiful Size 10 Nineteenth Century Russian Etched “Niello” Enamel Silver Alloy Ring with Turquoise Colored (Glass?) Gemstone. : Etched “Niello” Enamel Silver/Bronze Alloy Ring; Southern Russia 19th Century. ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Europe (Southern Russia/Crimean Region/Black Sea, 18-19th Century A.D. SIZE/DIMENSIONS: (All measurements approximate). Size: 10 (U.S.). Overall Dimensions: 24 1/2mm * 20mm. Inner Diameter: 21 1/2mm * 19 1/2mm. Bezel: Height: 19 1/2mm. Breadth: 11mm. Turquoise “Gemstone”: Height: 7mm. Breadth: 5mm. Thickness: 3mm. Tapered Width Band: 21mm at bezel; 11mm at sides; 3 1/2mm at back. Weight: 5.96 grams. CONDITION: Excellent! Intact, integrity unimpaired. Moderately light wear from usage. Some niello dropped out of incised areas. No significant porosity (surface pitting caused by contact with earth while buried). Very fine finish. DETAIL: A very ornate silver/bronze alloy ring of late Renaissance origin, probably eighteenth or nineteenth century, provenance is Southern Russia, the Crimean Region. The Crimean, now part of present-day Ukraine, was home of the Tartars (and before them ancient Greek settlements during the first millennium B.C.), across the Black Sea from what was at the time this ring was produced, the Ottoman Empire, modern day Turkey. This style of ring was very popular from the medieval period onwards, and enjoyed an especial resurgence in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Russia, and even into the twentieth century. The ring bears a very elaborate pattern on the sides of the band as well as on the bezel, finely etched and enameled with a material known as “niello”, a silver/lead/sulfur alloy, and still discernible and intact despite some light wear. The ring is quite substantial and sturdy, and the design of the ring and the detailed metal work evidenced in the bezel and bands is very elaborate! There is some moderately light wear to the ring, and some of the etched/niello enameled pattern as been worn down just a bit, and in a few spots the niello inlay has been lost. However it remains nearly entirely intact insofar as all of the intricate metalwork remains discernible and deeply incised, regardless of whether it still retains the original niello or not. But of course, some signs of wear are to be expected from a ring this old. However this should not be a source for disappointment. It was produced with the idea that someone would purchase it and wear it – and that is exactly what happened. It is clear that several centuries ago this was amongst someone’s favorite rings, and that they wore it with pleasure and frequency.
The ring remains very well constructed and solid. The “gemstone” is supposed to present the appearance of turquoise, and it certainly does. It’s very convincing, and it might indeed be turquoise. However I suspect it is glass which was molded and colored so as to give the appearance of a turquoise cabochon gemstone. Of course, Iran is not too far from area of the world where this ring originated, and it was at that time inexpensive and plentiful. The gemstone could be turquoise, and it does appear to be turquoise. But I really think it is glass. Glass was quite commonly used during the era to produce ersatz gemstones. In any event, whether it is turquoise or glass which is pretty convincing as Persian turquoise, it is nonetheless attractive; and the value in this ring lays in its cultural and historic significance, not in whether the gemstone is turquoise or glass. Overall the ring evidences a relatively light wear, not excessive, and it remains quite intricate and substantial. The design of the ring and the detailed etching evidenced is quite ornate, and the heavy construction of the ring means it could be worn and enjoyed for many years to come.
The ring was probably designed to be worn by a man, and is bold and handsome enough to be worn by a man today. However the design is elaborate, elegant, and intricate enough to be worn with good taste by a woman as well. And the wear present has in no way diminished the integrity of the artifact. It could provide a new owner with decades of wearing enjoyment. The ring itself is silver alloyed with bronze, known as “billion” “Billion” is a silver/bronze (or silver-copper; or gold-bronze, or gold-copper) alloy that tends to be of a low proportion of silver. This low-silver composite has its roots in the Roman Empire and their predecessors the ancient Greeks. The use of billion admixtures in the production of coinage became especially commonplace during the third century in the Roman Empire, during which time it was used to produce silver coinage which was the successor to the Roman denarius. Though originally composed of 40% to 60% silver, by the Middle Ages coinage produced of billion oftentimes contained less than 10% silver. The mixture today is known as “billion”, generally denominating a low-silver bronze/silver alloy which was still used as recently as the nineteenth century in Eastern Europe in the production of jewelry. The ring is quite wearable, and could be worn and enjoyed for decades to come without endangering the integrity of the artifact.
HISTORY: Niello is a black or dark silver colored alloy of sulfur, copper, silver, and usually lead, used as a type of enamel for thousand of years as an inlay on engraved metal, filling in the engraved designs cut from metal. The ancient Egyptians are credited with originating niello decoration, which spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. The compound used during the Middle Ages in Europe was slightly different than that used by the Ancient Egyptians, the enamel composed of simply silver, lead and sulfur. This resulted in a design of much higher contrast and thus much more visible. The ancient technique required the artisan to carve a pattern into the silver, leaving the figure raised by carving out the "background". He would then use the niello inlay to fill in the "background". After being baked in an open fire, the alloy would harden. It would then be sanded smooth and buffed. Finally, a silver artisan would add minute details by hand. Filigree was often used for additional ornamentation. Commonly niello was used in the production of necklaces, bracelets, brooches, rings, earrings, pendants, buttons, and ornamental ware such as small metal boxes, tableware, etc.
During the medieval Period Russian craftsmen gained a reputation throughout Medieval Europe and the Near East for their exquisite jewelry, and in particular the inlaid work utilizing niello and cloisonné enamel of artisans from Kiev had no equal in the world market during that time period. Niello was used on a variety of object including sword hilts, chalices, plates, horns, adornment for horses, and most prolifically, jewelry for women: necklaces, bracelets, rings, torques, pendants, buttons, belt buckles, headdresses, etc. The technique for niello application was first shaping silver or gold by repousse, embossing, and casting. They would high relief objects and fill the background with niello using a mixture of red copper, lead, silver, potash, borax, sulfur which was liquefied and poured into concaved surfaces before being baked in a furnace. The heat from the furnace would blacken the niello and allow other ornamentation to stand out more vividly. Niello items were mass produced using molds that still survive today and were traded with Greeks, the Byzantine Empire, and other peoples that traded along the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks.
During the Mongol invasion from 1237 to 1240 A.D. the whole of Kievan Rus was overrun and villages and workshops were burned and razed to the ground and most of the craftsmen and artisans were killed. Afterwards skill in niello and cloisonné enamel diminished greatly. The Ukrainian Museum of Historic Treasures, located in Kiev, has a large collection of niello items mostly recovered from tombs found throughout the Ukraine.
TATAR HISTORY:: The Tatars of the Crimean Black Sea Region are one of the ethnic sub-populations of Russia (present-day Ukraine). Prior to the current era (before 0 A.D.) the vast lands of South Russia were home to various Proto-Indo-European tribes such as the Scythians. Between the third and sixth centuries A.D., the steppes were overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions when swept through Europe, as was the case with Huns and Turkish Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled South Russia through the 8th century. They were important allies of the Byzantine Empire and waged a series of successful wars against the Arab Califates. The Early East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia from the 7th century onwards and slowly assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, such as the Merya, the Muromians and the Meshchera.
In the mid-9th century, a group of Scandinavians, the Varangians, assumed the role of a ruling elite at the Slavic capital of Novgorod. Although they were quickly assimilated by the predominantly Slavic population, the Varangian dynasty lasted several centuries, during which they affiliated with the Byzantine, or Orthodox church and moved the capital to Kiev in A.D. 882. In the 10th to 11th centuries this state of Kievan Rus became the largest in Europe and one of the most prosperous, due to diversified trade with both Europe and Asia. However the opening of new trade routes with the Orient at the time of the Crusades contributed to the decline and defragmentation of Kievan Rus by the end of the 12th century.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, the constant incursions of nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, led to the massive migration of Slavic populations from the fertile south to the heavily forested regions of the north. The medieval states of Novgorod Republic and Vladimir-Suzdal emerged as successors to Kievan Rus, while the middle course of the Volga River came to be dominated by the Muslim state of Volga Bulgaria. Like many other parts of Eurasia, these territories were overrun by the Mongol invaders known as the “Golden Horde”, which would pillage Russia for over three centuries. Later known as the Tatars, they ruled the southern and central expanses of present-day Russia, while the territories of present-day Ukraine and Belarus were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland, thus dividing the Russian people in the north from the Belarusians and Ukrainians in the west.
The name “Tatars” eventually become a collective name applied to the Turkic people of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The majority of Tatars today live in European Russia, and are the descendants of the Eastern European Volga Bulgars who were conquered by the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. The original Ta-ta Mongols inhabited the north-eastern Gobi in the 5th century and, after subjugation in the 9th century by the Khitans, migrated southward, there founding the Mongol empire under Genghis Khan. Under the leadership of his grandson Batu Khan they moved westwards, driving with them many stems of the Turkic Ural-Altayans towards the plains of Russia. On the Volga they mingled with remnants of the old Bulgarian empire (Volga Bulgaria), and elsewhere with Finno-Ugric speaking peoples, as well as with remnants of the ancient Greek colonies in the Crimea and Caucasians in the Caucasus.
The name of Tatars, given to the invaders, was afterwards extended so as to include different stems of the same Turkic-Mongol branch in Russia, and even the bulk of the inhabitants of the high plateau of Asia and its northwestern slopes, described under the general name of Tartary. This name has almost disappeared from geographical literature, but the name Tatars, in the above limited sense, remains in full use. Most current day Tatars live in the central and southern parts of Russia (the majority in Tatarstan), Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Lithuania, Belarus and in Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Romania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. They collectively numbered more than 10 million in the late 20th century.
The Crimean Tatars may still be found in Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine on the northern coast of the Black Sea occupying the Crimean peninsula. The Crimean Tatars are actually descendants of a number of Turkic peoples. The ethnicity of the Crimean Tatars is quite complex as it absorbed by both nomadic Turkic and European components (in the first place, the Goths and the Genoese) which is still reflected in their appearance and language differences. A small enclave of the Karaims, possibly of Khazar (i.e. Turkic) descent but members of a Jewish sect, was founded in the 8th century. It existed among the Muslim Crimean Tatars, primarily in the mountainous Çufut Qale area.
The territory of Crimea was conquered and controlled many times through its history. The Cimmerians, Greeks, Iranians, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Khazars, the state of Kievan Rus', Byzantine Greeks, Kipchaks, and the Mongols all controlled Crimea in its early history. These were followed by the Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire in the 15th–18th centuries, the Russian Empire in the 18th–20th centuries, Germany in World War II, and now, the independent Ukrainian state. The Crimean Tatars were forcibly expelled to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's government, but have begun returning to their homeland in recent years.
The ancient Greeks called Crimea Tauris (later Taurica), after its inhabitants, the Tauri. The Greek historian Herodotus mentions that Hercules plowed that land using a huge ox ("taurus"), hence the name of the land. The earliest inhabitants of whom we have any authentic traces were the Cimmerians, who were expelled by the Scythians (Iranians) during the 7th century B.C. The remaining Cimmerians that took refuge in the mountains later became known as the Tauri. According to other historians, the Tauri were known for their savage rituals and piracy, and were also the earliest, indigenous inhabitants of the peninsula. In 5th century B.C., Greek colonists began to settle along the Black Sea coast, among those were the Dorians from Heraclea who founded a sea port of Chersonesos outside Sevastopol, and the Ionians from Miletus who landed at Feodosiya and Panticapaeum (also called Bosporus).
Two centuries later (438 B.C.), the Archon (ruler) of the latter settlers assumed the title of the Kings of Cimmerian Bosporus, a state that maintained close relations with Athens, supplying the city with wheat, honey and other commodities. The last of that line of kings, Paerisades V, being hard-pressed by the Scythians, put himself under the protection of Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus, in 114 B.C. After the death of this sovereign, his son, Pharnaces II, was invested by Pompey with the kingdom of Bosporus in 63 B.C. as a reward for the assistance rendered to the Romans in their war against his father. In 15 B.C., it was once again restored to the king of Pontus, but since ranked as a tributary state of Rome.
Throughout the later centuries, Crimea was invaded or occupied successively by the Goths (A.D. 250), the Huns (376), the Bulgars (6th century), the Khazars (8th century), the state of Kievan Rus' (10th–11th centuries), the Byzantine Greeks (1016), the Kipchaks (the Kumans) (1050), and the Mongols (1237). In the 13th century, the Republic of Genoa seized the settlements which their rivals, the Venetians, had built along the Crimean coast and established themselves at Cembalo, Soldaia, Cherco and Caffa, gaining control of the Crimean economy and the Black Sea commerce for two centuries.
After the destruction of the Golden Horde by Timur in 1441, the Crimean Tatars founded an independent Crimean Khanate under Hacı I Giray, a descendant of Genghis Khan. The Crimean Tatars controlled the steppes that stretched from the Kuban and to the Dniester River, however, they were unable to take control over commercial Genoese towns. After the Crimean Tatars asked for help from the Ottomans, an Ottoman invasion of the Genoese towns led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha in 1475 brought Kaffa and the other trading towns under their control. In 1774, The Crimean Khans fell under the Russian influence in the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca. In 1783, entire Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire.
HISTORY OF SILVER: After gold, silver is the metal most widely used in jewelry and the most malleable. The oldest silver artifacts found by archaeologists date from ancient Sumeria about 4,000 B.C. At many points in the ancient world, it was actually more costly than gold, particularly in ancient Egypt. Silver is found in native form (i.e., in nuggets), as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine. Much of the silver originally found in the ancient world was actually a natural alloy of gold and silver (in nugget form) known as “electrum”. The first large-scale silver mines were in Anatolia (ancient Turkey) and Armenia, where as early as 4,000 B.C. silver was extracted from lead ores by means of a complicated process known as “smelting”. Even then the process was not perfect, as ancient silver does contain trace elements, typically lead, gold, bismuth and other metals, and as much as a third of the silver was left behind in the slag. However measuring the concentrations of the “impurities” in ancient silver can help the forensic jewelry historian in determining the authenticity of classical items.
From Turkey and Armenia silver refining technology spread to the rest of Asia Minor and Europe. By about 2,500 B.C. the Babylonians were one of the major refiners of silver. Silver “treasures” recovered by archaeologists from the second and third millenniums demonstrate the high value the ancient Mediterranean and Near East placed upon silver. Some of the richest burials in history uncovered by archaeologists have been from this time frame, that of Queen Puabi of Ur, Sumeria (26th century B.C.); Tuankhamun (14th century B.C.), and the rich Trojan (25th century B.C.) and Mycenaean (18th century B.C.) treasures uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the skin of their gods was composed of gold, and their bones were thought to be of silver. When silver was introduced into Egypt, it probably was more valuable than gold (silver was rarer and more valuable than gold in many Mesoamerican cultures as well). In surviving inventories of valuables, items of silver were listed above those of gold during the Old Kingdom. Jewelry made of silver was almost always thinner than gold pieces, as indicated by the bracelets of the 4th Dynasty (about 2,500 B.C.) Queen Hetephere I, in marked contrast to the extravagance of her heavy gold jewelry. A silver treasure excavated by archaeologists and attributable to the reign of Amenemhat II who ruled during the 12th Dynasty (about 1900 B.C.), contained fine silver items which were actually produced in Crete, by the ancient Minoans. When the price of silver finally did fall due to more readily available supplies, for at least another thousand years (through at least the 19th dynasty, about 1,200 B.C.) the price of silver seems to have been fixed at half that of gold. Several royal mummies attributable to about 1,000 B.C. were even entombed in solid silver coffins.
Around 1,000 B.C. Greek Athenians began producing silver from the Laurium mines, and would supply much of the ancient Mediterranean world with its silver for almost 1,000 years. This ancient source was eventually supplemented around 800 B.C. (and then eventually supplanted) by the massive silver mines found in Spain by the Phoenicians and their colony (and ultimate successors) the Carthaginians (operated in part by Hannibal’s family). With the defeat of Carthage by Rome, the Romans gained control of these vast deposits, and mined massive amounts of silver from Spain, stripping entire forests regions for timber to fuel smelting operations. In fact, it was not until the Middle Ages that Spain’s silver mines (and her forests) were finally exhausted.
Although known during the Copper Age, silver made only rare appearances in jewelry before the classical age. Despite its infrequent use as jewelry however, silver was widely used as coinage due to its softness, brilliant color, and resistance to oxidation. Silver alloyed with gold in the form of “electrum” was coined to produce money around 700 B.C. by the Lydians of present-day Turkey. Having access to silver deposits and being able to mine them played a big role in the classical world. Actual silver coins were first produced in Lydia about 610 B.C., and subsequently in Athens in about 580 B.C. Many historians have argued that it was the possession and exploitation of the Laurium mines by the Athenians that allowed them to become the most powerful city state in Greece. The Athenians were well aware of the significance of the mining operations to the prosperity of their city, as every citizen had shares in the mines. Enough silver was mined and refined at Laurium to finance the expansion of Athens as a trading and naval power. One estimate is that Laurium produced 160 million ounces of silver, worth six billion dollars today (when silver is by comparison relatively cheap and abundant). As the production of silver from the Laurium mines ultimately diminished, Greek silver production shifted to mines in Macedonia.
Silver coinage played a significant role in the ancient world. Macedonia’s coinage during the reign of Philip II (359-336 B.C.) circulated widely throughout the Hellenic world. His famous son, Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.), spread the concept of coinage throughout the lands he conquered. For both Philip II and Alexander silver coins became an essential way of paying their armies and meeting other military expenses. They also used coins to make a realistic portrait of the ruler of the country. The Romans also used silver coins to pay their legions. These coins were used for most daily transactions by administrators and traders throughout the empire. Roman silver coins also served as an important means of political propaganda, extolling the virtues of Rome and her emperors, and continued in the Greek tradition of realistic portraiture. As well, many public works and architectural achievements were also depicted (among them the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus). In addition many important political events were recorded on the coinage. You can Romaan coins which depicted the assassination of Julius Caesar, alliances between cities, between emperors, between armies, etc. And many contenders for the throne of Rome are known only through their coinage.
Silver was also widely used as ornamental work and in other metal wares. In ancient cultures, especially in Rome, silver was highly prized for the making of plate ware, household utensils, and ornamental work. The stability of Rome’s economy and currency depended primarily on the output of the silver mines in Spain which they had wrested from the Carthaginians. In fact many historians would say that it was the control of the wealth of these silver mines which enabled Rome to conquer most of the Mediterranean world. When in 55 B.C. the Romans invaded Britain they were quick to discover and exploit the lead-silver deposits there as well. Only six years later they had established many mines and Britain became another major source of silver for the Roman Empire. It is estimated that by the second century A.D., 10,000 tons of Roman silver coins were in circulation within the empire. That’s about 3½ billion silver coins (at the height of the empire, there were over 400 mints throughout the empire producing coinage). That’s ten times the total amount of silver available to Medieval Europe and the Islamic world combined as of about 800 A.D.
Silver later lost its position of dominance to gold, particularly in the chaos following the fall of Rome. Large-scale mining in Spain petered out, and when large-scale silver mining finally resumed four centuries after the fall of Rome, most of the mining activity was in Central Europe. By the time of the European High Middle Ages, silver once again became the principal material used for metal artwork. Huge quantities of silver from the New World also encouraged eager buyers in Europe, and enabled the Spanish to become major players in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. Unlike the ores in Europe which required laborious extraction and refining methods to result in pure silver, solid silver was frequently found as placer deposits in stream beds in Spain’s “New World” colonies, reportedly in some instances solid slabs weighing as much as 2,500 pounds. Prior to the discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World, silver had been valued during the Middle Ages at about 10%-15% of the value of gold. In 15th century the price of silver is estimated to have been around $1200 per ounce, based on 2010 dollars. The discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World during the succeeding centuries has caused the price to diminish greatly, falling to only 1-2% of the value of gold.
The art of silver work flourished in the Renaissance, finding expression in virtually every imaginable form. Silver was often plated with gold and other decorative materials. Although silver sheets had been used to overlay wood and other metals since ancient Greece, an 18th-century technique of fusing thin silver sheets to copper brought silver goods called Sheffield plate within the reach of most people. At the same time the use of silver in jewelry making had also started gaining popularity in the 17th century. It was often as support in settings for diamonds and other transparent precious stones, in order to encourage the reflection of light. Silver continued to gain in popularity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and by the 20th century competed with gold as the principal metal used in the manufacture of jewelry. Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of any metal, and one of the highest optical reflectivity values. It has a brilliant metallic luster, is very ductile and malleable, only slightly harder than gold, and is easily worked and polished. When used in jewelry, silver is commonly alloyed to include 7.5% copper, known as “Sterling Silver”, to increase the hardness and reduce the melting temperature. Silver jewelry may be plated with 99.9% pure ‘Fine Silver’ to increase the shine when polished. It may also be plated with rhodium to prevent tarnish. Virtually all gold, with the exception of 24 carat gold, includes silver. Most gold alloys are primarily composed of only gold and silver.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. Precious minerals were likewise considered to have medicinal and “magical” properties in the ancient world. In its pure form silver is non toxic, and when mixed with other elements is used in a wide variety of medicines. Silver ions and silver compounds show a toxic effect on some bacteria, viruses, algae and fungi. Silver was widely used before the advent of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections, silver nitrate being the prevalent form. Silver Iodide was used in babies' eyes upon birth to prevent blinding as the result of bacterial contamination. Silver is still widely used in topical gels and impregnated into bandages because of its wide-spectrum antimicrobial activity.
The recorded use of silver to prevent infection dates to ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates, the ancient (5th century B.C.) Greek "father of medicine" wrote that silver had beneficial healing and anti-disease properties. The ancient Phoenicians stored water, wine, and vinegar in silver bottles to prevent spoiling. These uses were “rediscovered” in the Middle Ages, when silver was used for several purposes; such as to disinfect water and food during storage, and also for the treatment of burns and wounds as a wound dressing. The ingestion of colloidal silver was also believed to help restore the body's “electromagnetic balance” to a state of equilibrium, and it was believed to detoxify the liver and spleen. In the 19th century sailors on long ocean voyages would put silver coins in barrels of water and wine to keep the liquid potable. Silver (and gold) foil is also used through the world as a food decoration. Traditional Indian dishes sometimes include the use of decorative silver foil, and in various cultures silver dragée (silver coated sugar balls) are used to decorate cakes, cookies, and other dessert items.
GLASS HISTORY: Naturally occurring glass, especially the volcanic glass obsidian, has been used since the Stone Age in many localities across the globe for the production of sharp cutting tools and, due to its limited source areas, was extensively traded. With respect to man-made glass, the ancient Romans were the first to mass produce glass articles, and this included glass jewelry and gemstones. In the ancient world, glass jewelry was very costly, not only for the ancient Romans, but particular so going back another 3,000 years further to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Sumeria. Though glass jewelry, especially gemstones and beads, have been fashioned for perhaps 5,000 years, very little is known about the production of glass in the ancient world.
Perhaps about 4,000 B.C. the ancient Egyptians started fashioning amulets, beads, and small vessels out of a material known as “faience”, an ancient precursor of glass created by crushing quartz sand and mixing it with an alkali binder and mineral oxides to provide color. The discovery of the techniques for producing glass was probably the accidental byproduct of the ancient production of faience. Ancient lumps of glass have been discovered in the area of ancient Mesopotamia, as well as ancient Syria and Egypt, dating as far back as 4,000 B.C. Written records from ancient Mesopotamia refer to the manufacture of glass, describing the manufacturing process as difficult and a closely-guarded secret. Initially ancient glass vessels were produced in with the use of molds of forms. Some of the earliest surviving examples were from the 15th century B.C. tombs of the wives of ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh Thutmose III. Glass beads dating to about 1,800 B.C. were produced by the Indus Valley Civilization.
Around 1,500 B.C. two new production techniques gave rise to more frequent manufacture of glass in Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as in Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece. Both techniques involved the use of molten glass rods, either wrapped around a mud core, or placed within a mold. However the end product was still nonetheless frightfully expensive and the process both lengthy and labor-intensive. The disasters that overtook Late Bronze Age civilizations seem to have brought glass-making to a halt. It picked up again in its former sites, as well as in Syria and Cyprus, in the 9th century B.C., when the techniques for making colorless glass were discovered. The first glassmaking "manual" dates back to about 650 B.C., in cuneiform tablets discovered in the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. In Egypt glass-making did not revive until it was reintroduced in third century B.C. Ptolemaic Alexandria. During the Greek Hellenistic (colonizing) period many new techniques of glass production were introduced and glass began to be used to make larger pieces, notably table wares.
The term “glass” originated in the late Roman Empire in the Roman glassmaking center at Trier, now in modern Germany. The Romans utilized glass in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used primarily for the production of vessels, although mosaic tiles, window glass, jewelry, beads and gemstones were also produced. Roman glass production developed from Hellenistic technical traditions, initially concentrating on the production of intensely colored cast glass vessels. However, during the 1st century AD the industry underwent rapid technical growth that saw the introduction of glass blowing techniques (introduced a century earlier in Palestine and Syria), wherein a blob of molten glass was inflated either free form or into a mold by blowing through a hollow metal blowpipe. Glass blowing became widespread during the later Roman Empire, and with it the dominance of colorless or “aqua” colored glass, and the inexpensive process created huge demand for glass products, including jewelry.
Syria became the "glass factory" of the Roman Empire and glassware came to be widely disseminated throughout the Roman Empire (if you would like to learn more about ancient Roman/Syrian glass, there are two wonderful websites to start you on your voyage here and here). Roman glass ware which had already been traded as far as China and Western Asia (Roman glass has been found in first century B.C. tombs in China as well as what was Parthian Persia) now came to be exported throughout the known world in vast quantity. Glassblowing allowed glass workers to produce vessels with considerably thinner walls, decreasing the amount of glass needed for each vessel. Glass blowing was also considerably quicker than other techniques, and vessels required considerably less finishing, representing a further saving in time, raw material and equipment. Although earlier techniques dominated during the early first century A.D., by the middle to late first century earlier production techniques had been largely abandoned in favor of blowing.
Glass making reached its peak at the beginning of the 2nd century A.D., with glass objects in domestic contexts of every kind. An eight ton glass slab uncovered by archaeologists indicates that glass was being produced in very large batches contained in tanks situated inside highly specialized furnaces. Glass was seemingly manufactured on a large scale by a limited number of workshops, and then broken into chunks for distribution to a multitude of local producers of end products. Otherwise there is only limited evidence for small-scale local glass manufacture, and only in context of window glass. The first-century A.D. Roman Naturalist and Historian “Pliny the Elder” documented the furnace-production of molten glass and the development of related production technologies.
The Roman writers Statius and Martial both indicate that recycling broken glass was an important part of the glass industry, and that quantities of broken glassware were concentrated at local sites prior to melting back into raw glass. This is supported by the fact that only rarely are glass fragments of any size recovered by archaeologists from domestic sites of this period. With respect to glass jewelry, it is well known that the Romans and their successors in the East, the Byzantines (and Eastern Europe in general), were very fond of elaborate jewelry and other personal adornments. Typical jewelry included bracelets worn both on the forearm as well as upper arm, rings, earrings, and pendants, and in the classical world, glass jewelry was just as costly its counterparts made in gold and/or gemstones.
Though introduced in first century A.D. Alexandria, the use of glass windows gained widespread popularity in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. throughout Europe, mostly in conjunction with churches and royal structures. In the 8th century A.D. glass was described in Arab poetry, and in another 8th century book a Persian chemist recorded 46 recipes for colored glass (a later edition of the book included 12 additional recipes). By the 11th century clear glass mirrors were being produced in Islamic Spain. In Germany the 11th century saw the introduction of a technique which mass-produced thin sheet glass, and in the 12th century the use of stained glass rapidly became an important medium in Romanesque and Gothic art. However the mass-production of glass during the era of the Roman Empire was not matched by the modern world until the advent of the industrial revolution. Glass remained expensive through the 17th century, and glass gemstones though less expensive than natural gemstones, were still expensive. The “gemstones” in the least expensive “costume” jewelry were generally made from colored amber. Excepting of course genuine precious and semi-precious gemstones, glass “gemstones” were still the domain of relatively more costly pieces.
Domestic shipping (insured first class mail) is included in the price shown. Domestic shipping also includes USPS Delivery Confirmation (you might be able to update the status of your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Canadian shipments are an extra $17.99 for Insured Air Mail; International shipments are an extra $21.99 for Air Mail (and generally are NOT tracked; trackable shipments are EXTRA). ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per item so as to reward you for the economies of combined shipping/insurance costs. Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers.
We do NOT recommend uninsured shipments, and expressly disclaim any responsibility for the loss of an uninsured shipment. Unfortunately the contents of parcels are easily “lost” or misdelivered by postal employees – even in the USA. If you intend to pay via PayPal, please be aware that PayPal Protection Policies REQUIRE insured, trackable shipments, which is INCLUDED in our price. International tracking is at additional cost. We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. We will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with. If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price (less our original shipping costs).
We travel to Russia each year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from one of the globe’s most prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers, the area between Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, Russia. From all corners of Siberia, as well as from India, Ceylon, Burma and Siam, gemstones have for centuries gone to Yekaterinburg where they have been cut and incorporated into the fabulous jewelry for which the Czars and the royal families of Europe were famous for. My wife grew up and received a university education in the Southern Urals of Russia, just a few hours away from the mountains of Siberia, where alexandrite, diamond, emerald, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, demantoid garnet, and many other rare and precious gemstones are produced. Though perhaps difficult to find in the USA, antique gemstones are commonly unmounted from old, broken settings – the gold reused – the gemstones recut and reset.
Before these gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in their original, antique, hand-finished state – most of them centuries old. We believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with modern cutting. Not everyone agrees – fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. But if you agree with us that the past is worth protecting, and that past lives and the produce of those lives still matters today, consider buying an antique, hand cut, natural gemstone rather than one of the mass-produced machine cut (often synthetic or “lab produced”) gemstones which dominate the market today.
Our interest in the fabulous history of Russian gemstones and the fabulous jewelry of the Czar’s led to further education and contacts in India, Ceylon, and Siam, other ancient centers of gemstone production and finishing.
We have a number of “helpers” (family members, friends, and colleagues) in Russia and in India who act as eyes and ears for us year-round, and in reciprocity we donate a portion of our revenues to support educational institutions in Russia and India. Occasionally while in Russia, India, Siam, and Ceylon we will also find such good buys on unique contemporary gemstones and jewelry that we will purchase a few pieces to offer to our customers here in America. These are always offered clearly labeled as contemporary, and not antiques – just to avoid confusion. We can set most any antique gemstone you purchase from us in your choice of styles and metals ranging from rings to pendants to earrings and bracelets; in sterling silver, 14kt solid gold, and 14kt gold fill. When you purchase from us, you can count on quick shipping and careful, secure packaging.
We would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from us. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."
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