The Medieval period, known as the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages, lasted from the failure of the Roman Empire until the beginning of the Renaissance Movement. This thousand-year period was considered as the transitional period between medieval times and the modern world.
At the beginning of the medieval time, most fine jewelry was restricted to the royal family, clergy aristocracy, and nobility.
Jewelry became a symbol of position, status, wealth, and wearing them was inappropriate and the ones who did it were subject to punishment. Indeed, puritan laws were enacted in order to recognize the value of jewels as rating symbols.
While the upper classes wore jewelry solid gold and gemstones, common people wore jewelry made of bronze and base metals. Even rich people who could pay to wear diamonds and gold jewelry were forbidden to do so.
Rings, bracelets, and pendants were considered monetary systems or collateral as well. The value of precious stones fluctuated over time, but the bigger the stone, the more precious it was. As designs changed and pieces changed hands, jewelry designs were reflecting the current fashion of the new owner. Furthermore, medieval rings were showing class ranking, and some were thought to have protective roles and magical writings.
Medieval Jewelry Characteristics
While the models of Medieval jewelry varied, there were some characteristics that linked these pieces together.
- The most common metals used in medieval jewelry were silver and gold.
- Most of the jewelry at the time featured cabochon stones.
- Medieval jewelry chased the architectural language and gothic art.
- Soldering, casting, and enameling were used to create jewelry.
- Religious significance was reflected in medieval jewelry.
Medieval Jewelry Styles
We’ve looked at the qualities of Medieval jewelry, but what did people wear at the time?
Necklaces from the Middle Ages
Necklaces began as samples of ribbon decorated with precious stones in the Middle Ages, but quickly evolved into metal chains. Bead strings made of pearls or rock crystals were worn everywhere. The Vikings favored silver jewelry with geometric shapes, nature-inspired themes, and animal silhouettes. Torc necklaces, or neck rings made of warped silver wires, were popular in the ninth century as well.
Pendants were considered as a form of dedication, emotion, or superstition in the 14th century. Longer necklaces embellished with crosses, religious symbols and intricately designed intaglios.In some of the necklaces were also putted religious imagery in translucent enamel.
Geometric designs were used in the majority of Medieval necklaces. On both sides, large medallions were encrusted with various jewels, and many gave inscriptions of prayers that the wearer wished would help him gain entry into heaven. Engraving medallions with mythical beasts like dragons and gryphons was also popular.
Among all of nature’s treasures, no material was more prized by Medieval jewelers than the pearl. Strands of pearls were draped together to form intricate chokers and full collars fit for queens.
Pomanders evolved into segmented vessels that held a wide range of scents. Pomanders came in a variety of sizes and were worn as belts and chains around the waist, as necklace pendants, or as beads or even rosaries.
Brooches from the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, jewels were more practical than decorative, as they were used to fasten belts and style hats. To convey messages about the wearer, some hat pendants included initials, jackets of arms, mythical themes, and even short quotes in their designs.
They quickly became more extravagant in their use of jewels, incorporating nature-inspired designs, geometric patterns, and crosses. During the Carolingian and Viking periods, brooches were popular as a sign of hierarchy and wealth. Religious motives and depictions of the afterlife were featured in some Christian and Byzantine Imperial power medieval pendants.
Girdles and belts made of metal
During the Middle Ages, belts were made of leather or silk and accessorized with silver, gold, and jewels. Because it was adorned with gemstones, a woman’s belt was the perfect item to an outfit. Metal belts decorated with jewels removed leather belts in the 14th century.
Coronets were made to wear by members of the aristocratic class and nobility to show their social standing. They were less ornate and smaller than a traditional crown. The majority of them were made of silver and gold and were encrusted with precious stones. It’s a circular head heirloom that looks like a crown but doesn’t have convex arches.
Medieval Jewelry Today
Putting on medieval jewelry today is more about expressing an opinion or showcasing one’s personal style. There are, however, some lovely and reasonably fashionable Medieval-inspired jewelry styles that you can put on today.
Because many Medieval jewelry pieces were reworked and recycled into updated pieces, authentic Medieval jewelry is difficult to find. A piece of jewelry with a Medieval-inspired design is a good way to find one piece.
Amazon and Etsy are two great places to find a wide variety of Medieval jewelry styles. Examine the retailer’s after-sales policies and make sure they’re reputable, with a track record of delivering outstanding customer service and reviews.