Empress Theodora and her Attendants, Artist Unknown, c. 550 A.D., Italy

Friday, November 11, 2011


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Fastening Pin:  Materials & Methods Used

As I am not a jeweler or an armory specialist, I enlisted the assistance of a master craftsman to aid me in my pursuit of Byzantine fashion.  We determined that bronze was a readily used medium throughout the Byzantine era. It was used for varied jewelry items and belt fastenings(Fig. 4) and therefore was a viable option when formalizing my buckle reconstruction.   Gold was metal that would have been used for those of high ranking and station.

Figure 5 Jeweled Bracelet (one of pair), Metropolitan Museum of Art NY, NY
This belt fastener’s base was created by dishing a 4 ½ inch diameter circle, cut from a sheet of bronze.  Holes were punched into the dish to allow for the wiring of decorative elements.  Shining, polishing, and critiquing of my skills were performed by the master craftsman, who allowed me to be his apprentice for a time.  The pin on the back of the disk was created by the Master Craftsman, as he did not think that my level of skill had reached the point needed to complete that portion of the pin.  Sadly, the back of extant pieces, are rarely shown.  We determined a “coiled” latched pin similar to that found on Norse brooches from the 9th – 11th centuries could be a likely method of fastening the closure.

Figure 6 Copper Wire lacing method
The ornamentation for the belt fastener was done by wiring fresh water pearls and garnets onto the disk (Fig. 5).  This was achieved by interlacing copper wire through the premeasured holes punched through the disk in a similar fashion to the Byzantine bracelet shown (Fig 6).  The differing technique with the bracelet shown is the wire put strung through the beads was fastened to prongs fabricated on its surface. The black stone (onyx), in the center of the pin, is set a sterling silver bezel cup that is riveted to the disc.  This was an attempt to portray the precious gems that were found in throughout the Byzantine era and as seen in Figures 3 and 5.


In the pursuit of historically accurate Byzantine fashion I have attempted to recreate a Royal Byzantine belt that was worn by women of state and the upper class of the Byzantine Empire.  The luxury in having an item that can only be found in mosaics, frescoes and effigies is I am left to create this item through my own artistic interpretation. The difficulty is developing a sound and valid theory of construction that could be possible.   Below please find some of my inspiration.

Figure 9 BYZANTINE INTARSIA 11TH Century  Saint Eudokia, Empress of Byzantium. From the church of Lips Monastery, now Fenasi Isa Mosque. End 10th-early 11th. Coloured stone inlay in marble. H:66 cm Inv.4309 T Archaeological Museum, Istanbul Turkey

Figure 8 BYZANTINE MOSAIC 6TH Saint Justine carrying a crown - symbol of martyrs. Mosaic; 6th century CE Sant’Apolinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy

Figure 7 BYZANTINE MURAL 5TH Portrait of baby Nonnosa. Palaeochristian (5th century) San Gennaro Catacombs, Naples Italy