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Ring

7th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Jewellery set with gold coins made an attractive statement of taste and prestige, both in the Roman empire and using older coins, in the early medieval world. Coins were pierced to be used as pendants, hung from necklaces or less frequently, set in rings. Pierced Byzantine coins have been found in graves in 7th century Hungary and in Ukranian graves at Maloe Perescepino whilst a mid-6th century female burial in Cologne cathedral, Germany contained a necklace with seven Roman gold solidi. Coin rings have been found in both male and female graves, most commonly in Germanic areas. Jewellery set with Roman and Byzantine coins may have been worn to show wealth and to emphasize the owner's 'Roman' identity. Images of the Emperor might also have had an amuletic or protective function.

This gold ring is set with a solidus, a coin stamped with a portrait of the Byzantine emperor Constans II. Constans was baptised Herakleios but reigned officially as the emperor Constantine. This was popularly shortened to Constans as he was only ten years old when he took the throne in 641 AD, jointly reigning with his uncle Heraclonas. His tyrannical behaviour made him unpopular and he was assassinated in 668. The hoop of the ring is engraved 'BARINOTA'. It has been suggested that this was the name of the notary Bari, but it may have had another meaning. An 8th century bronze ring excavated in Prestbury, Cheshire is set with a cast of a Lombardic coin of Romoald and the hoop is also inscribed 'BARINOTA.

This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Engraved gold set with a gold coin
Brief Description
Gold ring, the circular bezel set with a solidus of the Byzantine emperor Constans II (641-668); the hoop inscribed + BARINOTA., 7th century
Physical Description
Gold ring, the circular bezel set with a solidus of Constans II (641-668). The hoop inscribed + BARINOTA.
Dimensions
  • Height: 1.9cm
  • Width: 2.3cm
  • Depth: 2cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'+ BARINOTA.' (inscription on the hoop)
Object history
Ex Waterton Collection. The Archaeological Journal sugggested in 1859 that Bari was the name of an imperial notary in Byzantium. It was catalogued as 'A gold solidus of the Emperor Flavius Constantius IV, surnamed Pogonatus or Barbatus, A.D. 634-684. The coin is mounted as a ring; on the hoop it is inscribed in niello - + BARINOTA+, which is supposed to signify the name and calling of a person; i.e. Bari the Notary. The Notarii were in reality short-hand writers, famous even in the time of Cicero for their skill in rapidly taking notes of debates and orations. Many of the Roman authors allude to their dexterity. Thus MARTIAL in one of his Epigrams, declares that their hand was swifter than the words they took down. [...] That which at first was the office of slaves, afterwards of freedmen, became in time an occupation with nobles, and the Emperor Trajan was a proficient in short-hand writing. At length the title of Notarii was applied to the Private Secretaries of the Emperors, in which capacity Bari might stand to Constantius IV. "



See also 'An Anglo-Saxon gold finger ring', Philip Nelson, Antiquaries Journal, Vol XIX, April 1939, pp. 180-184 for other early medieval rings set with coins.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Jewellery set with gold coins made an attractive statement of taste and prestige, both in the Roman empire and using older coins, in the early medieval world. Coins were pierced to be used as pendants, hung from necklaces or less frequently, set in rings. Pierced Byzantine coins have been found in graves in 7th century Hungary and in Ukranian graves at Maloe Perescepino whilst a mid-6th century female burial in Cologne cathedral, Germany contained a necklace with seven Roman gold solidi. Coin rings have been found in both male and female graves, most commonly in Germanic areas. Jewellery set with Roman and Byzantine coins may have been worn to show wealth and to emphasize the owner's 'Roman' identity. Images of the Emperor might also have had an amuletic or protective function.



This gold ring is set with a solidus, a coin stamped with a portrait of the Byzantine emperor Constans II. Constans was baptised Herakleios but reigned officially as the emperor Constantine. This was popularly shortened to Constans as he was only ten years old when he took the throne in 641 AD, jointly reigning with his uncle Heraclonas. His tyrannical behaviour made him unpopular and he was assassinated in 668. The hoop of the ring is engraved 'BARINOTA'. It has been suggested that this was the name of the notary Bari, but it may have had another meaning. An 8th century bronze ring excavated in Prestbury, Cheshire is set with a cast of a Lombardic coin of Romoald and the hoop is also inscribed 'BARINOTA.



This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.
Bibliographic References
  • Bury, Shirley, Introduction to Rings, London, 1984, p.20, fig. 21 B
  • Oman, Charles, Catalogue of rings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1930, reprinted Ipswich, 1993, p. 61, cat. 215
  • Archaeological Journal, xvi, 1859, p.194
  • A catalogue of the antiquities and works of art exhibited at Ironmongers Hall in the month of May 1861, edited by George Russell French, London 1869, vol ii, p. 495
  • Late Antique and Byzatine Art, Victoria and Albert Museum (HMSO, 1963) p.17
  • Waterton, Edmund 'On niello', Archaeological Journal, vol XIX, London 1862, p. 325
  • Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982), 32/ G/19
  • Filmer-Sankey, William, On the function and status of prestige finger-rings in the early medieval Germanic world, ca. 450 - 700, D.Phil thesis, New College, Oxford, Michaelmas 1989
  • Waterton, Edmund 'On niello', Archaeological Journal, vol XIX, London 1862, p. 325
Collection
Accession Number
617-1871

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record createdAugust 1, 2006
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