Monday, March 23, 2009

Ottonian Jewelry

I'm making great progress with my novel, A Scarlet Mantle. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my work, A Scarlet Mantle is a novel about the life of Matilde of Ringleheim, Queen of Germany in the 10th century.

Although I have endeavored to follow fact, a certain amount of fiction is necessary to fill in the blanks. I often find myself researching jewelery and art of the Ottonian period to help me visualize items as I write scenes.

I recently discovered the below photographs of an Ottonian period brooch and ring circa 960 to 1000 A.D.) from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

The brooch is in the intaglio style, gold with pearls and a star sapphire. Little else is known about it.

I find the ring very fascinating. It is decadent and complexly made. An elliptical flower formed in gold cloisonne enamel sits at the center. In the center of the flower is a cruciform shape made of white enamel encircled by a greenish field with four crescent-shaped petals set in blue glass. Supporting the enamel is a circle of twisted wire inside and out. A flowing vine of twisted wire, a little worn with age, covers the underside of the bezel. Below the outer arcade are small rings to contain the strung pearls, unfortunately lost, within a slot. Supporting the bezel are two opposing felines. The ring is similar to one discovered in Mainz in 1880 in a collection of ceremonial and personal jewelry. It is believed this ring belonged to an Ottonian or Salian Empress around the year 1000 A.D.

This ring excites me because it could very well have belonged to Empress Adelaide, wife of Otto the Great. She died in the year 999 A.D.. If it didn't belong to her, it might have belonged to her daughter Emma, or her daughter-in-law Theophano.

When writing about the 10th century, finding items of that period are not that common and when I stumble accidently upon such an article in my research, well, let's say I get very, very excited.

Stay tuned. You just might see this ring show up one day when I begin writing Adelaide's story.

1 comment:

Anne Gilbert said...


The star sapphire is blue, but it doesn't look much like a star sapphire, whatever else it might look like. At least it doesn't to me. A number of the original pearls are missing, and it's kind of hard to tell that the rest of them are pearls. But since it was set in gold,it was probably pretty precious. Both pieces of jewelry are very pretty and interesting, though.
Anne G

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