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HOME : Byzantine Art : Byzantine Metalwork : Byzantine Bronze Jeweler's Weight
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Byzantine Bronze Jeweler's Weight - FZ.352
Origin: Jerusalem
Circa: 400 AD to 600 AD
Dimensions: 1.25" (3.2cm) high x 1.25" (3.2cm) wide
Collection: Byzantine
Medium: Bronze

Location: United States
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During the Byzantine era, weights and measures were under the strict control of a centralized administration. The weight system was based on the Byzantine litra, derived from the late Roman pound. This unit of measure was equal to the weight of seventy-two solidi, the standard gold coin of the Byzantine Empire introduced by Constantine the Great in 309 A.D. Three materials were traditionally employed in the manufacture of Byzantine commodity and currency weights: bronze, glass, and lead. Only in rare instances were gold or silver used. The three common shapes employed were: flattened spheres with truncated sides, squares and discs. It is believed that the square was the predominant shape from the 4th to the late 6th century AD.

The use of standardized weights was designed to ensure consistency and prevent corruption but this did not always work out in practice. Legal records reveal that certain tax collectors used heavier weights than those prescribed, and that shop vendors reduced their weight. In both cases profits would have been illegally increased. The earliest weights were struck like coins and usually featured the image of the reigning emperor- the majority of these seem to have been produced in Constantinople itself. By the sixth century there was a much wider variety in design and production centres had sprung up across the provinces.

In the jeweler's trade perfect balance is essential. The fine line between profit and loss depends upon accuracy and exact measurements. To achieve this a vast variety of instruments have been devised, including this ingenious bronze weight. To hold this weight is to feel its delicate heaviness that is very satisfying. It's size and lovely balance made it easy to carry around as a portable device of wonderful simplicity and absolute reliability. On the fourteen sides are engraved a complex series of slashes and dots that may be decoration, or have a mathematical significance. In either case the effect of this esoteric script heightens the beauty and adds a mystical element to the weighing of precious metals and gems. - (FZ.352)


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