During human history, so many magnificent jewelry pieces were invented, including necklaces, bracelets, chokers, finger rings, anklets, and so on. But one of the most charming and cute jewels are temple rings used in Slavic countries since the Bronze Age. Also, medieval temple rings from Kyivan Rus’ are among the best samples of gold, silver, and bronze jewelry of that period. They are so diverse and skillfully made that we still admire them and envy those women who were lucky to wear these jewels. Today, temple rings are totally edged out by earrings – sadly, modern Slavic women don’t use temple rings anymore.
What are temple rings and how were they used?
The temple rings are jewelry pieces worn only by women. They were attached to a special headband and placed at the temples – thus the name. This item was very popular among Slavic and Scandinavian people, but females of other nations wore them sometimes as well.
The most popular materials for temple rings were bronze, copper, and silver but gold and even iron was also used, though rarer. Skillful blacksmiths and jewelry makers produced a large variety of temple rings in different shapes, sizes, and designs. Actually, the most interesting thing about this jewelry is that temple rings differed a lot according to the region of origin. There were particular shapes and designs typical for certain territories or tribes. So, people could easily distinguish the origin of a woman by her temple rings.
Silver 3-beaded temple rings. Authentic jewelry from Kyivan Rus’
Women could wear one pair of these jewels or several pairs at once but they were always paired. Usually, females used a leather or woven headband (another traditional Slavic accessory, but it was typically worn by both men and women) around their head and attached temple rings to it. Also, they could be attached to strands of hair without special bands. Sometimes though, they were even worn as earrings, put through earlobes – but the temple ring hook is rather thick, much thicker than in modern earrings, so not just any hole in the earlobe can be wide enough. Another advantage of temple rings is that you don’t have to pierce your earlobes to wear them or worry about stretching your earlobe with heavy jewels.
3-beaded temple rings worn by a high-class woman from Kyivan Rus’. Modern replica
The earliest temple rings were used in the Bronze Age by people who lived on the territory of the Northern Black Sea Coast. They are often found by archaeologists. So, this jewelry item is one of the oldest existing.
Temple rings in Kyivan Rus’
The most beautiful, intricate, and perfect temple rings were made in the medieval period (the 8th-12th centuries) in Kyivan Rus’. There were many shapes of temple rings that originated from certain territories or tribes. We won’t go here into such details as to which were worn where, but let’s distinguish the most widespread shapes.
Different temple rings and picture that shows how they were worn
Large silver temple rings worn on long chain. Original pieces from Kyivan Rus’ period
Different designs of temple rings:
- simple hoops;
- n-ray (for example, with 5 or 7 rays);
- n-blade (usually, with 7 blades or a different number – most often, odd number – of blades);
Slavic women adored temple rings and wore them in daily life and as festive jewelry. Both peasant and noble females used them. Of course, the women of high origin could afford more expensive jewels – gold and silver, while ordinary women were content with simpler copper and bronze temple rings. Also, costly jewelry pieces were produced using more complicated techniques (filigree, granulation, etc). They could be adorned with enamel or blackening.
Here are several examples of medieval (Kyivan Rus’) temple rings. These are modern but very accurate replicas of authentic pieces. And they are exhibited in the Museum of Making of Ukrainian Nation, Kyiv, Ukraine.
Silver crescent-shaped temple rings of intricate design
Two pairs of 3-beaded temple rings made from silver. When a woman wore several pairs of jewelry, she attached them like this – one above the other
Three pairs of silver temple rings. As you can see, the set could be combined of temple rings of different shapes. Here, there are 3-beaded and crescent-shaped temple rings
Elaborate silver 5-ray temple ring shaped like a bird. Such detailed and intricate jewels were used only by high-status women