Garnet Cloisonné on the Continent during the 7th and 8th Centuries

The usage of garnets on the continent changed markedly during the final decades of the 6th century. Objects with garnet inlay, which until then had been available to large parts of the population even in remote and rural regions, suddenly became scarce. The two general explanations are that cloisonné had either become unpopular, or that the trade links for the supply of raw material from Sri Lanka and India had been severely disrupted.

While  garnet continued to be used  during the 7th and 8th centuries, there is, however, a marked shift in the make-up of the group of users. Jewellery inlaid with several garnet plates is now confined to exceptionally rich graves. The finds from these graves are frequently of very high quality both in materials and technique, as for instance the earring from Gruibingen (Lkr. Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg, D). Additionally, garnet cloisonné  can be found adorning church treasure such as reliquaries, liturgical vessels or bishop's croziers. Investigations into the meaning of the inlaid stones and their colours are important when considering these objects as they feature a variety of stones other than garnets – written sources may give further insight into these questions.

A second group of objects, inlayed with single garnet platelets, is also part of this project. Of particular interest are the techniques used to cut and fix the stones, especially regarding the question of whether recycling was common. Another interesting aspect is the usage of alternative materials such as glass or even shards of Roman samian – again the choice of colours and patterns might provide insight on meaning. A comparison with medieval lapidary exegesis is planned.

In order to address these queries, it is first necessary to assemble all 7th- and 8th-century objects with garnet inlay. The analyses will concentrate on details of goldsmithing techniques and exact identification of the materials used.

This project is closely linked with the projects Garnet on the North-western Periphery of the Merovingian Empire during the 7th Century, Garnet Cloisonné in the Rhinelands II, and Scientific and Technical Analyses of Garnet Jewellery.