The Story of Nika

The name of the collection is inspired by a pivotal moment in the life of Theodora (ca. 500 – 28 June 548), one of history’s most influential empresses. Despite her humble and colourful background, Theodora ascended to rule over the Byzantine Empire alongside her husband. She grew up on the outskirts of the empire, where her father worked as an animal trainer. After his early death, a young Theodora took to the stage as an actress to support her family.

During this era, the profession of acting was considered scandalous, with actresses often equated to prostitutes. Nevertheless, Theodora met Justinian I in 522, and they married in 525. The couple was celebrated for ruling as intellectual and political equals. Theodora was instrumental in the reformation of Byzantium, championing women’s rights and abolishing a law that previously permitted the execution of women for committing adultery

In 528, construction began on the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, which was intended to serve as an imperial church of the Byzantine Empire. The basilica’s mosaics depict both the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora participating in an imperial procession, highlighting her pivotal role and significance in ruling the empire. The Empress is portrayed holding the Eucharistic vessel for wine, surrounded by court officials. This mosaic, completed before her death in 548, symbolises her status as an equal partner in governance.

In 532, a conflict between two political and religious factions escalated into a revolt that devastated much of Constantinople. The insurgents aimed to dethrone Emperor Justinian, who was contemplating flight. During this critical moment, Theodora asserted her resolve, famously declaring her preference to die as a ruler rather than live in exile. She firmly told her husband, ‘We stay and “Nika!”’—a Greek word meaning ‘to win or conquer.’ Her unwavering courage inspired Justinian to remain and dispatch his troops to quell the uprising. Once peace was restored, Theodora and Justinian embarked on a monumental rebuilding of the city, which included aqueducts, bridges, and over twenty-five churches. Among these was the Hagia Sophia, rededicated in 537. Originally the largest church for many centuries, it remains one of the most iconic examples of Byzantine architecture.

The Hagia Sophia was rededicated in 537 and remained the largest church for many centuries. It has since become one of the most iconic examples of Byzantine architecture, renowned for its massive dome and the innovative engineering that has influenced architectural design for generations.

“At the beginning of the 20th century, a significant treasure of Byzantine coins and jewellery was unearthed near the city of Asyut in central Egypt. Dubbed the ‘Asyut Treasure,’ this collection was thought to be connected to the Byzantine court, as it included coins bearing the portrait of the Byzantine Emperor. The treasure is now preserved across several prestigious institutions: the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin, the British Museum in London, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

We believe that the exquisite gold open-work body-chain, undoubtedly fit for royalty, once adorned Empress Theodora herself. We have meticulously extracted a delicate detail from this regal jewel and paired the open-work gold medallion with disks of precious mother-of-pearl, infusing each piece with an aura of femininity. The soft, shimmering hues of the mother-of-pearl beautifully complement the rose gold. Our signature Nika medallions are double-sided, showcasing either the intricate, open-work design of the Byzantine detail or the smooth, lustrous face of the mother-of-pearl. We named this collection ‘Nika,’ in homage to the courageous Empress Theodora, inviting you to wear these pieces today as personal victory medallions.

The gold opus interrasile or open-work body-chain from the Asyut treasure, now preserved in the British Museum, stands as a testament to the exquisite craftsmanship of Constantinopolitan jewelers during the sixth and seventh centuries. This stunning piece exemplifies the high level of artistry and skill characteristic of the era’s finest artisans.

This 2nd-century terracotta figure vividly illustrates the typical fashion of wearing a body-chain, providing insight into the adornment practices of the era.

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