A Vibrant History
Since the founding of the State of Israel, thousands of ancient coins have been discovered in archaeological digs from a range of time periods, giving us invaluable information about the history of the Jewish people in Israel.
At Baltinester we bring these coins to the public in the form of fine jewelry, combining the vibrant history behind the coins with an elegant jewel you can wear. We offer six varieties of coins from different periods in Jewish history, ranging in rarity and value.
Alexander the Great Coins 336-323 BCE
The greatest world conqueror who ever lived, Alexander the Great died at the young age of 32. During his short reign he managed to conquer the entire civilized world. There was one small area, of all the lands he conquered, which he allowed to remain autonomous. That small piece of land was Jerusalem. As the Talmud relates:
“The High Priest, Shimon HaTzaddik donned the priestly vestments and the nobles of the Jewish People were with him [and they went to greet Alexander the Great at the gates of Jerusalem]. When Alexander saw Shimon HaTzaddik, he descended from his chariot and bowed before him. His escorts said to him: ‘Should an important king such as you bow to this Jew?’ He said to them: ‘I do so because the image of this man’s face is victorious before me on my battlefields’, i.e., when I fight I see his image going before me as a sign of victory, and therefore I know that he has supreme sanctity.” (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 69a).
He was then taken to the Holy Temple, where the Jews prayed that he should be victorious in battle. He asked the Jews what they wanted and they requested to live freely with their own culture and religion. He granted them this and in return the Jews promised that every boy born that year would be named Alexander. (It is considered to be a Jewish name to this day).
The Alexander coins we sell were issued during his lifetime and feature the face of a man in profile on the obverse. Historians disagree whether this image is of Alexander himself or a depiction of the Greek Hercules. The reverse depicts the Greek god Zeus holding an eagle and a scepter.
Maccabean Coins 138-35 BCE
After the Chashmonaim (Hasmoneans) miraculously defeated the Syrian-Greeks (the story of Hanukkah), independent Jewish rule was once again restored to the province of Judea. The Hasmonean dynasty lasted for 103 peaceful years from 164 – 35 B.C.E.
In 138 B.C.E. the Seleucid King Antiochus VII Sidetes published a royal decree allowing the Hasmonean High Priest, Shimon HaMaccabi, the right to mint his own coinage. The coins issued yearly were inscribed with the name of the current Hasmonean High Priest, the final one being Matityahu.
The first Hasmonean coins minted feature a Seleucid anchor on the obverse with an eight-spoke wheel on the reverse and the inscription “Yehonatan HaMelech” (Yehonatan the King.)
Roman Procurator Coins 6-66 CE
After 103 years the Hasmonean dynasty eventually yielded to the rule of Herod the Great in the year 37 BCE. In 6 CE, Rome appointed Procurators to rule side-by-side with the Herodian kings.
A total of 19 different coins were issued by the Roman Procurators during their co-rule, all in one denomination and size—the bronze prutah. An interesting fact, the Procurators were sensitive to Jewish belief and refrained from depicting any human beings on their coins (in accordance with the commandment to not make graven images). The Roman Procurator coins all feature an ear of barley or a palm frond. They do, however, make clear that Judea was occupied by Imperial Rome with the inscription “of Caesar” in Greek letters.
King Herod Agrippa Coins 41-44 CE
The grandson of Herod the Great, Agrippa was king of Judea from 41 to 44 C.E. Unlike his grandfather, Agrippa was considered a mellow ruler who looked kindly upon his Jewish subjects.
The Talmud relates a story of King Agrippa regarding the mitzvah for a king to read the Torah to his people:
“How is the portion of the Torah that is read by the king recited at the assembly, when all the Jewish people would assemble?…The High priest gives [the Torah] to the king. And the king stands, and receives the Torah scroll, and reads from it while sitting. King Agrippa arose, and received the Torah scroll, and read from it while standing, and the Sages praised him for this. And when Agrippa arrived at the verse in the portion read by the king that states: ‘You may not appoint a foreigner over you [as king]’ (Deuteronomy 17:15), tears flowed from his eyes, because he was a descendant of the house of Herod and was not of Jewish origin. The entire nation said to him: ‘Fear not, Agrippa. You are our brother, you are our brother!'” (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 41a).
The coins issued by King Agrippa were sensitive to Jewish belief as well, and featured a fringed canopy with the inscription “King Agrippa” in Greek on the obverse while the reverse depicted three ears of barley with the year.
Masada Coins 66-73 CE
After the brief reign of King Agrippa I, things turned sour between the Jews and their Roman rulers. Due to the harsh and intolerant decrees issued by the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus, the Jews had no choice but to rebel. This rebellion, also called the Great Revolt or the Jewish-Roman War, was the beginning of a long and unsustainable relationship which ultimately ended in the Jewish Diaspora.
The Revolt began successfully with the Jewish Zealots capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Temple from the Romans in the year 66 CE. It was at this time that the Jewish leaders minted their own coinage to emphasize their newly obtained independence from Rome.
However, despite their valiant efforts, the Jews were eventually weakened and the final wall of Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 CE. After Vespasian suppressed the revolt in Galilee, and his son Titus destroyed the Second Holy Temple, Masada became the last outpost of the Jewish Zealots. It was here that the rebels chose mass suicide rather than submit to Roman capture.
This historically charged site is where archaeologists discovered a hoard of Jewish Revolt coinage in silver and bronze, giving them the title of Masada coins. The coins feature a two-handled vessel with the inscription “Jerusalem the Holy.”
Bar Kokhba Coins 132-135 CE
After the destruction of the Holy Temple relations were more strained than ever, with periodic eruptions of violence and conflict between the Jews and the Romans throughout the following years. The third and final revolt began after the erection of a temple to Jupiter over the Temple Mount and the ban against Jewish ritual circumcision. The revolt lasted three years and was led by a resilient Jewish fighter named Shimon Bar Kokhba.
Although they were eventually defeated, the Jewish fighters experienced miraculous small victories and managed to hold off their oppressors for an entire three years. During this time Bar Kokhba issued coins which were overstruck over the current Roman coinage. The coins featured a palm tree on the obverse with a cluster of grapes on the reverse together with inscriptions such as “Year one of the redemption of Jerusalem” and “For the freedom of Jerusalem.”
To wear one of these coins is to connect to the brave Jewish warriors who fought for Jewish religious freedom and independence.
The National Gemstone of Israel
Eilat stone gets its name from the southern Israeli city of Eilat where it was first discovered and mined. It is also known as the King Solomon stone because its mines are believed to have once been the copper mines of King Solomon in ancient Israel.
The rare blue-green color of the Eilat stone comes from the oxidation of copper, manganese and iron, which create the variety of designs and patterns visible within each stone. No two Eilat stones are exactly alike and can range from a light turquoise color to a deep teal.
Eilat stones are always cut as cabochons, a smooth convex shape with a high polish but no facets. This allows the vibrant, opaque color and pattern to be most visible in all its glory and luster.
While being both a beautiful and durable stone, the Eilat stone’s greatest distinction is the fact that it is only found here in Israel, the Holy Land.
What is Roman Glass?
Roman Glass is unmistakably recognized by the luminous colors that can be seen with the naked eye within the glass. Most common are endless shades of aqua, purples, blues, and pinks. This unique type of glass was first created in the first century CE, in the Roman Empire, when glass-making techniques were revolutionized by the introduction of glass blowing. The glass that was created had a bluish-aqua tint to it and was used mainly for bowls and vessels in all shapes and sizes.
The Formation of Different Colors in Roman Glass
Since glass is made from sand, and since sand is made up of organic matter, the mineral composites within the sand have an ongoing effect on the color of the glass. Tthe colors that can be seen in Roman Glass today are a result of the glass reacting with climatic and geological elements – heat, water, various minerals in the earth – for hundreds of years. All these elements came together and caused many chemical reactions that resulted in brilliant iridescent Roman glass.
Making Roman Glass Jewelry
For almost 2000 years, shards of Roman Glass – as well as whole vessels – have been buried underground waiting to be discovered. In the past 100 years or so, archaeologists excavating areas that were under Roman rule – particularly in Israel – have been coming across Roman glass relics. Intact vessels can be seen in museums around the world, but broken pieces are often transformed into jewelry, made mostly out of gold and silver.
Roman Glass techniques showcase the sheer genius and talents of our designers from Israel. It depicts the masterful control they have over design and art.
Our designers make Roman glass jewelry items with skill and confidence and pay great attention to ensure, that while concepts might be similar in several items, the final treatment and work makes each item different from the other.
We get our Roman glass only from reliable sources who ensure that we are getting genuine pieces. Genuine Roman glass is obtained from archaeological sites trying to uncover more hidden delights from the days of the mighty Roman empire that once ruled Israel.
An Ancient Art Form
While today filigree is an exotic niche of jewelry, it was once the standard craft of all jewelers and silversmiths. The art of filigree goes back to the ancient world, even as far back as the ancient Egyptian empire written about in the Torah.
Filigree comes from the Latin word filum, meaning thread. It’s formed by skillfully twisting very thin metal wires into intricate curves and patterns, along with small beaded details.
A Jewish Craft
A specific subset of filigree, Yemenite filigree has its own flavor and style. For centuries in Yemen, the only people who knew the silversmith trade were Jews. Jewish silversmiths perfected the art of filigree, and passed down the secrets of the craft from father to son. Some consider it a lost art, but there still remain a few Yemenite artists here in Israel who continue to create masterpieces of wrought precious metal.
All of our jewelry is handcrafted using precious metals. The gold jewelry on our site is either 14 or 18 karat, while the silver is exclusively 925 marked sterling. (A few silver pieces have gold detailing in 9 karat.) Both gold and silver are chemically classified as noble metals, which means that they resist corrosion and oxidation in humid air. So you can invest with confidence, knowing your fine jewelry will still be shiny and lustrous for generations to come.
What Makes Gold So Valuable?
Besides being one of the few noble metals, gold is especially suited for jewelry because of its soft malleability. Having a melting point of 1,064 °C, gold is durable while still being relatively easy to weld.
It’s also quite rare: it has been estimated that if all of the gold in the entire world were to be combined, it would only measure one 20-meter cube!
But gold has one other quality that make it stand out from amongst all the metals…it’s distinctive color! Gold is an incredibly beautiful metal that just screams to be worn. Whether you prefer the natural yellow of pure gold, modern white gold or vintage rose gold, this precious metal is always timeless and eternally valuable.
The Benefits of Silver
Silver is definitely not just an inexpensive alternative to gold. Silver has it’s own beauty, versatility and history which make it an exceptional choice for jewelry.
Extremely malleable and ductile, silver can be stretched thinner than a human hair. This makes it excellent for fine filigree work and ornate detailing. It is also prized for its beautiful luster – silver can be polished to a brighter sheen than any other metal.
Being one of the few noble metals, silver is very resistant to corrosion. It only tarnishes when coming in contact with sulphur, but luckily is easy to polish.
Another advantage of silver, which many people are unaware of, is its antibacterial properties. That’s right, silver can actually prevent bacterial illness and speed healing time!
An amazing metal full of surprises, silver more than earns its place in high-end jewelry.
In both our gold and silver jewelry we use an array of finishes and techniques, adding texture and variety to each piece.
Also called high-shine, this type of finish is smooth to the touch and has a mirror-like reflection.
While smooth like the polished finish, a satin finish has a softer, matte appearance.
Similar to the matte look of the satin finish, but with a textured feel. If you look closely, tiny brushed lines are visible.
Also called stardust, this type of finish has a deep texture like tiny grains of sand.
This finish gives the piece the appearance that it was hammered all over, creating a unique dimpled look.
A finish which gives the metal a multi-faceted reflective appearance, causing it to sparkle like a diamond.
This finish creates tiny crosshatches all over the surface of the metal, giving it a uniquely textured appearance.
Using a keen artistic eye, our designers select the ideal finish and technique to perfect the beauty of every item they create.
We offer a large variety of jewelry items with Hebrew and English inscriptions. Whether it be a meaningful verse on a wedding ring, a bracelet with your name on it, or words of protection on a Kabbalah pendant, the engraving technique used should be in harmony with the essence of the item. Below you’ll find a list of engraving techniques we use and the differences between them.
This technique is created using a special embossing tool which pushes the metal on the opposite side, creating raised letters on the surface. While embossing cannot obtain the level of detail possible with laser engraving, it has a beautiful style all its own.
The latest in technology, laser engraving gives you sharp, crisp letters and designs which feel smooth to the touch. This is a great choice for harder metals which are not easily engraved.
Most of our jewelry items are hand-engraved. This is achieved with a sharpened piece of steel, sometimes diamond-tipped, called a graver. This technique requires a high amount of skill and gives the piece an appealing rustic look.
Cutout letters in name necklaces and wedding rings is obtained using a high-tech cutting laser which cuts completely through the metal, either carving out the letters themselves or carving the spaces between them. This precise method makes it easy to create personalized works of art with a unique style.