"A wilderness of building, sinking far And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth, Far sinking into splendour without end! Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold, With alabaster domes and silver spires, And blazing terrace upon terrace, high Uplifted."
In brief, just as the prelates of the Christian Church habitually precede the Christian laity in trampling underfoot the elemental doctrine of Our Lord, so were the most exalted and responsible of all the Mussulmans - that is, their sultans - indefatigably foremost in neglect of the Koranic law.
The Spanish sultans wore a ring of gold containing one large stone (such as an emerald, or ruby, or turquoise), on which was cut the royal seal and signature. Such was the ring belonging to Boabdil el Chico, worn by him on the very day of the surrender of his capital, and by his hand presented to a Spanish nobleman, the Count of Tendilla, governor-elect of the Alhambra. According to Rodriguez de Ardila, the following inscription was upon the stone: - "La Ala ile Ala, abahu Tabin. Aben Abi Abdald," meaning, "There is no God but God; this is the seal of Aben Abi Abdald." Ardila, who was the author of a history of the Counts of Tendilla (which still remains in manuscript), adds that he saw the ring, although, as Eguilaz observes, two words of the inscription are inaccurately rendered.
Among the Moors of Spain the use of signet rings was general. The stone employed was commonly cornelian, richly mounted and inscribed in various ways, as with the owner's name, his name together with a date, or the name of the town of which he was a native. In other instances we meet with pious phrases or quotations from the Koran; or perhaps a talismanic figure, such as the open eye to guard the wearer from the dreaded mal de ojo; or the open hand that still surmounts the gateway of the Tower of Justice at Granada.1
Undoubtedly, too, the Moorish sultans of this country owned enormous hoards of silver, gold, and precious stones. Al-Makkari says that the treasure of the Nasrite rulers of Granada included quantities of pearls, turquoises, and rubies; pearl necklets; earrings "surpassing those of Mary the Copt" (Mohammed's concubine); swords of the finest temper, embellished with pure gold; helmets with gilded borders, studded with emeralds, pearls, and rubies; and silvered and enamelled belts.
The Moorish women of this country, and in particular the Granadinas,1 were passionately fond of jewellery. Ornaments which once belonged to them are sometimes brought to light in Anda-lusia, Murcia, or Valencia, including pendants, rings, necklaces, and axorcas or bangles for the ankle or the wrist, and bracelets for the upper portion of the arm. The National Museum contains a small collection of these objects, dating from the time of the Moriscos, and including a handsome necklace terminating in a double chain, with ball and pyramid shaped ornaments about the centre, a square-headed finger-ring with four green stones and a garnet, and a hollow bracelet filled with a substance that appears to be mastic, similar to those which are reproduced in Plate XIII.
1 An article by Senor Saavedra on these inscribed jewels and signets of Mohammedan Spain will be found in the Museo Espanol de Antiguedades.
1 "As to the ornaments and jewels of the ladies of Granada, these wear at present necklaces of rich design, bracelets, rings (upon their ankles), and earrings of pure gold; together with quantities of silver and of precious stones upon their shoes. I say this of the middle class; for ladies of the aristocracy and of the older noble families display a vast variety of gems, such as rubies, chrysolites, emeralds, and pearls of great value. The ladies of Granada are commonly fair to look upon, shapely, of good stature, with long hair, teeth of a shining white, and perfumed breath, gracefully alert in their movements, and witty and agreeable in conversation. But unfortunately at this time their passion for painting themselves and for arraying themselves in every kind of jewellery and costly stuffs has reached a pitch that is no longer tolerable." - Al-Jattib, in The Splendour of the New Moon concerning the Nasrite Sultans of Granada.
These jewels, I repeat, are of Morisco workmanship, and therefore date from later than the independent empire of the Spanish Moors. Nevertheless, the geometrical or filigree design was common both to Moorish and Morisco art. As I observed in my description of the casket-reliquaries, we note continually the influence of these motives on the arts of Christian Spain. The Ordinances relative to the goldsmiths and the silversmiths of Granada, cried at various times between 1529 and 1538, whether "in the silversmiths' street of the Alcayceria, that has its opening over against the scriveners'"; or in "the street of the Puente del Carbon, before the gold-smiths' shops"; or "in the street of the Zacatin, where dwell the silversmiths," prove also that for many years after the Reconquest the character and nomenclature of this kind of work continued to be principally and traditionally Moorish.
Firstly, the Ordinances complain that the goldsmiths of Granada now employ a base and detrimental standard of the precious metals, especially in the bracelets or manillas of the women. The goldsmiths answer in their vindication that equally as poor a standard is employed at Seville, Cordova, and Toledo. These city laws herewith establish twenty carats as a minimum fineness for the gold employed in making ornaments. The makers, also, are ordered to impress their private stamp or seal on every article, or in default to pay a fine of ten thousand maravedis. A copy of each stamp or seal to be deposited in the city chest. The alamin or inspector of this trade to test and weigh all gold and silver work before it is exposed for sale.