Up to the modern age, coins throughout the Islamic world shared a certain identity. They were highly calligraphic, usually with religious inscriptions and details of rulers. Pictorial images have been avoided since early in the development of Islam, although exceptions do exist.
Initially, Islamic coins maintained the basic appearance of the Byzantine and Sasanian denominations already in circulation. Crosses on the Byzantine denarius were the first motif to be dispensed with. Portraiture, however, was maintained for a few decades. Under the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705), radical changes took place. Towards the end of the 7th century, he reformed the coinage and removed all images. From this point onwards, a distinctively Islamic look emerged. The focal point became the proclamation of faith and verses from the Qur’an.
Pre-Islamic seals go back a few millennia earlier. Throughout Islam, these were used for either personal or official purposes and frequently contain religious inscriptions. The most common materials are jade, agate, chalcedony and carnelian. Metal was also used extensively. Seal-like objects that are not carved in reverse were used as amulets. Seals, like coins, can be admired as intricate works of art in miniature whilst sometimes offering a glimpse into the past, especially when they have a date inscribed.
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