Are rings without borders? These two nearly-contemporary rings embody the cultural crosscurrents found in art from medieval Spain. Both are made with twisted-wire filigree and studded at the center with gemstones. Their differences, however, speak to a mingling of tastes and traditions. The ring with square bezel, eight bulbous globules, and sapphire cabochon is made from electrum and echoes earlier Visigothic and Byzantine rings. The ring with the six-pointed star, small seed pearls, and turquoise stone is made from gold, likely by Fatimid craftsmen who often traveled from North Africa to Spain as merchants. Jewelry with a similar range of materials and designs has been found jumbled together in hordes, like the one found in the city of Murcia in south-eastern Spain and hidden away since the time of the Umayyad caliphate (dating to c. 929-1010; this horde is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum). Some of the greatest treasures from medieval Spain show a similar mingling of Islamic, Jewish, and Latin cultures. Amid such exchanges, what does “Spanish” really mean for art from this period?
Following rings from the mine to the modern private collection, this catalogue of approximately fifty rings explores the roles rings played within social relations and considers how these roles transform rings into multifaceted, richly symbolic objects.