Medieval Rings

les Enluminures


December 2017

To celebrate Hanukkah, Les Enluminures is pleased to announce a special offering of four exceptional animal rings by the famed Jewish artist, writer, and jeweler, Mosheh Oved (1885-1958).

Mosheh Oved’s extraordinary life begins in the small Jewish community of Oshentshin in Russian-occupied Poland. He left home aged eighteen, bribed a German emigration official with Dutch cheese and came to England, where he became a watchmaker’s apprentice in 1903. In 1908 he opened a small shop on New Oxford Street, London.  Within ten days he was penniless – his entire stock was robbed.  Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, he started again, and left for Jerusalem.  When Mosheh Oved returned to London in 1937, he opened Cameo Corner.  His successful store was described as the “mecca of lovers of antique jewelry from all over the world” visited by artists, writers, intellectuals, and celebrities.  Despite the onset of the Second World War, Cameo Corner expanded and in 1938 moved to Museum Street in London’s Bloomsbury area.

He created his first animal rings in the basement of his shop during the German Blitz of London.  During one of these raids his wife, Sah Oved (also a renowned jeweler), observed how Mosheh’s hands were trembling. While they took shelter in the basement, she gave him some modelling wax to steady his hands. Thus began the series of animal rings.

For nearly two decades, Mosheh Oved created many rings ranging from everyday animals such as lambs, goats, cows, buffalo, ducks, quail, and deer to the more exotic ones, elephant, hippopotamus, camel, and even an octopus. He made them in both silver and gold and adorned them often with little jewels like rubies and diamonds for the eyes. Occasionally, he added a Hebrew inscription to the underside of a ring.

A surviving archival photograph of the period shows the animal rings beautifully arranged, lined up rows, one after another.  Is this a festive circus parade of God’s creatures intended to bring joy to the wearer?  Are these meant to evoke the animals boarding Noah’s great ark, lined up two by two? Or are they different creatures trying to live harmoniously during tremulous times?  Perhaps all three meanings are true.

Admired as small free-standing sculptures, as well as rings, these beautiful animals are appreciated by both collectors and museums and have become increasingly rare on the market

Moshe Oved’s autobiography recounts the following touching event:  he made an animal ring shaped like a lamb from the metal of his own silver cuff links as a spontaneous act of giving in sympathy with a longtime client who had recently lost her son in WWII.  This anecdotal story reminds us of the power of giving and kindness. It is even more relevant during this holiday season. Les Enluminures hopes this group of animal rings and their maker inspire you. Happy Hanukkah!

  • Exhibition-Image