Medieval Rings

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MEDIEVAL INSCRIBED SAPPHIRE RING

Italy, late 14th century; sapphire with Islamic inscription, 10th century?

Gold and sapphire

sold
  • MEDIEVAL INSCRIBED SAPPHIRE RING

    Italy, late 14th century; sapphire with Islamic inscription, 10th century?
    Gold and sapphire
    Weight 23.5 gr; circumference 55.1 mm; US size 7¼; UK size O

    In medieval times a variety of properties were attributed to the sapphire. For example it stimulated purity in thought and actions and could help the wearer to bring about peaceful agreements. It also supposedly kept men chaste, hence its frequent use in rings worn by medieval bishops. This latter “virtue” raises the question as to the original wearer. The ring is of a large size and probably belonged to a man; indeed it could be worn on an average man’s thumb. A love gift from a woman to a man is probably the best explanation. The ring bears two inscriptions; the inscription in Lombardic letters reads, on the inside of the hoop, p[er] amor tue fato: e p[er] amor io te and on the outside back portotaken together means “For love you were made and for love I wear you.” The sapphire, bears a wheel-cut inscription in Kufic, the earliest form of written Arabic; employed between the seventh and eleventh centuries. The inscription gives a personal name, ‘Abd as-Salam ibn Ahmad, and an Egyptian origin in the tenth century has been suggested. The bezel is open at the back. This may have been intended to permit the supposed beneficial properties of the gem to reach the finger, although the stone is not deep enough to allow it to actually touch the skin.

    Provenance: Ralph Harari (1893–1969), London [a noted soldier, economist, and collector; see Boardman 1976; Boardman and Scarisbrick 1977, 71–72, no. 166 and pl. 166]; Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1985–2013.

    Reference number: 631

  • Sapphire

    Precious gemstone (a type of corundum like the ruby), the sapphire ranges in color from blue to pink to yellow to green to white to purple (mauve sapphire) to pink-orange. Along with Sri Lanka, during the Middle Ages, Burma started selling its sapphire to India.

    Birthstone

    January-Garnet: Safe travel and a speedy homecoming
    February-Amethyst: Power to overcome difficulties
    March-Jasper: Courage
    April-Diamond: Everlasting love
    May-Emerald: Love and fidelity
    June- Pearl: Purity, Celebrate a birth
    July- Ruby: Prosperity (if worn on the left hand); Everlasting love (if worn on the right)
    August-Peridot and Sardonyx: Strength and growth; Happiness in a relationship
    September-Sapphire: Sincerity and faithfulness
    October-Opal and Tourmaline: Confidence and hope
    November-Citrine and Yellow Topaz: Strength and friendship
    December-Turquoise: Protects against evil and ill health

  • Bezel

    The upper, protruding part of a finger ring (excluding the hoop and the shoulders) often set with a gemstone.

  • Early Medieval

    Early Medieval finger-rings, or rings from the so-called Migration era, occupy a class by themselves. Distinctly different from those prevalent in Antiquity, they are also of great rarity most likely because they are products of a chaotic period characterized by invasion not cultural fluorescence.

    Tribal cultures–the Goths, the Visigoths, the Lombards, the Franks, the Ostrogoths, the Huns, etc.–wore their wealth as they moved from place to place. The persistence of Roman techniques can be seen in the intricate filigree and granulation of their gold work; however as the importance of the stone grew, the prominence of the bezel increased so that the beautiful uncut stone projected high above the finger. Rings of the projecting bezel type are found among the Lombards, the Ostrogoths, and the Franks. Another type, the spiral ring (already a form favored by the Celts), adopted by the Anglo-Saxons recalls the interlace of contemporary illuminated manuscripts. There are braided, twisted, and coiled examples. A small group of Anglo-Saxon rings also preserve niello decoration on flat or articulated bezels depicting mythic beasts, spirals, and other motifs.

    In Gaul, the Merovingians preferred a flat bezel on which designs could be engraved, whether they be portraits of the owner such as appears on the famous ring of the king Childerich or complex, difficult-to-decipher monograms, or animals. From the same historical milieu comes the intricate and imposing architectural ring, sometimes adorned with a cabochon garnet at the top of the bezel. The latter recalls on a minute scale Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel at Aachen with its rotunda form, arched galleries circling the central space, and dome. New types of byzantinizing forms, such as cloisonné work, came with the political stability of the Carolingian and Ottonian empires, and it is worth remembering that Otto II married a Byzantine princess.

    Much of the evidence for the origins and the dating of Early Medieval Merovingian rings is archaeological. Rings decorated with shaved garnets, for example, come from sites that follow the route of the invasions of Attila the Hun (died 453) from Hungary to Gaul. Sometimes archaeological evidence suggests the gender of a wearer, as in the case of an architectural ring from the Guillou Collection buried in the tomb of a woman. Often, it provides important, independent means of dating, for hoards included dated coins, as well as other items made from precious metals.

MEDIEVAL INSCRIBED SAPPHIRE RING

Italy, late 14th century; sapphire with Islamic inscription, 10th century?
Gold and sapphire
Weight 23.5 gr; circumference 55.1 mm; US size 7¼; UK size O

In medieval times a variety of properties were attributed to the sapphire. For example it stimulated purity in thought and actions and could help the wearer to bring about peaceful agreements. It also supposedly kept men chaste, hence its frequent use in rings worn by medieval bishops. This latter “virtue” raises the question as to the original wearer. The ring is of a large size and probably belonged to a man; indeed it could be worn on an average man’s thumb. A love gift from a woman to a man is probably the best explanation. The ring bears two inscriptions; the inscription in Lombardic letters reads, on the inside of the hoop, p[er] amor tue fato: e p[er] amor io te and on the outside back portotaken together means “For love you were made and for love I wear you.” The sapphire, bears a wheel-cut inscription in Kufic, the earliest form of written Arabic; employed between the seventh and eleventh centuries. The inscription gives a personal name, ‘Abd as-Salam ibn Ahmad, and an Egyptian origin in the tenth century has been suggested. The bezel is open at the back. This may have been intended to permit the supposed beneficial properties of the gem to reach the finger, although the stone is not deep enough to allow it to actually touch the skin.

Provenance: Ralph Harari (1893–1969), London [a noted soldier, economist, and collector; see Boardman 1976; Boardman and Scarisbrick 1977, 71–72, no. 166 and pl. 166]; Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1985–2013.

Reference number: 631

Sapphire

Precious gemstone (a type of corundum like the ruby), the sapphire ranges in color from blue to pink to yellow to green to white to purple (mauve sapphire) to pink-orange. Along with Sri Lanka, during the Middle Ages, Burma started selling its sapphire to India.

Birthstone

January-Garnet: Safe travel and a speedy homecoming
February-Amethyst: Power to overcome difficulties
March-Jasper: Courage
April-Diamond: Everlasting love
May-Emerald: Love and fidelity
June- Pearl: Purity, Celebrate a birth
July- Ruby: Prosperity (if worn on the left hand); Everlasting love (if worn on the right)
August-Peridot and Sardonyx: Strength and growth; Happiness in a relationship
September-Sapphire: Sincerity and faithfulness
October-Opal and Tourmaline: Confidence and hope
November-Citrine and Yellow Topaz: Strength and friendship
December-Turquoise: Protects against evil and ill health

Bezel

The upper, protruding part of a finger ring (excluding the hoop and the shoulders) often set with a gemstone.

Early Medieval

Early Medieval finger-rings, or rings from the so-called Migration era, occupy a class by themselves. Distinctly different from those prevalent in Antiquity, they are also of great rarity most likely because they are products of a chaotic period characterized by invasion not cultural fluorescence.

Tribal cultures–the Goths, the Visigoths, the Lombards, the Franks, the Ostrogoths, the Huns, etc.–wore their wealth as they moved from place to place. The persistence of Roman techniques can be seen in the intricate filigree and granulation of their gold work; however as the importance of the stone grew, the prominence of the bezel increased so that the beautiful uncut stone projected high above the finger. Rings of the projecting bezel type are found among the Lombards, the Ostrogoths, and the Franks. Another type, the spiral ring (already a form favored by the Celts), adopted by the Anglo-Saxons recalls the interlace of contemporary illuminated manuscripts. There are braided, twisted, and coiled examples. A small group of Anglo-Saxon rings also preserve niello decoration on flat or articulated bezels depicting mythic beasts, spirals, and other motifs.

In Gaul, the Merovingians preferred a flat bezel on which designs could be engraved, whether they be portraits of the owner such as appears on the famous ring of the king Childerich or complex, difficult-to-decipher monograms, or animals. From the same historical milieu comes the intricate and imposing architectural ring, sometimes adorned with a cabochon garnet at the top of the bezel. The latter recalls on a minute scale Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel at Aachen with its rotunda form, arched galleries circling the central space, and dome. New types of byzantinizing forms, such as cloisonné work, came with the political stability of the Carolingian and Ottonian empires, and it is worth remembering that Otto II married a Byzantine princess.

Much of the evidence for the origins and the dating of Early Medieval Merovingian rings is archaeological. Rings decorated with shaved garnets, for example, come from sites that follow the route of the invasions of Attila the Hun (died 453) from Hungary to Gaul. Sometimes archaeological evidence suggests the gender of a wearer, as in the case of an architectural ring from the Guillou Collection buried in the tomb of a woman. Often, it provides important, independent means of dating, for hoards included dated coins, as well as other items made from precious metals.

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