Medieval Rings

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MEMENTO MORI RING WITH ENAMEL AND DIAMONDS

England, late 17th to early 18th century

Gold, diamond and enamel

sold
  • MEMENTO MORI RING WITH ENAMEL AND DIAMONDS

    England, late 17th to early 18th century
    Gold, diamond and enamel
    Weight 3.1 gr; circumference 55.1 mm; US size 7¼; UK size O

    During the seventeenth century, scarcely a year passed without a serious outbreak of fever, cholera, plague, small pox, or typhus. To support the Christian view of life as a preparation for a holy death, people liked to carry with them powerful reminders of mortality, especially the skull and crossed bones as occur here. In spite of their solemn religious purpose, such objects were not always penitential in character as this deluxe version of the memento mori type illustrates. Since the late seventeenth century is the age of diamond jewelry, the skull is flanked by table-cut diamonds at the shoulders, and there are rose-cut diamonds glittering in the eye sockets. The choice of thick white enamel suggests that the wearer was unmarried as rings enameled in black indicated a married person.

    Provenance: Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1985-2013.

    Reference number: 635

  • Diamond

    Precious, lustrous gemstones made of highly-compressed carbon, diamonds are one of the hardest materials known. Colors of diamonds range from colorless, yellow, orange, brown, to almost black. Rarer colors are red, blue, green, and purple; these colors (called fancies) are quite valuable. The largest-known gem-quality diamonds include the Cullinan (e. g., the Star of Africa, 530.20 carats), the Excelsior , the Great Mogul (an ancient Indian diamond which is said to have originally weighed 787.5 carats, but its location is unknown), the Darya-i-Nur , the Koh-i-Nur , and the Hope diamond (named for a purchaser, Henry Thomas Hope).

    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

  • Memento Mori

    (Latin: "Think of Death"). A term to describe objects incorporating emblems of mortality, skulls, cadavers, coffins, etc., designed to remind the viewer of the inevitability of death.

    Table-cut

    One of the earliest styles of gem cutting, based on the natural octahedron, one of the forms in which diamond crystals occur. The top of the octahedron is cut off to leave a flat surface with the pointed half of the octahedron below.

     

    Rosecut

    Cut for diamonds invented in the seventeenth century and continued until the eighteenth century. The rose cut has a flat base and triangular facets (usually 24). This cut has little wastage of stone, but is not nearly as reflective as the brilliant cut , which was invented later.

  • Later

    It is virtually impossible to do justice to the evolution of jewelry from the Baroque period (c. 1700) to Modern times in a short synopsis, but these are a few highlights. Many of the functional aspects of finger-rings continued: they served for betrothal and marriage, for signing and family identification, for memorial purposes, as well as for pure ornament. However, some new types of rings emerge during this period: such as puzzle rings, gimmick rings, perfume rings, and rings that celebrated scientific achievements (e.g., watch rings) are but a few of the examples.

    This time span witnesses the emergence of the “archaeological style,” of which the work of Fortunato Pio Castellani in the 1830s to 1860s is a particularly well-known example, one that fits in the Neo-Classical period. We see the flourishing of other styles related to artistic movements in painting, sculpture, and architecture. These include Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement, both beginning around the 1880s, and Art Deco in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. It also covers the emergence of some of the most famous twentieth-century houses of jewelry, such as Cartier, Charmet, Boucheron, Bulgari, Tiffany’s, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Mellerio, to mention only a few. Jewelry historians responsible for exhibitions in major museums have begun to trace the historical contributions and characterize the styles of jewelry, including rings, not only of these different artistic movements, but also of these great houses.

    Two other sometimes-overlapping categories of later jewelry are of significant import. The first category, “artist jewelry,” consists of jewelry by artists mostly known for their work in other media, such as Picasso, Calder, Dali, Robert Indiana, Louise Bourgeois, Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, and many others. The second category, “studio jewelry” includes work by modern and contemporary goldsmiths. Among those practicing today of special mention are Wendy Ramshaw and others belonging to the Goldsmith’s Company in London, dedicated to continuing the craft since it received its first royal charter in 1327. Others of different national origins include the Italian Giovanni Corvaja (handled by Adrian Sassoon in London), the American Joel Arthur Rosenthal or JAR of Paris (whose international exhibition was staged at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2013), Otto Jakob of Germany, and the newcomer Wallace Chan of China. The experienced viewer-collector, as well as the newcomer to the field, can begin to learn about modern jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with its dedicated jewelry gallery and specialized curator, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which houses the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, and the private collection of Alice and Louis Koch.

MEMENTO MORI RING WITH ENAMEL AND DIAMONDS

England, late 17th to early 18th century
Gold, diamond and enamel
Weight 3.1 gr; circumference 55.1 mm; US size 7¼; UK size O

During the seventeenth century, scarcely a year passed without a serious outbreak of fever, cholera, plague, small pox, or typhus. To support the Christian view of life as a preparation for a holy death, people liked to carry with them powerful reminders of mortality, especially the skull and crossed bones as occur here. In spite of their solemn religious purpose, such objects were not always penitential in character as this deluxe version of the memento mori type illustrates. Since the late seventeenth century is the age of diamond jewelry, the skull is flanked by table-cut diamonds at the shoulders, and there are rose-cut diamonds glittering in the eye sockets. The choice of thick white enamel suggests that the wearer was unmarried as rings enameled in black indicated a married person.

Provenance: Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1985-2013.

Reference number: 635

Diamond

Precious, lustrous gemstones made of highly-compressed carbon, diamonds are one of the hardest materials known. Colors of diamonds range from colorless, yellow, orange, brown, to almost black. Rarer colors are red, blue, green, and purple; these colors (called fancies) are quite valuable. The largest-known gem-quality diamonds include the Cullinan (e. g., the Star of Africa, 530.20 carats), the Excelsior , the Great Mogul (an ancient Indian diamond which is said to have originally weighed 787.5 carats, but its location is unknown), the Darya-i-Nur , the Koh-i-Nur , and the Hope diamond (named for a purchaser, Henry Thomas Hope).

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

Memento Mori

(Latin: "Think of Death"). A term to describe objects incorporating emblems of mortality, skulls, cadavers, coffins, etc., designed to remind the viewer of the inevitability of death.

Table-cut

One of the earliest styles of gem cutting, based on the natural octahedron, one of the forms in which diamond crystals occur. The top of the octahedron is cut off to leave a flat surface with the pointed half of the octahedron below.

 

Rosecut

Cut for diamonds invented in the seventeenth century and continued until the eighteenth century. The rose cut has a flat base and triangular facets (usually 24). This cut has little wastage of stone, but is not nearly as reflective as the brilliant cut , which was invented later.

Later

It is virtually impossible to do justice to the evolution of jewelry from the Baroque period (c. 1700) to Modern times in a short synopsis, but these are a few highlights. Many of the functional aspects of finger-rings continued: they served for betrothal and marriage, for signing and family identification, for memorial purposes, as well as for pure ornament. However, some new types of rings emerge during this period: such as puzzle rings, gimmick rings, perfume rings, and rings that celebrated scientific achievements (e.g., watch rings) are but a few of the examples.

This time span witnesses the emergence of the “archaeological style,” of which the work of Fortunato Pio Castellani in the 1830s to 1860s is a particularly well-known example, one that fits in the Neo-Classical period. We see the flourishing of other styles related to artistic movements in painting, sculpture, and architecture. These include Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement, both beginning around the 1880s, and Art Deco in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. It also covers the emergence of some of the most famous twentieth-century houses of jewelry, such as Cartier, Charmet, Boucheron, Bulgari, Tiffany’s, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Mellerio, to mention only a few. Jewelry historians responsible for exhibitions in major museums have begun to trace the historical contributions and characterize the styles of jewelry, including rings, not only of these different artistic movements, but also of these great houses.

Two other sometimes-overlapping categories of later jewelry are of significant import. The first category, “artist jewelry,” consists of jewelry by artists mostly known for their work in other media, such as Picasso, Calder, Dali, Robert Indiana, Louise Bourgeois, Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, and many others. The second category, “studio jewelry” includes work by modern and contemporary goldsmiths. Among those practicing today of special mention are Wendy Ramshaw and others belonging to the Goldsmith’s Company in London, dedicated to continuing the craft since it received its first royal charter in 1327. Others of different national origins include the Italian Giovanni Corvaja (handled by Adrian Sassoon in London), the American Joel Arthur Rosenthal or JAR of Paris (whose international exhibition was staged at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2013), Otto Jakob of Germany, and the newcomer Wallace Chan of China. The experienced viewer-collector, as well as the newcomer to the field, can begin to learn about modern jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with its dedicated jewelry gallery and specialized curator, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which houses the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, and the private collection of Alice and Louis Koch.

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