Medieval Rings

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Renaissance Gimmel Ring with Memento Mori

Germany, dated 1631

Gold, diamond and ruby

sold
  • Renaissance Gimmel Ring with Memento Mori

    Germany, dated 1631
    Gold, diamond and ruby
    Weight 13.75 gr; bezel 14.25 x 12.18 mm; circumference 55.7 mm; US size 7½; UK size O½

    This exceptional ring is called a “gimmel” from the Latin gemellus for “twin” referring to the double bezel and the double hoop, which open up to show the cavities with the names and date. The twinning of the two stones and the two hoops is a reference to two lovers, a man and a woman, side by side, and the Latin inscription is a paraphrase of the biblical text “What God has joined together let not man put asunder“ (Matt. 19:6, Mark 10:9), affirming the indissolubility of the marriage vows. The hands offering hearts at the shoulders of the ring provide further love symbolism as does the choice of stones, the ruby and the indestructible diamond representing, respectively, a warm heart and fidelity. The solemnity of the Renaissance marriage ceremony at which the couple promised to stay with each other until death is emphasized by the memento mori figures hidden inside the bezel. Since the ring was, owing to the rarity and value of the ruby and diamond and the excellence of the goldsmith’s work, made for a wealthy individual, a reminder of the vanity of worldly possessions would have been appropriate.

    Provenance: Baron Maurice Edmond Karl de Rothschild (May 19, 1881–September 4, 1957), Paris, then Chateau de Pregny, Switzerland (stolen during World War II, then restituted, record number R 2123, Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art).

    Reference number: 608

  • 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).

    Rubies

    Precious stones and a member of the corundum family, rubies range in color from the classic deep red to pink to purple to brown. Rubies are extremely hard; only diamonds are harder. Rubies were mined in Burma and sold through India in the Middle Ages to the Mediterranean.

    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.

    Bezel

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

    Shoulders

    Often articulated, the shoulders are the part of the ring between the hoop (or shank) and the bezel.

  • Renaissance & Baroque

    Considerable evidence exists concerning the making and wearing of rings in the Renaissance. Their appearance in painted portraits confirms that they continued to be worn on multiple fingers, suspended from chains and ribbons, sewn onto sleeves or hats, and so forth. When not worn they were sometimes stored on parchment rolls or in neatly compartmentalized boxes, known from documents and paintings. In the Renaissance, the medieval practice of using uncut stones was abandoned in favor of faceting; table-cut facets were among the earliest and most popular, but other cuts rapidly followed. Making rings that would show off best the qualities of the stone became a skill that exercised the virtuosity of cutters, chasers, engravers, enamellers, and goldsmiths sometimes in collaboration. The highly sculpturesque quality of most Renaissance and Baroque rings can be compared with the striving for greater veracity that characterizes the monumental arts of this period.

    By far the most common type of ring from the Renaissance was the boxed bezel set with faceted stones in highly ornate geometric bezels with intricate articulated shoulders, sometimes with protruding volutes, the whole richly enameled. Surviving drawings for rings by sixteenth-century goldsmith-designers Etienne Delaune, Pierre Woeiriot, and René Boyvin record variations on this type. Often reviving classical subjects and motifs, numerous cameos and intaglios also date from this era, produced under illustrious, often princely, patronage. By the sixteenth century the careers of famous gem-cutters can be reconstructed; they include Valerio Belli, Alessandro Cesati, Alessandro Masnago, and Francesco Torino. However, few Renaissance cameos and intaglios appear in their original mounts, because they were often made not as rings but rather as virtuoso carvings, kept in drawers in cabinets and taken out and admired by Renaissance princes.

    During Elizabethan and Tudor times in England, commonplace books (the earliest dated 1596) were used by goldsmiths and their customers to provide appropriate inscriptions for rings. References to posy rings (from “poésie” or poetry) abound in literature of the period; for example, in Shakespeare's Hamlet (III, ii, 162): “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring.” The discovery of the New World also wrought changes in the evolution of rings, as it did for painting, because new stones became available. The newly prized diamond, expensive then as now, was often imitated by the similarly favored rock crystal. Extensive surviving pictorial evidence is useful because it contributes to a more precise dating and localization of rings from this era.

     

Renaissance Gimmel Ring with Memento Mori

Germany, dated 1631
Gold, diamond and ruby
Weight 13.75 gr; bezel 14.25 x 12.18 mm; circumference 55.7 mm; US size 7½; UK size O½

This exceptional ring is called a “gimmel” from the Latin gemellus for “twin” referring to the double bezel and the double hoop, which open up to show the cavities with the names and date. The twinning of the two stones and the two hoops is a reference to two lovers, a man and a woman, side by side, and the Latin inscription is a paraphrase of the biblical text “What God has joined together let not man put asunder“ (Matt. 19:6, Mark 10:9), affirming the indissolubility of the marriage vows. The hands offering hearts at the shoulders of the ring provide further love symbolism as does the choice of stones, the ruby and the indestructible diamond representing, respectively, a warm heart and fidelity. The solemnity of the Renaissance marriage ceremony at which the couple promised to stay with each other until death is emphasized by the memento mori figures hidden inside the bezel. Since the ring was, owing to the rarity and value of the ruby and diamond and the excellence of the goldsmith’s work, made for a wealthy individual, a reminder of the vanity of worldly possessions would have been appropriate.

Provenance: Baron Maurice Edmond Karl de Rothschild (May 19, 1881–September 4, 1957), Paris, then Chateau de Pregny, Switzerland (stolen during World War II, then restituted, record number R 2123, Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art).

Reference number: 608

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).

Rubies

Precious stones and a member of the corundum family, rubies range in color from the classic deep red to pink to purple to brown. Rubies are extremely hard; only diamonds are harder. Rubies were mined in Burma and sold through India in the Middle Ages to the Mediterranean.

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.

Bezel

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

Shoulders

Often articulated, the shoulders are the part of the ring between the hoop (or shank) and the bezel.

Renaissance & Baroque

Considerable evidence exists concerning the making and wearing of rings in the Renaissance. Their appearance in painted portraits confirms that they continued to be worn on multiple fingers, suspended from chains and ribbons, sewn onto sleeves or hats, and so forth. When not worn they were sometimes stored on parchment rolls or in neatly compartmentalized boxes, known from documents and paintings. In the Renaissance, the medieval practice of using uncut stones was abandoned in favor of faceting; table-cut facets were among the earliest and most popular, but other cuts rapidly followed. Making rings that would show off best the qualities of the stone became a skill that exercised the virtuosity of cutters, chasers, engravers, enamellers, and goldsmiths sometimes in collaboration. The highly sculpturesque quality of most Renaissance and Baroque rings can be compared with the striving for greater veracity that characterizes the monumental arts of this period.

By far the most common type of ring from the Renaissance was the boxed bezel set with faceted stones in highly ornate geometric bezels with intricate articulated shoulders, sometimes with protruding volutes, the whole richly enameled. Surviving drawings for rings by sixteenth-century goldsmith-designers Etienne Delaune, Pierre Woeiriot, and René Boyvin record variations on this type. Often reviving classical subjects and motifs, numerous cameos and intaglios also date from this era, produced under illustrious, often princely, patronage. By the sixteenth century the careers of famous gem-cutters can be reconstructed; they include Valerio Belli, Alessandro Cesati, Alessandro Masnago, and Francesco Torino. However, few Renaissance cameos and intaglios appear in their original mounts, because they were often made not as rings but rather as virtuoso carvings, kept in drawers in cabinets and taken out and admired by Renaissance princes.

During Elizabethan and Tudor times in England, commonplace books (the earliest dated 1596) were used by goldsmiths and their customers to provide appropriate inscriptions for rings. References to posy rings (from “poésie” or poetry) abound in literature of the period; for example, in Shakespeare's Hamlet (III, ii, 162): “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring.” The discovery of the New World also wrought changes in the evolution of rings, as it did for painting, because new stones became available. The newly prized diamond, expensive then as now, was often imitated by the similarly favored rock crystal. Extensive surviving pictorial evidence is useful because it contributes to a more precise dating and localization of rings from this era.

 

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