Medieval Rings

les Enluminures

GIFTS OF THE PAST

Object of the Month

December 2016

The gift of a ring is special.  Not just dazzling adornments, rings have the power to communicate friendship and love.  More than any other form of art, rings speak.

Some rings do this quite directly with words.  A Posy Ring declares “I like my choice” in an intimate inscription inside its band, known only to its giver and wearer.  A Gimmel Fede Ring (“gimmel” for twin and “fede” for fidelity) promises a “gage d’amitie,” or a token of friendship, in an inscription revealed only when its three gold bands come apart.  This ring’s form lends tacit emphasis to its written vow, with a heart-shaped crowned ruby and diamond symbolizing love and with the two hands holding the stones signifying the joining together of two friends or lovers.  Other rings speak entirely without words.  The mysterious emerald on an elegant Renaissance Cusped Ring represents youth, and also stands for hope.  An intaglio of the goddess Fortuna, holding aloft her horn of plenty, surely brought luck to those whose fingers she graced.

In the medieval and Early Modern eras, the practice of gifting these eloquent objects was intimately bound with all sorts of notions of sociability and friendship.  Why not follow in the footsteps of our ancestors this holiday season and offer a ring as a gift that speaks from the heart?

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