The Jewish custom of giving a wedding ring seems to have been known as early as the seventh and eighth century in Babylonia and then spread to other parts of the Diaspora. Possibly to date the first mention of a ring actually being given during a Jewish wedding ceremony, rather than as a symbol of betrothal, goes back to Rabbi Jakob hal Lewi Mölln in the Rhineland, about 1400 and is mentioned in the Maharil (Par. 5). The earliest surviving examples of Jewish wedding rings were found in the Colmar and Erfurt Treasures dating to the first half of the fourteenth century, and during this same period illustrations of the ceremony begin to appear in manuscripts. According to the rituals such rings were not allowed to include gemstones; color is introduced in some elaborate examples through the use of enamel. Most Jewish wedding rings bear an inscription with good luck wishes “Mazal Tov” in Hebrew. Surely they were ritual objects, special ceremonial pieces, not worn by the bride but instead returned to the community and passed down through generations. In one instance, the ring was transformed into a pendant for later wearing, a phenomenon also known from a painting.
November 2nd to November 12th
Shapero Rare Books, 32 St George St, London, W1S 2EA
Gallery Talk: Beatriz Chadour-Sampson “Jewish Wedding Rings” (Thursday November 3rd, 7PM)