Medieval Rings

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Posy Ring, “Not the value but my love”

England, late 17th - early 18th century

Gold, enamel

  • 5.100 €
  • £4,500
  • $6,000
  • Posy Ring, “Not the value but my love”

    England, late 17th - early 18th century
    Gold, enamel
    Weight 2.2 gr.; circumference 53.8 mm.; US size 6.75; UK size N 1/2

    Rings with love mottos and inscriptions were known as “posy rings,” a term that derives from the term poetry or poésie. They were well established by the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, and feature in the plays of William Shakespeare, such as in Hamlet (III, 2, 162) “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring” and in The Merchant of Venice.  In 1579 John Lyly writes in his book Euphues and England “.... Posies in your rings, which are always next to the finger, not to be seene of him that holdeth you by the hand, and yet knowne by you that weare them on your hands.” Here Lyly describes a characteristic of the later posy rings, which have their message discretely concealed within the hoop, not to be seen other than by the giver and recipient. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries posy rings enjoyed great popularity. These were customarily exchanged between friends, relatives and lovers, and at betrothals and wedding ceremonies.

    Description:
    The gold band with D-section is plain on the interior and engraved on the exterior with a frieze of flowers (roses?) entwined with foliage, originally enameled. Traces of pastel blue enamel have survived.  Inside the hoop is the engraved inscription in italic script “Not the value but my love.” The maker’s mark “JC” in a rectangular punch may be identified as either John Clements, John Cuthbert, or John Chadwell all three of the London Goldsmiths’ Company at the end of the seventeenth century (see references of rings in the British Museum). The ring shows traces of wear through age, especially in the wear of enamel. The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    Joan Evans records a variation of the motto (Evans 1931, p. 86) “not value but vertu.” The same maker’s mark can be found on a ring in the Museum of London (62.4/90) and on two in the British Museum, London (1961, 202.264 and 1961, 1202.355). For a history of posy rings with extensive list of posies, see Evans, 1931 and Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, London 1907. For further information, see Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978, and Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.

    Reference number: 798

  • Hoop

    Also called the shank, the rounded part of the ring that encircles the finger and connects to the bezel at the shoulders.

    Band

    A ring made from a thin, often flat, ribbon-like strip of material (usually metal). The band can be unadorned or decorated.

    Engraving

    Technique of cutting patterns into a surface with a sharp tool; an impression made from the cut surface shows the design of the incised lines in reverse (hence intaglio).

    Enamel

    Siliceous substance fusible upon metal, either transparent or opaque and with or without color, but it is usually employed to add decorative color to metal. Enamel can be applied in many different ways, including cloisonné , champlevé , and plique à jour .

    Posy

    From “poesie” for poetry, a posy ring is one with an inscription usually on the interior of the band and was especially popular in Elizabethan and Tudor England.

  • 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.

     

Posy Ring, “Not the value but my love”

England, late 17th - early 18th century
Gold, enamel
Weight 2.2 gr.; circumference 53.8 mm.; US size 6.75; UK size N 1/2

Rings with love mottos and inscriptions were known as “posy rings,” a term that derives from the term poetry or poésie. They were well established by the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, and feature in the plays of William Shakespeare, such as in Hamlet (III, 2, 162) “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring” and in The Merchant of Venice.  In 1579 John Lyly writes in his book Euphues and England “.... Posies in your rings, which are always next to the finger, not to be seene of him that holdeth you by the hand, and yet knowne by you that weare them on your hands.” Here Lyly describes a characteristic of the later posy rings, which have their message discretely concealed within the hoop, not to be seen other than by the giver and recipient. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries posy rings enjoyed great popularity. These were customarily exchanged between friends, relatives and lovers, and at betrothals and wedding ceremonies.

Description:
The gold band with D-section is plain on the interior and engraved on the exterior with a frieze of flowers (roses?) entwined with foliage, originally enameled. Traces of pastel blue enamel have survived.  Inside the hoop is the engraved inscription in italic script “Not the value but my love.” The maker’s mark “JC” in a rectangular punch may be identified as either John Clements, John Cuthbert, or John Chadwell all three of the London Goldsmiths’ Company at the end of the seventeenth century (see references of rings in the British Museum). The ring shows traces of wear through age, especially in the wear of enamel. The ring is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
Joan Evans records a variation of the motto (Evans 1931, p. 86) “not value but vertu.” The same maker’s mark can be found on a ring in the Museum of London (62.4/90) and on two in the British Museum, London (1961, 202.264 and 1961, 1202.355). For a history of posy rings with extensive list of posies, see Evans, 1931 and Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, London 1907. For further information, see Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978, and Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.

Reference number: 798

Hoop

Also called the shank, the rounded part of the ring that encircles the finger and connects to the bezel at the shoulders.

Band

A ring made from a thin, often flat, ribbon-like strip of material (usually metal). The band can be unadorned or decorated.

Engraving

Technique of cutting patterns into a surface with a sharp tool; an impression made from the cut surface shows the design of the incised lines in reverse (hence intaglio).

Enamel

Siliceous substance fusible upon metal, either transparent or opaque and with or without color, but it is usually employed to add decorative color to metal. Enamel can be applied in many different ways, including cloisonné , champlevé , and plique à jour .

Posy

From “poesie” for poetry, a posy ring is one with an inscription usually on the interior of the band and was especially popular in Elizabethan and Tudor England.

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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