Medieval Rings

les Enluminures

Utere Felix

March 2017

This heavy, wide gold band in an octagonal shape and with openwork ornament spells out the Latin words UTERE FELIX or “Use this with [for] luck.” The decorative ivy leaves intricately chiseled out of the gold in our ring concealed a message of friendship and loyalty. Might this ring have been a betrothal or wedding ring? It is possible. The Romans introduced rings with clasped hands signifying marriage, with portraits of bride and groom, and with sayings evocative of love and remembrance in the married state. Certainly the ring bears witness to the trend that developed from the second century AD toward more expensive rings, ones that used greater weights of gold; and it shows that by the third and fourth century the techniques developed by goldsmiths became more ornate, especially evident in the technically sophisticated pierced openwork, described as “opus interrasile.” The present ring is one of the largest and heaviest to have survived in this openwork technique, and its old provenance makes it an exceptional example of its type.

  • Exhibition-Image