Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Byzantine Gemstone Ring Set with an Emerald

Byzantium, early 6th century

Gold and Emerald

  • 12.200 €
  • £10,700
  • $14,000
  • Byzantine Gemstone Ring Set with an Emerald

    Byzantium, early 6th century
    Gold and Emerald
    Weight 7.9 g; circumference 50.58 mm.; size of bezel 13.2 x 11.1 mm.; US size 5 ½; UK size L

    The ring is made of two parts. Its hollow hoop, expanding toward the bezel, is concave on the interior and convex on the exterior. The bezel, made separately and pinned to the hoop, is fashioned out of a high, inverted square pyramid on a short plinth. It is set with a rectangular cabochon emerald of deep green color. This ring belongs with a group of similar rings, now widely dispersed in museums and private collections, that may come from a single workshop, probably in Constantinople.

    Reference number: 902

  • Emerald

    Hard, green precious stone , emeralds (and all forms of beryl) have large, perfect, six-sided crystals. Before the discovery of the new world, emeralds came mostly from Egypt; the finer emeralds come from the New World.

    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

  • Bezel

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

    Hoop

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

    Cabochon

    Precious or semi-precious stone that is merely polished without being cut into facets and was much used in the Middle Ages.

    Gemstone

    Gemstone (also called a precious stone) is a mineral that is valuable, rare and often beautiful.

  • Early Christian & Byzantine

    Information about rings in late Antiquity comes from Roman authors, such as Pliny, Martial, and Clement of Alexandria. In his Natural History Pliny states: “... many people do not allow any gems in a signet-ring, and seal with the gold itself; this was a fashion invented when Claudius Caesar was Emperor.” The Roman poet Martial remarked in the first century A.D. he had seen a middle-class citizen wearing no less than six rings on each finger; although under Septimus Severus (died 211 A.D.) a decree was issued allowing each soldier to wear a single gold ring. The Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, discouraged wearing any jewelry at all. However, they did permit Christians to wear one ring, either the seal of their family or the wedding ring; and rings bearing Christian symbols such as fish, birds, and inscriptions of religious character were deemed acceptable.

    The types of rings from this period include examples with nominative inscriptions or plain gold monograms for sealing, marriage and betrothal rings, devotional and religious rings, and decorative rings. Some marriage and fidelity rings are expressly related to the formal institution of marriage and its vows. The symbolic linking of the couple that is expressed in the dextrarum junctio, or the joining of hands, persisted from ceremonies from Roman times. One type of marriage ring thus displays two joined hands. Portraits of the bride and groom, sometimes with crowns over their heads (actually used in ceremonies) or a cross between them, also exist in rings. The man is typically portrayed on the left, in the position of greater importance. Such rings suggest that men and women shared an emotional bond and a practical partnership. Other strictly Byzantine examples depict the bride and groom flanking Christ to indicate that he officiates over the union of bride and groom, sealed by his cross. Typical inscriptions include OMONOIA (Concord) and XAPIC (Grace). In the seventh century, Isidore of Seville wrote: “The ring is given by the espouser to the espoused either as a sign of mutual fidelity ... therefore the ring is placed on the fourth finger because a certain vein, it is said, flows thence to the heart.”

    Other types of rings of the period include decorative rings with attractive gemstones, cameos, and intaglios, sometimes set in beautifully wrought bands made with pierced, twisted, and beaded gold. The excesses associated with the later Roman Empire find expression in two-, three-, and four-finger rings, many made in Alexandria, and in the proliferation of baby rings perhaps not only intended for infants and small children but also meant to adorn statuary as votive offerings. In the Byzantine East, devotional rings like small icons depict frontal standing figures of saints, God the Father, or the Virgin Mary. The love of bright, gleaming colors, so evident in Byzantine mosaics, metalwork, and manuscript illumination, has its counterpart in richly enameled rings.

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Byzantine Gemstone Ring Set with an Emerald

Byzantium, early 6th century
Gold and Emerald
Weight 7.9 g; circumference 50.58 mm.; size of bezel 13.2 x 11.1 mm.; US size 5 ½; UK size L

USD $14,000

The ring is made of two parts. Its hollow hoop, expanding toward the bezel, is concave on the interior and convex on the exterior. The bezel, made separately and pinned to the hoop, is fashioned out of a high, inverted square pyramid on a short plinth. It is set with a rectangular cabochon emerald of deep green color. This ring belongs with a group of similar rings, now widely dispersed in museums and private collections, that may come from a single workshop, probably in Constantinople.

Reference number: 902

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