Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Roman or Byzantine Ring with Double-Bezel Set with a Tourmaline and an Emerald

Roman Empire or Byzantium, 4th-5th century AD

Gold, tourmaline and emerald

  • 22.200 €
  • £19,900
  • $25,000
  • Roman or Byzantine Ring with Double-Bezel Set with a Tourmaline and an Emerald

    Roman Empire or Byzantium, 4th-5th century AD
    Gold, tourmaline and emerald
    Weight 7.8 gr.; circumference 61.64 mm.; US size 9 ¾; UK size T ½

    A polished pink tourmaline in cabochon in a closed box-setting is framed by openwork arches. On one side is a protruding stud with an emerald encased in a bowl-like setting surrounded by twisted and beaded wire. The D-section hoop is rounded on the exterior and fl at on the interior where it joins the shallow box-bezel. Ever experimental and driven by a taste for luxury, Roman jewelers often played with diff erent combinations of gemstones (and even paste). Red and green shown here was a favored mix, although an unusual one in a double-bezel ring. The tourmaline used here was admired for its intense reddish color. Emeralds were a favored choice of Roman ladies of society, and many double-bezel rings are fashioned out of emeralds as the principal stone, most often accompanied by a pearl.

    Reference number: 901

  • 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.

    Tourmaline

    Tourmaline is a crystalline boron silicate mineral. Classified as a semi-precious stone, the gemstone comes in a wide variety of exciting colors. In fact, tourmaline has one of the widest color ranges of any gem species, occurring in various shades of virtually every hue. The name comes from the Sinhalese word "Turmali" or "Thoramalli," which applied to different gemstones found in Sri Lanka. Brightly colored Sri Lankan gem tourmalines were brought to Europe in great quantities by the Dutch East India Company to satisfy a demand for curiosities and gems. Tourmaline was sometimes called the "Ceylonese Magnet" because it could attract and then repel hot ashes due to its pyroelectric properties.

    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.

    Box setting

    A box-shaped bezel setting either in the form of a quadrangle or rectangle with a closed underside.

    Hoop

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

  • 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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Roman or Byzantine Ring with Double-Bezel Set with a Tourmaline and an Emerald

Roman Empire or Byzantium, 4th-5th century AD
Gold, tourmaline and emerald
Weight 7.8 gr.; circumference 61.64 mm.; US size 9 ¾; UK size T ½

USD $25,000

A polished pink tourmaline in cabochon in a closed box-setting is framed by openwork arches. On one side is a protruding stud with an emerald encased in a bowl-like setting surrounded by twisted and beaded wire. The D-section hoop is rounded on the exterior and fl at on the interior where it joins the shallow box-bezel. Ever experimental and driven by a taste for luxury, Roman jewelers often played with diff erent combinations of gemstones (and even paste). Red and green shown here was a favored mix, although an unusual one in a double-bezel ring. The tourmaline used here was admired for its intense reddish color. Emeralds were a favored choice of Roman ladies of society, and many double-bezel rings are fashioned out of emeralds as the principal stone, most often accompanied by a pearl.

Reference number: 901

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