Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Early Byzantine ring with Intaglio of Diana

Europe or Western Asia (Constantinople?), intaglio 2nd century, setting 5th century

Gold and carnelian

  • 8.500 €
  • £7,600
  • $10,000
  • Early Byzantine ring with Intaglio of Diana

    Europe or Western Asia (Constantinople?), intaglio 2nd century, setting 5th century
    Gold and carnelian
    Weight 5.2 gr .; circumference: 55.3 mm.; US size 7.5; UK size P

    This ring is one of a diverse group of early Byzantine or Late Antique rings unified by their distinctive bezels. In these bezels, a circle of gold granules surrounds a precious stone and surmounts a reeded, chalice-shaped base. While some rings of this type bear cameos, others hold plain cabochon stones or, in one known example, a pearl.  Hoops also vary, some composed of circles of thick gold wire akin the present example, and others twisted wire or cast gold octagons. Other, more complex examples are adorned all around the hoop with filigree and gold granules.

    The inclusion of an antique intaglio in the present ring alludes to shifts in taste and techniques in late antiquity. During the third century CE, the carving of cameos and intaglios fell out of fashion in favor of polished cabochons. Antique intaglios and cameos, however, remained highly prized among elite collectors throughout the Roman Empire. Thus goldsmiths in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages continued to utilize old carved gems in new compositions, often giving them pride of place in rings, brooches, and other artifacts of more recent taste.

    Description
    The face of this oval, chalice-shaped reeded bezel of this Byzantine ring rises is adorned with a circle of gold granules and a profile carnelian intaglio of a woman.  The quiver she wears over her shoulder supports her identification as the goddess Diana. The hoop is composed of a thick wire bent into a circle, the join visible where it is attached to the bezel with solder.

    Provenance
    The Ceres Collection, New York, a collection of cameos and intaglios formed from the 1930’s to 1990’s.

    Literature
    For comparisons, see the Alice and Louis Koch Collection (published in Chadour 1994, no. 483, 484, 485, 486), The Reserves de la Direction de L’Archeologie du Ministere de la Region Wallonne (published in Hadjadj 2008, no. 146.1).

    Reference number: 603

  • Carnelian

    Reddish form of chalcedony quartz, this translucent stone has a waxy luster. The best carnelian is from India.

    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

  • Intaglio

    Intaglio is a method of decoration in which a design is cut into the surface, the opposite of cameo. Signet rings are frequently decorated with intaglio, as are seals.

  • 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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Early Byzantine ring with Intaglio of Diana

Europe or Western Asia (Constantinople?), intaglio 2nd century, setting 5th century
Gold and carnelian
Weight 5.2 gr .; circumference: 55.3 mm.; US size 7.5; UK size P

USD $10,000

This ring is one of a diverse group of early Byzantine or Late Antique rings unified by their distinctive bezels. In these bezels, a circle of gold granules surrounds a precious stone and surmounts a reeded, chalice-shaped base. While some rings of this type bear cameos, others hold plain cabochon stones or, in one known example, a pearl.  Hoops also vary, some composed of circles of thick gold wire akin the present example, and others twisted wire or cast gold octagons. Other, more complex examples are adorned all around the hoop with filigree and gold granules.

The inclusion of an antique intaglio in the present ring alludes to shifts in taste and techniques in late antiquity. During the third century CE, the carving of cameos and intaglios fell out of fashion in favor of polished cabochons. Antique intaglios and cameos, however, remained highly prized among elite collectors throughout the Roman Empire. Thus goldsmiths in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages continued to utilize old carved gems in new compositions, often giving them pride of place in rings, brooches, and other artifacts of more recent taste.

Description
The face of this oval, chalice-shaped reeded bezel of this Byzantine ring rises is adorned with a circle of gold granules and a profile carnelian intaglio of a woman.  The quiver she wears over her shoulder supports her identification as the goddess Diana. The hoop is composed of a thick wire bent into a circle, the join visible where it is attached to the bezel with solder.

Provenance
The Ceres Collection, New York, a collection of cameos and intaglios formed from the 1930’s to 1990’s.

Literature
For comparisons, see the Alice and Louis Koch Collection (published in Chadour 1994, no. 483, 484, 485, 486), The Reserves de la Direction de L’Archeologie du Ministere de la Region Wallonne (published in Hadjadj 2008, no. 146.1).

Reference number: 603

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