Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Garnet Cabochon Ring

England, 13th century

Gold, garnet

  • 7.000 €
  • £6,200
  • $8,500
  • Garnet Cabochon Ring

    England, 13th century
    Gold, garnet
    Weight 1.7 gr.; circumference 51.87 mm., US size 6, UK size M

    In the Middle Ages, rubies, sapphires, emeralds were considered to be precious and of great value. This is alto true for garnets, which were hugely popular. They were sourced from countries in the Middle and Far East and traded within Europe through ports such as Venice and Genoa. Rings with similar designs can be found all over Western Europe. It was a period of International styles and it is thus difficult to attribute the place of production, unless the provenance of a find links such rings to the possible place of production. During this period red gemstones were often mistakenly labeled as rubies, spinels, or garnets. Due to the color garnets were thought to have beneficial properties to strengthen the heart, this ring may have been worn for its medical properties or given as a token of love.                   

    Description:
    Delicate gold ring with almost round section slightly widened towards the hoop ends with disc-like support and attachment for the bezel. This is formed of a drop-shaped cabochon garnet in closed collet setting. The ring shows signs of age and is in good wearable condition.

    Provenance:
    This ring was found near Old Romney, Kent, England, in 2016.

    Literature:
    Related examples of such rings of the thirteenth century can be found in various collections: Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen (Lindahl 2003, no. 103); Bryggens Museum, Norway (Hammervold 1997, no. 76) and in Musée du Cluny from the Colmar Treasure (exh. cat. Treasures of the Black Death 2009, no. 22e). Cf. also British rings of the type in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. 639-1871) and Scarisbrick 2007, fig. 325; Scarisbrick 2003, no. 113. 

    Reference number: 861

  • Garnet

    Any of a group of semi-precious silicate stones that range in color from red to green (garnets occur in all colors but blue). The pyrope is the familiar deep red garnet. Garnets were plentiful in Europe, and vary significantly in quality; they were mined in Bohemia and elsewhere in the medieval era.

    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

  • Band

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

    Bezel

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

    Cabochon

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

    Hoop

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

  • Gothic

    With the rise of towns and the establishment of a money economy in western Europe, the fabrication of rings grew into an urban trade. In 1180, the Goldsmith's Company was founded in London, and in 1200, Jean de Garlande describes the craftsmen setting jewels into rings on the Grand Pont in Paris. Certain new types of rings evolved and were commercially made in large numbers for all levels of society. In France in 1283, then in London in 1337, 1363, and 1463, and elsewhere, sumptuary laws were passed forbidding townspeople from wearing precious stones, but it is unlikely these regulations were strictly observed.

    Medieval rings are typically set with uncut but polished stones (called cabochons) because the stone itself was considered God's creation, not to be altered artificially by man. For the same reason, there was a taboo about the mixing of colors in the workshops of painters and their assistants. Two types of rings abound in the Gothic era. The first is the stirrup ring, made in the shape of a horse's stirrup and nearly always set with a cabochon sapphire. Many of these have been discovered in the tombs of the bishops for whom they were made. The second is the tart mold ring, adorned with different precious stones in a box or circular setting the underside of which resembles a pie plate. Other types of rings also proliferate: for example, nominative rings with circular inscriptions used for sealing, black letter rings with amatory sayings on the bands, iconographic rings with standing figures of saints that served to protect the wearer, etc. Claw and box settings both occur in Gothic rings, but eventually the claw setting naturally evolves into the most popular late Gothic type of gemstone ring, the cusped ring, in which the collet consists of decorated lobes between the remnants of claws. It is this type of ring that continues into the early Renaissance and occurs in Gerard David's painting.

    An art history of medieval rings has yet to be written (see, however, Hindman et al., 2007), but a few preliminary observations can nevertheless be made. The streamlined form of the stirrup ring, arching upward to the bezel that forms an integral part of it, recalls the aesthetic of the unification of the wall in Gothic cathedrals with the ribs springing seamlessly to the arched vaults. Tart mould rings take inspiration from the architectonic forms of capitals and their bases. The ridged bezel of the iconographic ring adorned with standing saints in niello reiterates in miniature format the closed wings of a painted altarpiece, its figures painted in grisaille. Iconographic rings, as well as other devotional types of rings, find their parallels in the suffrages, or prayers of protection to special saints that accompany Books of Hours.

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Garnet Cabochon Ring

England, 13th century
Gold, garnet
Weight 1.7 gr.; circumference 51.87 mm., US size 6, UK size M

USD $8,500

In the Middle Ages, rubies, sapphires, emeralds were considered to be precious and of great value. This is alto true for garnets, which were hugely popular. They were sourced from countries in the Middle and Far East and traded within Europe through ports such as Venice and Genoa. Rings with similar designs can be found all over Western Europe. It was a period of International styles and it is thus difficult to attribute the place of production, unless the provenance of a find links such rings to the possible place of production. During this period red gemstones were often mistakenly labeled as rubies, spinels, or garnets. Due to the color garnets were thought to have beneficial properties to strengthen the heart, this ring may have been worn for its medical properties or given as a token of love.                   

Description:
Delicate gold ring with almost round section slightly widened towards the hoop ends with disc-like support and attachment for the bezel. This is formed of a drop-shaped cabochon garnet in closed collet setting. The ring shows signs of age and is in good wearable condition.

Provenance:
This ring was found near Old Romney, Kent, England, in 2016.

Literature:
Related examples of such rings of the thirteenth century can be found in various collections: Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen (Lindahl 2003, no. 103); Bryggens Museum, Norway (Hammervold 1997, no. 76) and in Musée du Cluny from the Colmar Treasure (exh. cat. Treasures of the Black Death 2009, no. 22e). Cf. also British rings of the type in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. 639-1871) and Scarisbrick 2007, fig. 325; Scarisbrick 2003, no. 113. 

Reference number: 861

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