Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Gold and Sapphire Ring

France, 13th century

Gold, sapphire

  • 12.700 €
  • £11,300
  • $15,000
  • Gold and Sapphire Ring

    France, 13th century
    Gold, sapphire
    Weight 2.0 gr.; circumference 56.45 mm.; US size 7 3/4; UK size P 1/2

    In the Middle Ages rings with single gemstones set in gold or silver, were highly fashionable and worn by the wealthy. These would often have a personal meaning for the wearer and the beliefs and superstitions surrounding them were wide ranging. The protective qualities of the sapphire included chastity, the properties of detecting poison and being beneficial for ailments of the eyes, and last but not least for the heart and romantic love. In general, sapphires in medieval times were a privilege of the clergy and worn as a symbol of their divine powers. During the investiture of a bishop or high-ranking abbot a ring was given as a symbol of their marriage to the Church and as a sign of authority. The ring type remained popular into the fourteenth century and is found throughout Western Europe, in England, France, Germany and Denmark. The simplicity of the setting, often described as “pie-dish” because of its shape, enhanced the natural shape of the gemstone which was left with its flaws and simply polished.

    Description:
    Gold ring with D-section hoop, slightly wider towards the shoulders. Small rectangular panels on either end support the almost round-shaped bezel with conical base and flat underside. The sapphire en cabochon is set with a wide concave rim. The ring shows signs of age and is in good wearable condition 

    Provenance:
    Said to have been found in the nineteenth century in a field near the ruins of Ferrette Castle in the Upper Rhine Valley (Alsace). In 1271 the castle and town were sold to the Bishops of Basle.

    Literature:
    For similar rings of this type with varying shaped bezels and hoops, see examples in the British Museum (Oman 1974, plate 14, A & B); the Nationalmuseum Copenhagen (Lindahl, 2003, nos. 96-7), the Hanns-Ulrich Haedeke Collection (Haedeke 2000, no. 136); the Hashimoto Collection, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo (Scarisbrick 2004, no. 112); the Alice and Louis Koch Collection, in the Swiss National Museum, Zurich (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 566 with further examples). The sapphire with its dark blue hue may have come from the region of Riou Pezouillou, near Puy en Velay (Haute-Loire).

    Reference number: 891

  • Sapphire

    Precious gemstone (a type of corundum like the ruby), the sapphire ranges in color from blue to pink to yellow to green to white to purple (mauve sapphire) to pink-orange. Along with Sri Lanka, during the Middle Ages, Burma started selling its sapphire to 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

  • Band

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

    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.

  • 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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Gold and Sapphire Ring

France, 13th century
Gold, sapphire
Weight 2.0 gr.; circumference 56.45 mm.; US size 7 3/4; UK size P 1/2

USD $15,000

In the Middle Ages rings with single gemstones set in gold or silver, were highly fashionable and worn by the wealthy. These would often have a personal meaning for the wearer and the beliefs and superstitions surrounding them were wide ranging. The protective qualities of the sapphire included chastity, the properties of detecting poison and being beneficial for ailments of the eyes, and last but not least for the heart and romantic love. In general, sapphires in medieval times were a privilege of the clergy and worn as a symbol of their divine powers. During the investiture of a bishop or high-ranking abbot a ring was given as a symbol of their marriage to the Church and as a sign of authority. The ring type remained popular into the fourteenth century and is found throughout Western Europe, in England, France, Germany and Denmark. The simplicity of the setting, often described as “pie-dish” because of its shape, enhanced the natural shape of the gemstone which was left with its flaws and simply polished.

Description:
Gold ring with D-section hoop, slightly wider towards the shoulders. Small rectangular panels on either end support the almost round-shaped bezel with conical base and flat underside. The sapphire en cabochon is set with a wide concave rim. The ring shows signs of age and is in good wearable condition 

Provenance:
Said to have been found in the nineteenth century in a field near the ruins of Ferrette Castle in the Upper Rhine Valley (Alsace). In 1271 the castle and town were sold to the Bishops of Basle.

Literature:
For similar rings of this type with varying shaped bezels and hoops, see examples in the British Museum (Oman 1974, plate 14, A & B); the Nationalmuseum Copenhagen (Lindahl, 2003, nos. 96-7), the Hanns-Ulrich Haedeke Collection (Haedeke 2000, no. 136); the Hashimoto Collection, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo (Scarisbrick 2004, no. 112); the Alice and Louis Koch Collection, in the Swiss National Museum, Zurich (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 566 with further examples). The sapphire with its dark blue hue may have come from the region of Riou Pezouillou, near Puy en Velay (Haute-Loire).

Reference number: 891

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