Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Jewish Wedding Ring

Central or Eastern Europe (Hungary?), 19th century

Gold

  • 17.200 €
  • £15,400
  • $20,000
  • Jewish Wedding Ring

    Central or Eastern Europe (Hungary?), 19th century
    Gold
    Weight 19.2 gr.; circumference 72.5 mm.; US size 15; UK size Z+3

    The Jewish custom of giving a wedding ring seems to have been known as early as the seventh and eighth century in Babylonia and then spread to other parts of the Diaspora. Possibly to date the first mention of a ring being given during a Jewish wedding ceremony, rather than as a symbol of betrothal, goes back to Rabbi Jakob hal Lewi Mölln in the Rhineland, about 1400 and is mentioned in the Maharil (Par. 5). The earliest surviving examples of Jewish wedding rings were found in the Colmar and Erfurt Treasures dating to the first half of the fourteenth century and during this period illustrations of the ceremony begin to appear in manuscripts. According to the rituals such rings were not allowed to include gemstones, color is introduced in some elaborate examples through the use of enamel. Most Jewish wedding rings bear an inscription with good luck wishes “Mazal Tov” in Hebrew and this would suggest an Ashkenazim tradition and origin in Western or Eastern Europe. Some rings are surmounted by an architectural bezel which alludes to the Torah’s vision of the house symbolizing the wedded couple’s future life and home. Due to the continuous exodus of the Jews through history the attributions of where a ring is made remains complicated, especially as some designs are influenced by the goldsmiths of the regions they settled in. The filigree decoration of the above ring is typical of the work of Transylvanian goldsmiths, some examples include enamel. Here the person for whom the ring was made preferred a plainer version.    

    Description:

    A wide and ornate gold band with filigree domes, along the edges complex twisted wires and in between globules framed by corded wire to appear like flowers. On top a hinged gabled roof with tiles indicated by corded wires forms the bezel. When opened it reveals a thin sheet metal plaque with the engraved Hebrew inscription mazel tov, this in turn can be flipped and the compartment may have contained a paper with prayer.

    Provenance:

    Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection, United States

    Published in:

    The Collector’s Room: Selections from the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection, Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, 1993, no. 27.

    Literature:

    Examples for this ring type, often with colored enamel, are found in various museum collections. A similar ring exists in the Musée Cluny ­– Musée national du Moyen Âge, inv. no. CL20692. The design and dates for others can vary: British Museum, London (from the Waddesdon Bequest and Rothschild Collection, Tait 1986, no. 51 gives a detailed account of parallels and mentions the possible origin of such workmanship in Eastern Europe); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession no. 17.190.996, formerly Baron Albert von Oppenheim and Pierpont Morgan); Alice and Louis Koch Collection (Chadour, vol. II, nos. 1076 – 1078 with full account of the possible Transylvanian origin of these rings).

    Reference number: 528

  • Band

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

    Filigree

    Ornamental work composed of fine grains or beads, or sometimes of wires soldered to a background but often left as openwork.

    Bezel

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

  • Later

    It is virtually impossible to do justice to the evolution of jewelry from the Baroque period (c. 1700) to Modern times in a short synopsis, but these are a few highlights. Many of the functional aspects of finger-rings continued: they served for betrothal and marriage, for signing and family identification, for memorial purposes, as well as for pure ornament. However, some new types of rings emerge during this period: such as puzzle rings, gimmick rings, perfume rings, and rings that celebrated scientific achievements (e.g., watch rings) are but a few of the examples.

    This time span witnesses the emergence of the “archaeological style,” of which the work of Fortunato Pio Castellani in the 1830s to 1860s is a particularly well-known example, one that fits in the Neo-Classical period. We see the flourishing of other styles related to artistic movements in painting, sculpture, and architecture. These include Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement, both beginning around the 1880s, and Art Deco in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. It also covers the emergence of some of the most famous twentieth-century houses of jewelry, such as Cartier, Charmet, Boucheron, Bulgari, Tiffany’s, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Mellerio, to mention only a few. Jewelry historians responsible for exhibitions in major museums have begun to trace the historical contributions and characterize the styles of jewelry, including rings, not only of these different artistic movements, but also of these great houses.

    Two other sometimes-overlapping categories of later jewelry are of significant import. The first category, “artist jewelry,” consists of jewelry by artists mostly known for their work in other media, such as Picasso, Calder, Dali, Robert Indiana, Louise Bourgeois, Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, and many others. The second category, “studio jewelry” includes work by modern and contemporary goldsmiths. Among those practicing today of special mention are Wendy Ramshaw and others belonging to the Goldsmith’s Company in London, dedicated to continuing the craft since it received its first royal charter in 1327. Others of different national origins include the Italian Giovanni Corvaja (handled by Adrian Sassoon in London), the American Joel Arthur Rosenthal or JAR of Paris (whose international exhibition was staged at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2013), Otto Jakob of Germany, and the newcomer Wallace Chan of China. The experienced viewer-collector, as well as the newcomer to the field, can begin to learn about modern jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with its dedicated jewelry gallery and specialized curator, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which houses the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, and the private collection of Alice and Louis Koch.

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Jewish Wedding Ring

Central or Eastern Europe (Hungary?), 19th century
Gold
Weight 19.2 gr.; circumference 72.5 mm.; US size 15; UK size Z+3

USD $20,000

The Jewish custom of giving a wedding ring seems to have been known as early as the seventh and eighth century in Babylonia and then spread to other parts of the Diaspora. Possibly to date the first mention of a ring being given during a Jewish wedding ceremony, rather than as a symbol of betrothal, goes back to Rabbi Jakob hal Lewi Mölln in the Rhineland, about 1400 and is mentioned in the Maharil (Par. 5). The earliest surviving examples of Jewish wedding rings were found in the Colmar and Erfurt Treasures dating to the first half of the fourteenth century and during this period illustrations of the ceremony begin to appear in manuscripts. According to the rituals such rings were not allowed to include gemstones, color is introduced in some elaborate examples through the use of enamel. Most Jewish wedding rings bear an inscription with good luck wishes “Mazal Tov” in Hebrew and this would suggest an Ashkenazim tradition and origin in Western or Eastern Europe. Some rings are surmounted by an architectural bezel which alludes to the Torah’s vision of the house symbolizing the wedded couple’s future life and home. Due to the continuous exodus of the Jews through history the attributions of where a ring is made remains complicated, especially as some designs are influenced by the goldsmiths of the regions they settled in. The filigree decoration of the above ring is typical of the work of Transylvanian goldsmiths, some examples include enamel. Here the person for whom the ring was made preferred a plainer version.    

Description:

A wide and ornate gold band with filigree domes, along the edges complex twisted wires and in between globules framed by corded wire to appear like flowers. On top a hinged gabled roof with tiles indicated by corded wires forms the bezel. When opened it reveals a thin sheet metal plaque with the engraved Hebrew inscription mazel tov, this in turn can be flipped and the compartment may have contained a paper with prayer.

Provenance:

Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection, United States

Published in:

The Collector’s Room: Selections from the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection, Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, 1993, no. 27.

Literature:

Examples for this ring type, often with colored enamel, are found in various museum collections. A similar ring exists in the Musée Cluny ­– Musée national du Moyen Âge, inv. no. CL20692. The design and dates for others can vary: British Museum, London (from the Waddesdon Bequest and Rothschild Collection, Tait 1986, no. 51 gives a detailed account of parallels and mentions the possible origin of such workmanship in Eastern Europe); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession no. 17.190.996, formerly Baron Albert von Oppenheim and Pierpont Morgan); Alice and Louis Koch Collection (Chadour, vol. II, nos. 1076 – 1078 with full account of the possible Transylvanian origin of these rings).

Reference number: 528

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