Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Late Roman Band Set with Emeralds, Pearls, and Garnets

Roman Empire (Eastern Mediterranean), 4th-5th century AD

Gold, emeralds, pearls and garnets

  • 97.500 €
  • £87,600
  • $110,000
  • Late Roman Band Set with Emeralds, Pearls, and Garnets

    Roman Empire (Eastern Mediterranean), 4th-5th century AD
    Gold, emeralds, pearls and garnets
    Weight 12.4 gr.; circumference 56.45 mm.; US size 7 ¾; UK size P ½

    This highly complex gold ring is fashioned of a wide band of sheet metal with sixteen closed collet-set emerald cabochons in a double row, alternating with a central pearl on a stud, altogether seven. A sort of bezel is created by the placement of a larger oval emerald cabochon fl anked by two triangular-shaped sliced garnets. Rings of this multi-cell typology are well known from the late Roman period. Most are composed of a single band of cabochons, sometimes emeralds or garnets, but more often multi-colored gemstones and even paste. This band is unique, however. Not only does it mix double (instead of single) cells of emeralds with pearls (from the Persian Gulf or Southern India), but it also includes a single larger oval emerald, creating a focal point on the band.

    Reference number: 899

  • 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.

    Pearls

    Organic gems grown within oysters and a few other mollusks, pearls are formed when a foreign object (like a tiny stone) has made its way into the mollusk's shell. The mollusk secretes nacre , a lustrous substance that coats the intruding object. As thousands of layers of nacre coat the intruder, a pearl is formed. This process takes up to seven or eight years (an oyster's useful life span).

    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.

    Cabochon

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

    Gemstone

    Gemstone (also called a precious stone) is a mineral that is valuable, rare and often beautiful.

  • Ancient

    The term “ancient” can include everything from Egypt to Etruscan and Phoenician to Greece, literally thousands of years of history. Here we are concerned primarily with Hellenistic and Imperial Rome. The Hellenistic age extends from c. 325 B.C. until the inauguration of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C.; and Imperial Rome thereafter until the reign of Constantine from c. 306-327 and the Sack of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths led by Alaric.

    Both gold (from extensive new mining operations) and precious stones (from new trade routes) were plentiful during the Hellenist Age, and jewelry was highly prized as conveying social status. Multicolored gemstones were in frequent use, chalcedonies, cornelians, and above all garnets (from India). Seed pearls, emeralds, and amethysts also are found by the first and second centuries B.C. While Hellenistic jewelry much imitated Greek prototypes, some forms originate during this era, and they include the Heracles knot that remained popular through Roman times and the hinged ring.

    At first, Roman rings of the Imperial period were relatively simple, but by the first century the taste for luxury and displays of wealth was much noted by Roman writers. Martial and other critics of Roman society parodied the newly rich (see Spier 2012, p. 12). One of his epigrams ridicules the dandy Charinus, who wears six rings on each finger and never takes them off because he does not have a gem case (implying that he does not own them they are rented). In Petronius’s Satyricon, Fortunata the wife of a former slave is mocked for wearing at least “six and half pounds on her” during a banquet. These accounts speak to the wide availability of jewelry during this era. Among the new forms, the new pierced openwork in gold (opus interrasile) is worth noting. By the later Roman Empire, especially the third through fifth centuries, Roman jewelry becomes more sophisticated: among the forms that date from this time are double- and triple- bezel rings, as well as the pyramid setting.

    A certain amount of information survives concerning the making of jewelry in antiquity. Jewelry is almost always described by weight and if there are stones the weight without the stones is given. These weights are closely related to those of coinage, so customers may have supplied coins to itinerant or shop-based craftsmen. There were certainly guilds in Roman times. We also suspect that children worked as jewelers and engravers; there is a tombstone of a 19 year old gem engraver known. Archeological finds reveal that shops surrounding the marketplace belonged to retail traders dealing with the local market; there are transfer and rental agreements for jewelry shows (see Ogden 1982, p. 177). The shop of one jeweler was only 5 feet by 4 feet in size, much like artisan’s workshops throughout the medieval era. Certainly itinerant goldsmiths must also have existed.

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Late Roman Band Set with Emeralds, Pearls, and Garnets

Roman Empire (Eastern Mediterranean), 4th-5th century AD
Gold, emeralds, pearls and garnets
Weight 12.4 gr.; circumference 56.45 mm.; US size 7 ¾; UK size P ½

USD $110,000

This highly complex gold ring is fashioned of a wide band of sheet metal with sixteen closed collet-set emerald cabochons in a double row, alternating with a central pearl on a stud, altogether seven. A sort of bezel is created by the placement of a larger oval emerald cabochon fl anked by two triangular-shaped sliced garnets. Rings of this multi-cell typology are well known from the late Roman period. Most are composed of a single band of cabochons, sometimes emeralds or garnets, but more often multi-colored gemstones and even paste. This band is unique, however. Not only does it mix double (instead of single) cells of emeralds with pearls (from the Persian Gulf or Southern India), but it also includes a single larger oval emerald, creating a focal point on the band.

Reference number: 899

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