Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Masquerade Ring

Western Europe, Italy, c. 1760

Gold, diamonds, ruby, enamel

  • 21.200 €
  • £18,900
  • $25,000
  • Masquerade Ring

    Western Europe, Italy, c. 1760
    Gold, diamonds, ruby, enamel
    Weight 2.4 gr.; circumference 58.21 mm; US size 8.5; UK size Q ¾

    In eighteenth-century Europe masquerade balls were fashionable events. Venice with its long tradition of carnival festivities since the eleventh century was famous for its costumes and traditions. During the time of Giacomo Casanova (1725-98) carnival was revived and morals loosened, until Napoleon Bonaparte terminated the custom in 1797. Veils and black velvet masks offered the wearer the advantage of anonymity while engaging in flirtatious encounters. In the spirit of the time goldsmiths developed light-hearted designs for rings and earrings with the masked woman as a symbol of love. The secret message was hidden inside or under the bezel of the ring, only known to the wearer. Here the forget-me-not flowers underline the love motto. 

    Description:
    Gold ring with D-section hoop, on the exterior with acanthus ornament in relief and plain on the interior. The shoulders are forked and end in scrolls; riveted onto these are enameled forget-me-not flowers with tiny diamonds. The almost heart-shaped bezel consists of an open frame within which is set a pink enameled face wearing a black mask with diamond eyes and mouth. The underside of the head reveals in black paint over white the italic inscription “Je cache mes amours" (I hide [or mask] my love). The enamel shows some traces of wear. The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    Masquerade rings, like this one, were popular in Western Europe. Venice being famous for its carnival festivities, the rings were thought to come from Italy, but also France. English rings have faces made of Chelsea porcelain. For the type, cf. Scarisbrick 1993, p. 112; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 253 and 260, fig. 359. Further examples are in the Hashimoto Collection, Tokyo (Scarisbrick 2004, p. 112, no. 252). Almost identical in design and with the same inscription, cf. a ring in the Alice and Louis Koch Collection, in the Swiss National Museum, Zürich (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 852 and other examples 853-4 with further references). 

    Reference number: 844

  • Diamond

    Precious, lustrous gemstones made of highly-compressed carbon, diamonds are one of the hardest materials known. Colors of diamonds range from colorless, yellow, orange, brown, to almost black. Rarer colors are red, blue, green, and purple; these colors (called fancies) are quite valuable. The largest-known gem-quality diamonds include the Cullinan (e. g., the Star of Africa, 530.20 carats), the Excelsior , the Great Mogul (an ancient Indian diamond which is said to have originally weighed 787.5 carats, but its location is unknown), the Darya-i-Nur , the Koh-i-Nur , and the Hope diamond (named for a purchaser, Henry Thomas Hope).

    Rubies

    Precious stones and a member of the corundum family, rubies range in color from the classic deep red to pink to purple to brown. Rubies are extremely hard; only diamonds are harder. Rubies were mined in Burma and sold through India in the Middle Ages to the Mediterranean.

    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

  • Hoop

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

    Enamel

    Siliceous substance fusible upon metal, either transparent or opaque and with or without color, but it is usually employed to add decorative color to metal. Enamel can be applied in many different ways, including cloisonné , champlevé , and plique à jour .

    Bezel

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

    Band

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

  • Renaissance & Baroque

    Considerable evidence exists concerning the making and wearing of rings in the Renaissance. Their appearance in painted portraits confirms that they continued to be worn on multiple fingers, suspended from chains and ribbons, sewn onto sleeves or hats, and so forth. When not worn they were sometimes stored on parchment rolls or in neatly compartmentalized boxes, known from documents and paintings. In the Renaissance, the medieval practice of using uncut stones was abandoned in favor of faceting; table-cut facets were among the earliest and most popular, but other cuts rapidly followed. Making rings that would show off best the qualities of the stone became a skill that exercised the virtuosity of cutters, chasers, engravers, enamellers, and goldsmiths sometimes in collaboration. The highly sculpturesque quality of most Renaissance and Baroque rings can be compared with the striving for greater veracity that characterizes the monumental arts of this period.

    By far the most common type of ring from the Renaissance was the boxed bezel set with faceted stones in highly ornate geometric bezels with intricate articulated shoulders, sometimes with protruding volutes, the whole richly enameled. Surviving drawings for rings by sixteenth-century goldsmith-designers Etienne Delaune, Pierre Woeiriot, and René Boyvin record variations on this type. Often reviving classical subjects and motifs, numerous cameos and intaglios also date from this era, produced under illustrious, often princely, patronage. By the sixteenth century the careers of famous gem-cutters can be reconstructed; they include Valerio Belli, Alessandro Cesati, Alessandro Masnago, and Francesco Torino. However, few Renaissance cameos and intaglios appear in their original mounts, because they were often made not as rings but rather as virtuoso carvings, kept in drawers in cabinets and taken out and admired by Renaissance princes.

    During Elizabethan and Tudor times in England, commonplace books (the earliest dated 1596) were used by goldsmiths and their customers to provide appropriate inscriptions for rings. References to posy rings (from “poésie” or poetry) abound in literature of the period; for example, in Shakespeare's Hamlet (III, ii, 162): “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring.” The discovery of the New World also wrought changes in the evolution of rings, as it did for painting, because new stones became available. The newly prized diamond, expensive then as now, was often imitated by the similarly favored rock crystal. Extensive surviving pictorial evidence is useful because it contributes to a more precise dating and localization of rings from this era.

     

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Masquerade Ring

Western Europe, Italy, c. 1760
Gold, diamonds, ruby, enamel
Weight 2.4 gr.; circumference 58.21 mm; US size 8.5; UK size Q ¾

USD $25,000

In eighteenth-century Europe masquerade balls were fashionable events. Venice with its long tradition of carnival festivities since the eleventh century was famous for its costumes and traditions. During the time of Giacomo Casanova (1725-98) carnival was revived and morals loosened, until Napoleon Bonaparte terminated the custom in 1797. Veils and black velvet masks offered the wearer the advantage of anonymity while engaging in flirtatious encounters. In the spirit of the time goldsmiths developed light-hearted designs for rings and earrings with the masked woman as a symbol of love. The secret message was hidden inside or under the bezel of the ring, only known to the wearer. Here the forget-me-not flowers underline the love motto. 

Description:
Gold ring with D-section hoop, on the exterior with acanthus ornament in relief and plain on the interior. The shoulders are forked and end in scrolls; riveted onto these are enameled forget-me-not flowers with tiny diamonds. The almost heart-shaped bezel consists of an open frame within which is set a pink enameled face wearing a black mask with diamond eyes and mouth. The underside of the head reveals in black paint over white the italic inscription “Je cache mes amours" (I hide [or mask] my love). The enamel shows some traces of wear. The ring is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
Masquerade rings, like this one, were popular in Western Europe. Venice being famous for its carnival festivities, the rings were thought to come from Italy, but also France. English rings have faces made of Chelsea porcelain. For the type, cf. Scarisbrick 1993, p. 112; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 253 and 260, fig. 359. Further examples are in the Hashimoto Collection, Tokyo (Scarisbrick 2004, p. 112, no. 252). Almost identical in design and with the same inscription, cf. a ring in the Alice and Louis Koch Collection, in the Swiss National Museum, Zürich (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 852 and other examples 853-4 with further references). 

Reference number: 844

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