Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Late Roman or Early Medieval Ring with Garnet

Italy? 6th-7th century

Gold, garnet

  • 9.400 €
  • £8,500
  • $11,000
  • Late Roman or Early Medieval Ring with Garnet

    Italy? 6th-7th century
    Gold, garnet
    Weight 3.1 gr.; bezel 8.4 x 4.8 x 4.5 mm.; circumference: 55.76 mm.; US size 7.5; UK size P

    Deep blood red garnets were sought after gemstones which had to be imported from as far away as India or Ceylon (today Sri Lanka). Garnets were first used for jewelry by the Ancient Egyptians and during that period they could source them from the Sinai region. In Greek jewelry garnets feature prominently and through Alexander the Great and his conquests a new trade route and source was found. They continued to be fashionable with the Romans, but it was during the Migration period in Europe after the decline of Rome that garnets experienced a revival.  Not only were cabochons in use, but methods of splitting the stone into fine sheets created a new aesthetic. Late Roman ring forms, decorative filigree wires and globules, as well as similar metal techniques were adopted during the Migration period as new rulers employed indigenous goldsmiths who followed the traditions of the Roman Empire.

    Description:
    The narrow hoop is made of a spiral-beaded gold wire. The ends hold the drop-shaped bezel with deep collet setting and garnet cabochon. Two globules on either side of the bezel have both a decorative and supportive function. The ring is good condition.

    Literature:
    For Late Roman rings with similar beaded hoops or in combination with garnets, cf. examples of the 4th century AD in the Thetford Treasure, British Museum, London (Johns and Potter 1983, nos. 21-23 with further comparisons quoted) and in the Alice and Louis Koch Collection, Swiss National Museum (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 433). For examples of the ring type continuing in early medieval Europe, see a ring probably from the Norman period in National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Cardiff (David A. Hinton, Gold and Gilt, Pots and Pins, Possessions and People in Medieval Britain, Oxford 2005, p. 198, fig. 6.16) and a 7th century variation in silver-gilt found in Saint Denis (Musée d’archéologie nationale, Saint Germain-en-Laye (Hadjadj 2007, no. 349).

    Reference number: 737

  • 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

  • Bezel

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

  • Early Medieval

    Early Medieval finger-rings, or rings from the so-called Migration era, occupy a class by themselves. Distinctly different from those prevalent in Antiquity, they are also of great rarity most likely because they are products of a chaotic period characterized by invasion not cultural fluorescence.

    Tribal cultures–the Goths, the Visigoths, the Lombards, the Franks, the Ostrogoths, the Huns, etc.–wore their wealth as they moved from place to place. The persistence of Roman techniques can be seen in the intricate filigree and granulation of their gold work; however as the importance of the stone grew, the prominence of the bezel increased so that the beautiful uncut stone projected high above the finger. Rings of the projecting bezel type are found among the Lombards, the Ostrogoths, and the Franks. Another type, the spiral ring (already a form favored by the Celts), adopted by the Anglo-Saxons recalls the interlace of contemporary illuminated manuscripts. There are braided, twisted, and coiled examples. A small group of Anglo-Saxon rings also preserve niello decoration on flat or articulated bezels depicting mythic beasts, spirals, and other motifs.

    In Gaul, the Merovingians preferred a flat bezel on which designs could be engraved, whether they be portraits of the owner such as appears on the famous ring of the king Childerich or complex, difficult-to-decipher monograms, or animals. From the same historical milieu comes the intricate and imposing architectural ring, sometimes adorned with a cabochon garnet at the top of the bezel. The latter recalls on a minute scale Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel at Aachen with its rotunda form, arched galleries circling the central space, and dome. New types of byzantinizing forms, such as cloisonné work, came with the political stability of the Carolingian and Ottonian empires, and it is worth remembering that Otto II married a Byzantine princess.

    Much of the evidence for the origins and the dating of Early Medieval Merovingian rings is archaeological. Rings decorated with shaved garnets, for example, come from sites that follow the route of the invasions of Attila the Hun (died 453) from Hungary to Gaul. Sometimes archaeological evidence suggests the gender of a wearer, as in the case of an architectural ring from the Guillou Collection buried in the tomb of a woman. Often, it provides important, independent means of dating, for hoards included dated coins, as well as other items made from precious metals.

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Late Roman or Early Medieval Ring with Garnet

Italy? 6th-7th century
Gold, garnet
Weight 3.1 gr.; bezel 8.4 x 4.8 x 4.5 mm.; circumference: 55.76 mm.; US size 7.5; UK size P

USD $11,000

Deep blood red garnets were sought after gemstones which had to be imported from as far away as India or Ceylon (today Sri Lanka). Garnets were first used for jewelry by the Ancient Egyptians and during that period they could source them from the Sinai region. In Greek jewelry garnets feature prominently and through Alexander the Great and his conquests a new trade route and source was found. They continued to be fashionable with the Romans, but it was during the Migration period in Europe after the decline of Rome that garnets experienced a revival.  Not only were cabochons in use, but methods of splitting the stone into fine sheets created a new aesthetic. Late Roman ring forms, decorative filigree wires and globules, as well as similar metal techniques were adopted during the Migration period as new rulers employed indigenous goldsmiths who followed the traditions of the Roman Empire.

Description:
The narrow hoop is made of a spiral-beaded gold wire. The ends hold the drop-shaped bezel with deep collet setting and garnet cabochon. Two globules on either side of the bezel have both a decorative and supportive function. The ring is good condition.

Literature:
For Late Roman rings with similar beaded hoops or in combination with garnets, cf. examples of the 4th century AD in the Thetford Treasure, British Museum, London (Johns and Potter 1983, nos. 21-23 with further comparisons quoted) and in the Alice and Louis Koch Collection, Swiss National Museum (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 433). For examples of the ring type continuing in early medieval Europe, see a ring probably from the Norman period in National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Cardiff (David A. Hinton, Gold and Gilt, Pots and Pins, Possessions and People in Medieval Britain, Oxford 2005, p. 198, fig. 6.16) and a 7th century variation in silver-gilt found in Saint Denis (Musée d’archéologie nationale, Saint Germain-en-Laye (Hadjadj 2007, no. 349).

Reference number: 737

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