Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Medieval Stirrup Ring

Northern France or England, 14th-15th century

Gold and sapphire

  • 7.100 €
  • £6,200
  • $8,000
  • Medieval Stirrup Ring

    Northern France or England, 14th-15th century
    Gold and sapphire
    Weight 2.2 gr; bezel 5 x 7 x 5 mm.; circumference 57; US size 8; UK size P½

    The elaborate setting of this stirrup ring, so named because it looks like a horse’s stirrup, suggests a date as late as the 15th century.  The arch-shaped form evokes Gothic Cathedrals.  This type of ring was typically reserved for bishops, but by the later Middle Ages, all sorts of people probably wore stirrup rings.  Once the form of the stirrup ring developed in the 12th century, there was little evolution of the type. 

    Description
    Hollow gold ring with a broad flat hoop, terminating in an irregular hexagonal, the collet in the shape of a triangle to accommodate the cabochon sapphire, the hoop in the form of a stirrup. In excellent condition.

    Literature
    For comparison, see Edinburgh, National Museum of Antiquities (set with a ruby, from Canonbie [Scotland]; published in Oman, 1974, 16F); London, British Museum (former Franks Collection, set with a sapphire; published in Dalton, 1912, no. 1776).

    Reference number: 433

  • 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

  • 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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Medieval Stirrup Ring

Northern France or England, 14th-15th century
Gold and sapphire
Weight 2.2 gr; bezel 5 x 7 x 5 mm.; circumference 57; US size 8; UK size P½

USD $8,000

The elaborate setting of this stirrup ring, so named because it looks like a horse’s stirrup, suggests a date as late as the 15th century.  The arch-shaped form evokes Gothic Cathedrals.  This type of ring was typically reserved for bishops, but by the later Middle Ages, all sorts of people probably wore stirrup rings.  Once the form of the stirrup ring developed in the 12th century, there was little evolution of the type. 

Description
Hollow gold ring with a broad flat hoop, terminating in an irregular hexagonal, the collet in the shape of a triangle to accommodate the cabochon sapphire, the hoop in the form of a stirrup. In excellent condition.

Literature
For comparison, see Edinburgh, National Museum of Antiquities (set with a ruby, from Canonbie [Scotland]; published in Oman, 1974, 16F); London, British Museum (former Franks Collection, set with a sapphire; published in Dalton, 1912, no. 1776).

Reference number: 433

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