Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Memorial Ring

England, 1697

Gold

  • 5.400 €
  • £4,800
  • $6,500
  • Memorial Ring

    England, 1697
    Gold
    Weight 3.3 gr.; circumference 53.82 mm; US size 6 3/4; UK size N 1/2

    During the Baroque period in Europe, skulls, crossed bones, skeletons, hour glasses and the grave digger’s spade and shovel are memento mori symbols, often found in jewelry. These were a reminder of the inevitability of death and to follow Christian values during life. Such symbols also became popular on mourning rings which included the initials or name of the deceased and date of death. In the seventeenth century these were commonly mentioned in wills, such as in 1616 in that of William Shakespeare. It was stipulated that the rings were to be given to his wife and daughter and be inscribed “Love my memory”.  The wearing of mourning jewelry, especially rings, became ever more popular and later wills stated that rings should be made for close friends and family as a treasured memento of the deceased.

    Description:
    Wide gold band with D-section, plain on the exterior with an engraved skull. Engraved inside the ring is an inscription with name of the deceased, date of death: J. Westerne: ob. 9 Aug. 97 æt. 42. The deceased was aged 42 upon death. Following the inscription is an unidentified maker’s mark in a shield-like punch with the initials in capital letters “IW.” The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    Variations of such memorial rings of the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (M.78-1960 and M.158-1962); British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, nos. 1466 ff..). Cf. also Nehama 2012, pp. 26-7.

    Reference number: 839

  • Band

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

    Posy

    From “poesie” for poetry, a posy ring is one with an inscription usually on the interior of the band and was especially popular in Elizabethan and Tudor England.

    Engraving

    Technique of cutting patterns into a surface with a sharp tool; an impression made from the cut surface shows the design of the incised lines in reverse (hence intaglio).

    Hoop

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

  • 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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Memorial Ring

England, 1697
Gold
Weight 3.3 gr.; circumference 53.82 mm; US size 6 3/4; UK size N 1/2

USD $6,500

During the Baroque period in Europe, skulls, crossed bones, skeletons, hour glasses and the grave digger’s spade and shovel are memento mori symbols, often found in jewelry. These were a reminder of the inevitability of death and to follow Christian values during life. Such symbols also became popular on mourning rings which included the initials or name of the deceased and date of death. In the seventeenth century these were commonly mentioned in wills, such as in 1616 in that of William Shakespeare. It was stipulated that the rings were to be given to his wife and daughter and be inscribed “Love my memory”.  The wearing of mourning jewelry, especially rings, became ever more popular and later wills stated that rings should be made for close friends and family as a treasured memento of the deceased.

Description:
Wide gold band with D-section, plain on the exterior with an engraved skull. Engraved inside the ring is an inscription with name of the deceased, date of death: J. Westerne: ob. 9 Aug. 97 æt. 42. The deceased was aged 42 upon death. Following the inscription is an unidentified maker’s mark in a shield-like punch with the initials in capital letters “IW.” The ring is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
Variations of such memorial rings of the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (M.78-1960 and M.158-1962); British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, nos. 1466 ff..). Cf. also Nehama 2012, pp. 26-7.

Reference number: 839

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