Medieval Rings

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OSTROGOTHIC CRUCIFORM RING

Italy, 5-6th century

Gold and garnet

  • 10.300 €
  • £9,200
  • $12,000
  • OSTROGOTHIC CRUCIFORM RING

    Italy, 5-6th century
    Gold and garnet
    Weight 2.2 g; circumference 54.4 mm; US size 7, UK size N½

    Jewelry of the Migration Era (≈300-800AD), also called Barbarian art, is characterized by warm yellow gold and garnet or glass paste inlay and cloisonné. Often Christian symbolism was incorporated in the work, and it had been argued that red stones dominate because they reference the blood of Christ. Granulation, as with the present ring, is also typical of metalwork from this period.

    Description
    Fine, double-wire gold hoop soldered to the base of a cruciform multi-bezel head made from a single sheet. The head consists of four round garnet (or glass?) inlays and one central diamond-shaped inlay. Each of the bezels of the round inlays are flanked by gold beads. The ring is in excellent condition given its age and delicate design, with minor surface scratches on the inlays and slight bends to the metal.

    Literature
    The delicacy of this ring’s design suggests a southern origin (Italy) and contact with Byzantium, hence the attributed date. For comparisons to other Migration Era rings, see Koch Collection, inv. 18.1 (garnets and meerschaum; published in Chadour, 1994, no. 506); Koch Collection, inv. 18.2 (garnets and glass; published in Chadour, 1994, no. 505); London, British Museum, 1923,7-16 (found in the Ukraine; published in Hadjadi, 2004, no. 538) and also1923,0716.14 for a similar aesthetic; Washington DC, Dumbarton Oaks, acc. nos. 40,1,8-9 (a pair of rings, from the Olbia Treasure; published in Ross, 1965, no 166D); Bucarest, Muzeul Nacional de Istorie a României, inv. 54265  (from the Cluj-Someseni treasure, published in Or Princes Barbares, 2000, no. 32,8). Further reading, cf. Hadjadj, 2004, p. 107 ff. (“bagues en cloisonné à éléments débordants,” Type 7b); and Arrhenius, 1985.

    Reference number: 144

  • 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

  • Early Christian & Byzantine

    Information about rings in late Antiquity comes from Roman authors, such as Pliny, Martial, and Clement of Alexandria. In his Natural History Pliny states: “... many people do not allow any gems in a signet-ring, and seal with the gold itself; this was a fashion invented when Claudius Caesar was Emperor.” The Roman poet Martial remarked in the first century A.D. he had seen a middle-class citizen wearing no less than six rings on each finger; although under Septimus Severus (died 211 A.D.) a decree was issued allowing each soldier to wear a single gold ring. The Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, discouraged wearing any jewelry at all. However, they did permit Christians to wear one ring, either the seal of their family or the wedding ring; and rings bearing Christian symbols such as fish, birds, and inscriptions of religious character were deemed acceptable.

    The types of rings from this period include examples with nominative inscriptions or plain gold monograms for sealing, marriage and betrothal rings, devotional and religious rings, and decorative rings. Some marriage and fidelity rings are expressly related to the formal institution of marriage and its vows. The symbolic linking of the couple that is expressed in the dextrarum junctio, or the joining of hands, persisted from ceremonies from Roman times. One type of marriage ring thus displays two joined hands. Portraits of the bride and groom, sometimes with crowns over their heads (actually used in ceremonies) or a cross between them, also exist in rings. The man is typically portrayed on the left, in the position of greater importance. Such rings suggest that men and women shared an emotional bond and a practical partnership. Other strictly Byzantine examples depict the bride and groom flanking Christ to indicate that he officiates over the union of bride and groom, sealed by his cross. Typical inscriptions include OMONOIA (Concord) and XAPIC (Grace). In the seventh century, Isidore of Seville wrote: “The ring is given by the espouser to the espoused either as a sign of mutual fidelity ... therefore the ring is placed on the fourth finger because a certain vein, it is said, flows thence to the heart.”

    Other types of rings of the period include decorative rings with attractive gemstones, cameos, and intaglios, sometimes set in beautifully wrought bands made with pierced, twisted, and beaded gold. The excesses associated with the later Roman Empire find expression in two-, three-, and four-finger rings, many made in Alexandria, and in the proliferation of baby rings perhaps not only intended for infants and small children but also meant to adorn statuary as votive offerings. In the Byzantine East, devotional rings like small icons depict frontal standing figures of saints, God the Father, or the Virgin Mary. The love of bright, gleaming colors, so evident in Byzantine mosaics, metalwork, and manuscript illumination, has its counterpart in richly enameled rings.

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ring

OSTROGOTHIC CRUCIFORM RING

Italy, 5-6th century
Gold and garnet
Weight 2.2 g; circumference 54.4 mm; US size 7, UK size N½

USD $12,000

Jewelry of the Migration Era (≈300-800AD), also called Barbarian art, is characterized by warm yellow gold and garnet or glass paste inlay and cloisonné. Often Christian symbolism was incorporated in the work, and it had been argued that red stones dominate because they reference the blood of Christ. Granulation, as with the present ring, is also typical of metalwork from this period.

Description
Fine, double-wire gold hoop soldered to the base of a cruciform multi-bezel head made from a single sheet. The head consists of four round garnet (or glass?) inlays and one central diamond-shaped inlay. Each of the bezels of the round inlays are flanked by gold beads. The ring is in excellent condition given its age and delicate design, with minor surface scratches on the inlays and slight bends to the metal.

Literature
The delicacy of this ring’s design suggests a southern origin (Italy) and contact with Byzantium, hence the attributed date. For comparisons to other Migration Era rings, see Koch Collection, inv. 18.1 (garnets and meerschaum; published in Chadour, 1994, no. 506); Koch Collection, inv. 18.2 (garnets and glass; published in Chadour, 1994, no. 505); London, British Museum, 1923,7-16 (found in the Ukraine; published in Hadjadi, 2004, no. 538) and also1923,0716.14 for a similar aesthetic; Washington DC, Dumbarton Oaks, acc. nos. 40,1,8-9 (a pair of rings, from the Olbia Treasure; published in Ross, 1965, no 166D); Bucarest, Muzeul Nacional de Istorie a României, inv. 54265  (from the Cluj-Someseni treasure, published in Or Princes Barbares, 2000, no. 32,8). Further reading, cf. Hadjadj, 2004, p. 107 ff. (“bagues en cloisonné à éléments débordants,” Type 7b); and Arrhenius, 1985.

Reference number: 144

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