Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Ring with Renaissance Cameo

Probably Northern Italy, cameo late 16th-early 17th century; ring: second half 18th century

Gold, sardonyx cameo (layered orange and translucent white)

  • 11.900 €
  • £10,600
  • $14,000
  • Ring with Renaissance Cameo

    Probably Northern Italy, cameo late 16th-early 17th century; ring: second half 18th century
    Gold, sardonyx cameo (layered orange and translucent white)
    Weight 3.8 gr.; circumference 53.82 mm.; US size 6.75; UK size N ½

    During the Age of Enlightenment in Europe there was a renewed interest in the Classical World. In part, this was rekindled through the excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy which began between 1738 and 1748. This epoch represents the beginning of the science of modern archaeology and also a period when great royal collections of cameos and intaglios were formed. These included examples from antiquity and the Renaissance period, as well as contemporary gem-cutters. Renaissance gemstones of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were mainly cut in specialized workshops in Northern Italy, most of all in and around Milan. These were highly prized and much sought after miniature works of art. The subjects ranged from Roman emperors and empresses, to mythological scenes, and most popular were busts or heads of young women. Cameos set in pendants and rings were not always made to be worn, they often were objects displayed in collector’s cabinets, set for wearing in later centuries.                          

    Description:
    The ring is unusual for its skillfully and deeply carved stone preserved in excellent condition.
    Ring made of rose gold with wide hoop, plain on the interior and rounded on the exterior with accompanying profiled edges. The hoop gradually widens towards the ends which support the oval bezel formed like a frame in which a sardonyx cameo is open set to enhance the translucency of the stone. The bust of a woman in three-quarter profile and bas-relief facing to the right is shown wearing a mantle with exposed right shoulder. Her curly hair is tied back and falls behind her neck. 

    Literature:
    For similar examples of “Young Women” cameos in varying poses, cf. L.A. Mira, El arte de la joyeria en la colección Lazaro Galdiano, 2003, nos. 20 and 198; Ingrid S. Weber, Geschnittene Steine aus altbayerischem Besitz, Kameen und Intaglien des 15. bis späten 17. Jahrhunderts in der Staatlichen Münzsammlung München, 2001, nos. 48-53; Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti and John Boardman, Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of her Majesty the Queen, 2008, nos. 162 and 156. 

    Reference number: 786

  • Sardonyx

    Semi-precious stone that formed by two layers, a red-brown layer of sard and a gray, white, black or brown layer of onyx , sardonyx is a type of quartz . Sardonyx is frequently carved to make intricate cameos and seals .

    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

  • Cameo

    Relief carving (a carving that comes up above the surface) on a shell or stone. In multi-colored cameos, a layered substrate is used (with two different colors), and when part of the upper layer is carved away, the second color emerges as the background.

    Intaglio

    Intaglio is a method of decoration in which a design is cut into the surface, the opposite of cameo. Signet rings are frequently decorated with intaglio, as are seals.

    Hoop

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

    Bezel

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

  • 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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Ring with Renaissance Cameo

Probably Northern Italy, cameo late 16th-early 17th century; ring: second half 18th century
Gold, sardonyx cameo (layered orange and translucent white)
Weight 3.8 gr.; circumference 53.82 mm.; US size 6.75; UK size N ½

USD $14,000

During the Age of Enlightenment in Europe there was a renewed interest in the Classical World. In part, this was rekindled through the excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy which began between 1738 and 1748. This epoch represents the beginning of the science of modern archaeology and also a period when great royal collections of cameos and intaglios were formed. These included examples from antiquity and the Renaissance period, as well as contemporary gem-cutters. Renaissance gemstones of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were mainly cut in specialized workshops in Northern Italy, most of all in and around Milan. These were highly prized and much sought after miniature works of art. The subjects ranged from Roman emperors and empresses, to mythological scenes, and most popular were busts or heads of young women. Cameos set in pendants and rings were not always made to be worn, they often were objects displayed in collector’s cabinets, set for wearing in later centuries.                          

Description:
The ring is unusual for its skillfully and deeply carved stone preserved in excellent condition.
Ring made of rose gold with wide hoop, plain on the interior and rounded on the exterior with accompanying profiled edges. The hoop gradually widens towards the ends which support the oval bezel formed like a frame in which a sardonyx cameo is open set to enhance the translucency of the stone. The bust of a woman in three-quarter profile and bas-relief facing to the right is shown wearing a mantle with exposed right shoulder. Her curly hair is tied back and falls behind her neck. 

Literature:
For similar examples of “Young Women” cameos in varying poses, cf. L.A. Mira, El arte de la joyeria en la colección Lazaro Galdiano, 2003, nos. 20 and 198; Ingrid S. Weber, Geschnittene Steine aus altbayerischem Besitz, Kameen und Intaglien des 15. bis späten 17. Jahrhunderts in der Staatlichen Münzsammlung München, 2001, nos. 48-53; Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti and John Boardman, Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of her Majesty the Queen, 2008, nos. 162 and 156. 

Reference number: 786

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