Medieval Rings

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Gold Ring with Double Bezel, Set with Emerald and Rock Crystal

Roman, 4th century

Gold with Double Bezel, Set with Emerald and Rock Crystal

  • 28.600 €
  • £24,700
  • $32,000
  • Gold Ring with Double Bezel, Set with Emerald and Rock Crystal

    Roman, 4th century
    Gold with Double Bezel, Set with Emerald and Rock Crystal
    Exterior diameter of hoop 18.3 mm; diameter of small, cup-shaped element 9.3 mm; weight 5 g; US size 2 ½; UK size E

    The hoop is a thin band, convex on the exterior and flat on the inside. The terminals join a rectangular box-bezel set with a polished, slightly convex emerald, which has been drilled through. Three gold pellets decorate the join with the hoop on either side. An openwork (opus interrasile) frame of arches borders the bezel. Attached to the side of the bezel by means of a cylindrical bead is a round, cup-shaped element set with a rock crystal bordered along the rim with thin beaded wire. A single pellet marks the join.

    No similar ring is recorded, but the individual elements, notably the box-bezel with openwork frame, are characteristic of jewelry of the late third and fourth centuries. Although cell work with opus interrasile is commonly found in the third century, the closest examples to that of the ring are found on bracelets of the fourth century, notably an example in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne (fig. 8.1). The use of a small

    second bezel added to the side of the primary bezel is a fashion that appears to have originated in the fourth century and remained popular, both in Byzantium and the West well into the sixth century in ever more elaborate forms. A particularly fine early example in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne has a solid-cast hoop with floral decoration, a diamondshaped central bezel set with a garnet, and a side bezel set with an emerald.

    Other examples include a ring with embossed gold work set with emerald and garnet in the Koch Collection. Byzantine rings of c. 500 continued to develop the shape, with a stepped rectangular bezel set with a variety of precious gems and a side bezel in the form of an attached cone, usually set with a pearl (cat. nos. 12 and 13). Merovingian examples are also known. The present ring is one of the earliest known examples, and its technique suggests that it derives from a workshop that produced other types of important jewelry, such as the large openwork bracelets set with gems.

    Notes:
    A fourth-century bracelet ornamented with emeralds with opus interrasile frames was discovered in a grave in Cologne (now Römisch-Germanisches Museum, inv. 1498); see Yeroulanou 1999, p. 241, no. 205 and fig. 148. For the ring in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne, Chadour and Joppien 1985, p. 104, no. 154 (probably of fifth-century date). For examples in the Koch Collection, Chadour 1994, p. 124, no. 426 (with embossed bezel set with garnet and emerald); and p. 144, no. 484 (set with garnet and pearl). Another early example, set with an emerald and a pierced sapphire, is in the British Museum, Marshall 1907, p. 133, no. 815; and Johns 1996, p. 57, fig. 3.17.

    Reference number: 296

  • Emerald

    Hard, green precious stone , emeralds (and all forms of beryl) have large, perfect, six-sided crystals. Before the discovery of the new world, emeralds came mostly from Egypt; the finer emeralds come from the New World.

    Rock crystal

    Transparent , crystalline mineral, rock crystal is the purest form of quartz and a semi-precious stone. Rock crystal came from Germany, Switzerland, and France 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.

  • Ancient

    The term “ancient” can include everything from Egypt to Etruscan and Phoenician to Greece, literally thousands of years of history. Here we are concerned primarily with Hellenistic and Imperial Rome. The Hellenistic age extends from c. 325 B.C. until the inauguration of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C.; and Imperial Rome thereafter until the reign of Constantine from c. 306-327 and the Sack of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths led by Alaric.

    Both gold (from extensive new mining operations) and precious stones (from new trade routes) were plentiful during the Hellenist Age, and jewelry was highly prized as conveying social status. Multicolored gemstones were in frequent use, chalcedonies, cornelians, and above all garnets (from India). Seed pearls, emeralds, and amethysts also are found by the first and second centuries B.C. While Hellenistic jewelry much imitated Greek prototypes, some forms originate during this era, and they include the Heracles knot that remained popular through Roman times and the hinged ring.

    At first, Roman rings of the Imperial period were relatively simple, but by the first century the taste for luxury and displays of wealth was much noted by Roman writers. Martial and other critics of Roman society parodied the newly rich (see Spier 2012, p. 12). One of his epigrams ridicules the dandy Charinus, who wears six rings on each finger and never takes them off because he does not have a gem case (implying that he does not own them they are rented). In Petronius’s Satyricon, Fortunata the wife of a former slave is mocked for wearing at least “six and half pounds on her” during a banquet. These accounts speak to the wide availability of jewelry during this era. Among the new forms, the new pierced openwork in gold (opus interrasile) is worth noting. By the later Roman Empire, especially the third through fifth centuries, Roman jewelry becomes more sophisticated: among the forms that date from this time are double- and triple- bezel rings, as well as the pyramid setting.

    A certain amount of information survives concerning the making of jewelry in antiquity. Jewelry is almost always described by weight and if there are stones the weight without the stones is given. These weights are closely related to those of coinage, so customers may have supplied coins to itinerant or shop-based craftsmen. There were certainly guilds in Roman times. We also suspect that children worked as jewelers and engravers; there is a tombstone of a 19 year old gem engraver known. Archeological finds reveal that shops surrounding the marketplace belonged to retail traders dealing with the local market; there are transfer and rental agreements for jewelry shows (see Ogden 1982, p. 177). The shop of one jeweler was only 5 feet by 4 feet in size, much like artisan’s workshops throughout the medieval era. Certainly itinerant goldsmiths must also have existed.

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Gold Ring with Double Bezel, Set with Emerald and Rock Crystal

Roman, 4th century
Gold with Double Bezel, Set with Emerald and Rock Crystal
Exterior diameter of hoop 18.3 mm; diameter of small, cup-shaped element 9.3 mm; weight 5 g; US size 2 ½; UK size E

USD $32,000

The hoop is a thin band, convex on the exterior and flat on the inside. The terminals join a rectangular box-bezel set with a polished, slightly convex emerald, which has been drilled through. Three gold pellets decorate the join with the hoop on either side. An openwork (opus interrasile) frame of arches borders the bezel. Attached to the side of the bezel by means of a cylindrical bead is a round, cup-shaped element set with a rock crystal bordered along the rim with thin beaded wire. A single pellet marks the join.

No similar ring is recorded, but the individual elements, notably the box-bezel with openwork frame, are characteristic of jewelry of the late third and fourth centuries. Although cell work with opus interrasile is commonly found in the third century, the closest examples to that of the ring are found on bracelets of the fourth century, notably an example in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne (fig. 8.1). The use of a small

second bezel added to the side of the primary bezel is a fashion that appears to have originated in the fourth century and remained popular, both in Byzantium and the West well into the sixth century in ever more elaborate forms. A particularly fine early example in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne has a solid-cast hoop with floral decoration, a diamondshaped central bezel set with a garnet, and a side bezel set with an emerald.

Other examples include a ring with embossed gold work set with emerald and garnet in the Koch Collection. Byzantine rings of c. 500 continued to develop the shape, with a stepped rectangular bezel set with a variety of precious gems and a side bezel in the form of an attached cone, usually set with a pearl (cat. nos. 12 and 13). Merovingian examples are also known. The present ring is one of the earliest known examples, and its technique suggests that it derives from a workshop that produced other types of important jewelry, such as the large openwork bracelets set with gems.

Notes:
A fourth-century bracelet ornamented with emeralds with opus interrasile frames was discovered in a grave in Cologne (now Römisch-Germanisches Museum, inv. 1498); see Yeroulanou 1999, p. 241, no. 205 and fig. 148. For the ring in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne, Chadour and Joppien 1985, p. 104, no. 154 (probably of fifth-century date). For examples in the Koch Collection, Chadour 1994, p. 124, no. 426 (with embossed bezel set with garnet and emerald); and p. 144, no. 484 (set with garnet and pearl). Another early example, set with an emerald and a pierced sapphire, is in the British Museum, Marshall 1907, p. 133, no. 815; and Johns 1996, p. 57, fig. 3.17.

Reference number: 296

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