Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Ring with Nine Rubies

Probably England or Scotland, late 17th century

Gold, foil-backed rubies, enamel

  • 5.500 €
  • £4,900
  • $6,500
  • Ring with Nine Rubies

    Probably England or Scotland, late 17th century
    Gold, foil-backed rubies, enamel
    Weight 2.1 gr.; circumference 53.2 mm.; US 6.5 size; UK size N

    In Europe the ruby was a gemstone shrouded in myths and magic. Along with its many protective properties it was believed to energize the blood and heal the heart. In the Renaissance and Baroque periods its fiery-red color was associated with passionate love. Rubies along with diamonds became the most favored gemstones for betrothal and wedding rings, either as single-stones, clusters, or as here, set in an eternity band. The stones stood for love, affection and most of all the virtues of marriage. Even today rubies and diamonds have retained this symbolism. Traders from Europe travelled afar in search of the blood red or pure carmine colored rubies from countries in the Far East. Already the Ancient Romans were fascinated by the rich hues of the ruby and were known to have enhanced them through underlying metal foils, a practice which continued over centuries. Rubies were described as the most beautiful and precious of colored gemstones.

    Description:
    A gold ring with plain gold band is surmounted on the upper half of the band with foil-backed rubies in table-cut and conjoined box settings: eight on either side flank a slightly larger and multi-facetted ruby (almost heart-shaped) in the center with raised and elaborate setting. The sides of the bezel are enameled in opaque white enamel with floral motifs in pale pink and black outlines. Some enamel is missing. The ring is otherwise in good wearable condition.      

    Provenance:
    The ring formerly belonged to the Forbes family of Pitsligo from Fettercairn House, Kincardinshire, Scotland, where the collections were brought together from the Castle of Pitsligo and their Edinburgh townhouse. In the eighteenth century the Forbes family was influential in the prosperity of the Union. See Two Great Scottish Collections: Property from the Forbeses of Pitsligo and the Marquesses of Lothian, Sotheby’s London, March 28, no. 390.

    Literature:
    The decorative enameling of the settings follows French styles and colors fashionable at the Court of Louis XIV and the designs of Gilles Légaré and his contemporaries which developed into an international style in Western Europe. Edinburgh was known for its jewelers; for further information, see: Rosalind K. Marshall and George R. Dalgleish, The Art of Jewellery in Scotland, 1991. For rings with similar enameled borders, cf. Scarisbrick 1993, pp. 98-99; Scarisbrick 2004, no. 197 (Hashimoto Collection); Scarisbrick and Henig 2003, No. 4a (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford); Chadour 1994, vol. I, no. 658 (Alice and Louis Koch Collection, now Swiss National Museum, Zurich).

    Reference number: 837

  • Rubies

    Precious stones and a member of the corundum family, rubies range in color from the classic deep red to pink to purple to brown. Rubies are extremely hard; only diamonds are harder. Rubies were mined in Burma and sold through India in the Middle Ages to the Mediterranean.

    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

  • Band

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

    Gemstone

    Gemstone (also called a precious stone) is a mineral that is valuable, rare and often beautiful.

    Enamel

    Siliceous substance fusible upon metal, either transparent or opaque and with or without color, but it is usually employed to add decorative color to metal. Enamel can be applied in many different ways, including cloisonné , champlevé , and plique à jour .

    Bezel

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

    Box setting

    A box-shaped bezel setting either in the form of a quadrangle or rectangle with a closed underside.

  • 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

Ring with Nine Rubies

Probably England or Scotland, late 17th century
Gold, foil-backed rubies, enamel
Weight 2.1 gr.; circumference 53.2 mm.; US 6.5 size; UK size N

USD $6,500

In Europe the ruby was a gemstone shrouded in myths and magic. Along with its many protective properties it was believed to energize the blood and heal the heart. In the Renaissance and Baroque periods its fiery-red color was associated with passionate love. Rubies along with diamonds became the most favored gemstones for betrothal and wedding rings, either as single-stones, clusters, or as here, set in an eternity band. The stones stood for love, affection and most of all the virtues of marriage. Even today rubies and diamonds have retained this symbolism. Traders from Europe travelled afar in search of the blood red or pure carmine colored rubies from countries in the Far East. Already the Ancient Romans were fascinated by the rich hues of the ruby and were known to have enhanced them through underlying metal foils, a practice which continued over centuries. Rubies were described as the most beautiful and precious of colored gemstones.

Description:
A gold ring with plain gold band is surmounted on the upper half of the band with foil-backed rubies in table-cut and conjoined box settings: eight on either side flank a slightly larger and multi-facetted ruby (almost heart-shaped) in the center with raised and elaborate setting. The sides of the bezel are enameled in opaque white enamel with floral motifs in pale pink and black outlines. Some enamel is missing. The ring is otherwise in good wearable condition.      

Provenance:
The ring formerly belonged to the Forbes family of Pitsligo from Fettercairn House, Kincardinshire, Scotland, where the collections were brought together from the Castle of Pitsligo and their Edinburgh townhouse. In the eighteenth century the Forbes family was influential in the prosperity of the Union. See Two Great Scottish Collections: Property from the Forbeses of Pitsligo and the Marquesses of Lothian, Sotheby’s London, March 28, no. 390.

Literature:
The decorative enameling of the settings follows French styles and colors fashionable at the Court of Louis XIV and the designs of Gilles Légaré and his contemporaries which developed into an international style in Western Europe. Edinburgh was known for its jewelers; for further information, see: Rosalind K. Marshall and George R. Dalgleish, The Art of Jewellery in Scotland, 1991. For rings with similar enameled borders, cf. Scarisbrick 1993, pp. 98-99; Scarisbrick 2004, no. 197 (Hashimoto Collection); Scarisbrick and Henig 2003, No. 4a (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford); Chadour 1994, vol. I, no. 658 (Alice and Louis Koch Collection, now Swiss National Museum, Zurich).

Reference number: 837

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