Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Signet Ring with True Lover’s Knot and the Initials “AI”

England, 17th century

Gold

  • 14.300 €
  • £12,300
  • $16,000
  • Signet Ring with True Lover’s Knot and the Initials “AI”

    England, 17th century
    Gold
    Weight 9 gr.; bezel 15.3 x 16.1 x 1.5 mm.; circumference: 58.21 mm.; US size 8.5; UK size Q ¾

    A signet ring was generally a form of identification with a practical purpose of being used for sealing a personal motif into hot wax as a form of authentication and therefore the imagery is back to front. Some seal rings, though, were simply worn as decorative rings, as in this case. The shallow engraving of the initials “A” and “I” confirms this theory. The knot – often used to interlink initials and form an ornamental feature, appears to have a deeper meaning, as a true lover’s knot forming a heart at the top. The initials are of the owner, or maybe here the first initials of a couple or lovers. This precious gold ring was probably given as a token of love.

    Description:
    The wide gold hoop is plain, flat inside and slightly rounded on the outside. The shoulder expands and merges into a flat round-shaped bezel with engraved initials “A” and “I” conjoined by a true lover’s knot and indented surrounding border. The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    The ring type continued in variations over a long period from the mid-16th century through to the 17th century, and it was a classical and popular shape, cf. in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Scarisbrick/Henig 2003, Plate 22, no. 3, English dated 1689-90). For rings with initials and knots in the British Museum (Oman 1974, Plate 44 A-E), in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the famous Darnley ring (841-1871, Oman 1974, Plate 45A).

    Reference number: 751

  • Signet ring

    Ring used for signing, thus often with the coat-of-arms or the initials of the wearer's family incised in reverse on the bezel. The earliest-known signet rings date from ancient Egypt, thousands of years ago.

    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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ring

Signet Ring with True Lover’s Knot and the Initials “AI”

England, 17th century
Gold
Weight 9 gr.; bezel 15.3 x 16.1 x 1.5 mm.; circumference: 58.21 mm.; US size 8.5; UK size Q ¾

USD $16,000

A signet ring was generally a form of identification with a practical purpose of being used for sealing a personal motif into hot wax as a form of authentication and therefore the imagery is back to front. Some seal rings, though, were simply worn as decorative rings, as in this case. The shallow engraving of the initials “A” and “I” confirms this theory. The knot – often used to interlink initials and form an ornamental feature, appears to have a deeper meaning, as a true lover’s knot forming a heart at the top. The initials are of the owner, or maybe here the first initials of a couple or lovers. This precious gold ring was probably given as a token of love.

Description:
The wide gold hoop is plain, flat inside and slightly rounded on the outside. The shoulder expands and merges into a flat round-shaped bezel with engraved initials “A” and “I” conjoined by a true lover’s knot and indented surrounding border. The ring is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
The ring type continued in variations over a long period from the mid-16th century through to the 17th century, and it was a classical and popular shape, cf. in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Scarisbrick/Henig 2003, Plate 22, no. 3, English dated 1689-90). For rings with initials and knots in the British Museum (Oman 1974, Plate 44 A-E), in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the famous Darnley ring (841-1871, Oman 1974, Plate 45A).

Reference number: 751

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