Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Spinel Cabochon Ring

Western Europe, 15th century

Gold, spinel, enamel

  • 51.100 €
  • £46,600
  • $60,000
  • Spinel Cabochon Ring

    Western Europe, 15th century
    Gold, spinel, enamel
    Weight 6.9 gr.; circumference 57.15 mm.; US size 8, UK size Q

    Spinels, rubies, or garnets were highly prized for their red color, magical properties and rich symbolism. According to myth rubies covered the ground in the Garden of Eden. Rubies are symbolic of blood and life, and over centuries more poignantly of love, and thus worn in betrothal or marriage rings.  Depending on the culture the magical powers of the ruby and its counterparts seem boundless; it strengthens the heart, energizes blood, cures digestive ailments, protects from the plague, poison, sadness, and evil spirits. Dealers in Medieval and Renaissance Europe would have traded these rare gems from faraway countries of the East and imported them through the ports of Venice and Genoa. At this time there would not have been gemological distinctions between the different varieties. In inventories spinels were often described as balas rubies, which came mainly from Afghanistan, or as deep red-colored rubies from Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) and Burma. Due to the hardness of the stone and its preciousness and high value, gemstones were re-used, as here in this ring, where the spinel bead with drill hole may have formerly belonged to a Roman or Byzantine necklace.

    Description:
    The gold ring with D-section hoop, plain on the interior and twisted ornament on the exterior widens towards the bezel to form a cusped setting for a spinel cabochon bead with drill hole. Along the bezel are traces of white enamel. The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Exhibited:
    Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia, Dec. 7, 2013 through Oct. 12, 2014.

    Published:
    Diana Scarisbrick, Royal, Rich and Renowned: A Superb Collection of Finger Rings, London 2016, no. 22.

    Literature:
    For the hoop with twisted or wreathed ornament, cf.  Scarisbrick 2003, Plate 14, 1a; Scarisbrick 2007, no. 187) and for the cusped settings of the bezel, cf. Oman 1974, Plate 20A; Scarisbrick 2004, nos. 117 and 118). 

    Reference number: 827

  • Spinel

    Very hard semi-precious stone composed of octahedral crystals, spinel ranges in color from red to black to yellow, frequently resembling rubies . Iron and chrome are components of the spinel, giving it its color.

    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

  • Cabochon

    Precious or semi-precious stone that is merely polished without being cut into facets and was much used in the Middle Ages.

    Gemstone

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

    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.

    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 .

  • 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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Spinel Cabochon Ring

Western Europe, 15th century
Gold, spinel, enamel
Weight 6.9 gr.; circumference 57.15 mm.; US size 8, UK size Q

USD $60,000

Spinels, rubies, or garnets were highly prized for their red color, magical properties and rich symbolism. According to myth rubies covered the ground in the Garden of Eden. Rubies are symbolic of blood and life, and over centuries more poignantly of love, and thus worn in betrothal or marriage rings.  Depending on the culture the magical powers of the ruby and its counterparts seem boundless; it strengthens the heart, energizes blood, cures digestive ailments, protects from the plague, poison, sadness, and evil spirits. Dealers in Medieval and Renaissance Europe would have traded these rare gems from faraway countries of the East and imported them through the ports of Venice and Genoa. At this time there would not have been gemological distinctions between the different varieties. In inventories spinels were often described as balas rubies, which came mainly from Afghanistan, or as deep red-colored rubies from Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) and Burma. Due to the hardness of the stone and its preciousness and high value, gemstones were re-used, as here in this ring, where the spinel bead with drill hole may have formerly belonged to a Roman or Byzantine necklace.

Description:
The gold ring with D-section hoop, plain on the interior and twisted ornament on the exterior widens towards the bezel to form a cusped setting for a spinel cabochon bead with drill hole. Along the bezel are traces of white enamel. The ring is in good wearable condition.

Exhibited:
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia, Dec. 7, 2013 through Oct. 12, 2014.

Published:
Diana Scarisbrick, Royal, Rich and Renowned: A Superb Collection of Finger Rings, London 2016, no. 22.

Literature:
For the hoop with twisted or wreathed ornament, cf.  Scarisbrick 2003, Plate 14, 1a; Scarisbrick 2007, no. 187) and for the cusped settings of the bezel, cf. Oman 1974, Plate 20A; Scarisbrick 2004, nos. 117 and 118). 

Reference number: 827

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