Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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VIKING BRAIDED RING

Scandinavia or Britain, 9-11th century

Electrum (?)

  • 10.800 €
  • £9,500
  • $12,000
  • VIKING BRAIDED RING

    Scandinavia or Britain, 9-11th century
    Electrum (?)
    Circumference 60.3mm.; weight 10.5 gr.; US size 9.5; UK size S½

    Typical of Viking jewelry, these braided rings are large in size and heavy in weight; thus they were likely to have been used as portable bullion as much as for decorative purposes. Similar rings were found in various hoards in Great Britain, today in the British Museum and the National Museums of Scotland, while others were discovered in archeological sites in Scandinavia and Northeastern, on display in various museum collections in the regions.

    Neck and arm rings made with similarly entwined twisted wires in gold and silver, also silver-gilt and gilt copper, are attested to during this period. Several examples have been found in Scandinavian hoards and as far as Novgorod, Russia. In Beowulf, the terms “ring-giver,” “ring-hoarder,” and “ring-flinger” are all used.  Such rings were likely given to soldiers who went into battle and, in at least one instance, there is literary evidence of rings being used against invasion and to “buy” peace.

    Description
    The hoop is formed of six interwoven wires tapering towards the back, where they have been joined and hammered together to form a solid strand.  Some wires show signs of fraying at the join, and others have split at the seam. This reveals the technique of how such wires were constructed, whereby cut sheet metal was twisted to form a solid wire. The ring is in stable and wearable condition.

    Literature
    For comparisons, see the British Museum (several gold rings with a hoop of plaited wires, tapering towards the back and beaten together, published in Dalton, 1912, nos. 213, 214, 215, 215a, 215b and 215c) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (a gold ring made of three plaited wires tapering towards the back where they are hammered together, published in Oman, 1974, p. 92, illus. 12D). See also in a private collection (a Viking braided ring, published in Hindman, 2007, n. 14).

    For examples of Viking jewelry, such as rings for the finger, neck or arm, from Great Britain, Scandinavia, and further afield using this type of braided wire, cf. James Graham-Campbell/ Dafydd Kidd, The Vikings, British Museum Publication, London 1980, pp. 48 ff. and 110 ff.; Wikinger Waräger Normannen, Die Skandinavier und Europa 800-1200, cat. nos. 170, 263, 293, 303, and 343, and for Viking rings found in later Danish hoards, Fritze Lindahl, Symboler I guld og sølv, Nationalmuseets fingerringe 1000-1700-årene, p. 13, fig. 3. 

    Reference number: 148

  • Electrum

    Naturally occurring amber-colored alloy of gold and silver that was used in ancient times; in the medieval era electrum is also an alloy consisting of copper (50%), nickel (30%) and zinc (20%).

    Hoop

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

  • Early Medieval

    Early Medieval finger-rings, or rings from the so-called Migration era, occupy a class by themselves. Distinctly different from those prevalent in Antiquity, they are also of great rarity most likely because they are products of a chaotic period characterized by invasion not cultural fluorescence.

    Tribal cultures–the Goths, the Visigoths, the Lombards, the Franks, the Ostrogoths, the Huns, etc.–wore their wealth as they moved from place to place. The persistence of Roman techniques can be seen in the intricate filigree and granulation of their gold work; however as the importance of the stone grew, the prominence of the bezel increased so that the beautiful uncut stone projected high above the finger. Rings of the projecting bezel type are found among the Lombards, the Ostrogoths, and the Franks. Another type, the spiral ring (already a form favored by the Celts), adopted by the Anglo-Saxons recalls the interlace of contemporary illuminated manuscripts. There are braided, twisted, and coiled examples. A small group of Anglo-Saxon rings also preserve niello decoration on flat or articulated bezels depicting mythic beasts, spirals, and other motifs.

    In Gaul, the Merovingians preferred a flat bezel on which designs could be engraved, whether they be portraits of the owner such as appears on the famous ring of the king Childerich or complex, difficult-to-decipher monograms, or animals. From the same historical milieu comes the intricate and imposing architectural ring, sometimes adorned with a cabochon garnet at the top of the bezel. The latter recalls on a minute scale Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel at Aachen with its rotunda form, arched galleries circling the central space, and dome. New types of byzantinizing forms, such as cloisonné work, came with the political stability of the Carolingian and Ottonian empires, and it is worth remembering that Otto II married a Byzantine princess.

    Much of the evidence for the origins and the dating of Early Medieval Merovingian rings is archaeological. Rings decorated with shaved garnets, for example, come from sites that follow the route of the invasions of Attila the Hun (died 453) from Hungary to Gaul. Sometimes archaeological evidence suggests the gender of a wearer, as in the case of an architectural ring from the Guillou Collection buried in the tomb of a woman. Often, it provides important, independent means of dating, for hoards included dated coins, as well as other items made from precious metals.

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VIKING BRAIDED RING

Scandinavia or Britain, 9-11th century
Electrum (?)
Circumference 60.3mm.; weight 10.5 gr.; US size 9.5; UK size S½

USD $12,000

Typical of Viking jewelry, these braided rings are large in size and heavy in weight; thus they were likely to have been used as portable bullion as much as for decorative purposes. Similar rings were found in various hoards in Great Britain, today in the British Museum and the National Museums of Scotland, while others were discovered in archeological sites in Scandinavia and Northeastern, on display in various museum collections in the regions.

Neck and arm rings made with similarly entwined twisted wires in gold and silver, also silver-gilt and gilt copper, are attested to during this period. Several examples have been found in Scandinavian hoards and as far as Novgorod, Russia. In Beowulf, the terms “ring-giver,” “ring-hoarder,” and “ring-flinger” are all used.  Such rings were likely given to soldiers who went into battle and, in at least one instance, there is literary evidence of rings being used against invasion and to “buy” peace.

Description
The hoop is formed of six interwoven wires tapering towards the back, where they have been joined and hammered together to form a solid strand.  Some wires show signs of fraying at the join, and others have split at the seam. This reveals the technique of how such wires were constructed, whereby cut sheet metal was twisted to form a solid wire. The ring is in stable and wearable condition.

Literature
For comparisons, see the British Museum (several gold rings with a hoop of plaited wires, tapering towards the back and beaten together, published in Dalton, 1912, nos. 213, 214, 215, 215a, 215b and 215c) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (a gold ring made of three plaited wires tapering towards the back where they are hammered together, published in Oman, 1974, p. 92, illus. 12D). See also in a private collection (a Viking braided ring, published in Hindman, 2007, n. 14).

For examples of Viking jewelry, such as rings for the finger, neck or arm, from Great Britain, Scandinavia, and further afield using this type of braided wire, cf. James Graham-Campbell/ Dafydd Kidd, The Vikings, British Museum Publication, London 1980, pp. 48 ff. and 110 ff.; Wikinger Waräger Normannen, Die Skandinavier und Europa 800-1200, cat. nos. 170, 263, 293, 303, and 343, and for Viking rings found in later Danish hoards, Fritze Lindahl, Symboler I guld og sølv, Nationalmuseets fingerringe 1000-1700-årene, p. 13, fig. 3. 

Reference number: 148

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