Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Visigothic Ring with Cruciform Monogram

Gaul or Iberia, 7th century AD

Gold

  • 10.200 €
  • £9,100
  • $12,000
  • Visigothic Ring with Cruciform Monogram

    Gaul or Iberia, 7th century AD
    Gold
    Weight 3.6 gr.; circumference 57.65 mm, US size 8.25, UK size Q ½

    Signet rings with names as a form of personal identification and later used to seal documents as verification of the sender goes back to Babylonia and Ancient Egypt. Whilst Pharaohs had their names engraved into a scarab-shaped gem, by the Christian and Byzantine era the name of the owner of the ring was often inscribed on gold, silver, or bronze rings, either with the name in full or with a prayer to god, but also abbreviated in a cross or square monogram. The Visigoths based their Kingdom in Gaul (France) until 507 AD until they were expelled, later settling in Iberia (Spain). By the seventh century trade with Byzantium was extensive across the Mediterranean ports and influences felt in the arts and jewelry. The cross monogram with Greek lettering suggests the ring was worn in a Christian context during the Migration era. 

    Description:
    Gold ring with twisted wire hoop, open under the round bezel with beaded wire border and on either side a group of three globules. Engraved on the bezel is a cruciform monogram with at least five Greek letters, in reverse: P, Α, Λ, Γ, I.  The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Provenance:
    Munich, Collection C.S.

    Literature:
    The form of the ring, as here, with three globules supporting a round bezel is typical for the Migration Era, cf. Hadjadj 2007, Type 5, p. 62 and with cross monogram no. 139. The cross monogram with the abbreviated name of the owner is more common on Byzantine rings of the sixth and seventh century, cf. Chadour/Joppien 1985, nos. 160-162; Spier/Hindman 2012, nos. 21-22 and Hindman 2017, no. 6.

    Reference number: 857

  • 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.

    Engraving

    Technique of cutting patterns into a surface with a sharp tool; an impression made from the cut surface shows the design of the incised lines in reverse (hence intaglio).

  • 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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Visigothic Ring with Cruciform Monogram

Gaul or Iberia, 7th century AD
Gold
Weight 3.6 gr.; circumference 57.65 mm, US size 8.25, UK size Q ½

USD $12,000

Signet rings with names as a form of personal identification and later used to seal documents as verification of the sender goes back to Babylonia and Ancient Egypt. Whilst Pharaohs had their names engraved into a scarab-shaped gem, by the Christian and Byzantine era the name of the owner of the ring was often inscribed on gold, silver, or bronze rings, either with the name in full or with a prayer to god, but also abbreviated in a cross or square monogram. The Visigoths based their Kingdom in Gaul (France) until 507 AD until they were expelled, later settling in Iberia (Spain). By the seventh century trade with Byzantium was extensive across the Mediterranean ports and influences felt in the arts and jewelry. The cross monogram with Greek lettering suggests the ring was worn in a Christian context during the Migration era. 

Description:
Gold ring with twisted wire hoop, open under the round bezel with beaded wire border and on either side a group of three globules. Engraved on the bezel is a cruciform monogram with at least five Greek letters, in reverse: P, Α, Λ, Γ, I.  The ring is in good wearable condition.

Provenance:
Munich, Collection C.S.

Literature:
The form of the ring, as here, with three globules supporting a round bezel is typical for the Migration Era, cf. Hadjadj 2007, Type 5, p. 62 and with cross monogram no. 139. The cross monogram with the abbreviated name of the owner is more common on Byzantine rings of the sixth and seventh century, cf. Chadour/Joppien 1985, nos. 160-162; Spier/Hindman 2012, nos. 21-22 and Hindman 2017, no. 6.

Reference number: 857

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