Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Obviously, it should be "I'ma Get Medieval on Your Ass"*

*About the title: I was googling it to make sure I had the quote correct, and found that there is a textbook about the film called "Get Medieval on Your Class: Pulp Fiction and the Composition Classroom" and I ask, where was this class when I went to school?

On to the post...

I really wanted to find some modern, simple rings to post today, but I ended up at the most amazing site: Medieval Rings. They have 93 rings listed that cover the spectrum from Byzantine to Baroque, and every last one is beautiful. They seem so sleek and radiant compared to a lot of rings produced by mass market jewelers nowadays. I pulled my ten favorites and posted their histories below (which make them that much more lovely, in my opinion.) Again, their version is much too interesting for me to rewrite.

Also, how great would it be to own a ring inspired by these designs? That's something I would definitely consider working with a jeweler on...
(P/S: I was concerned that 10 pictures plus text would overload the post, hence the group photo. Click to enlarge.)

1. Late Roman Two-Finger Ring
Roman Empire, 4th century
gold and green and purple glass
"Fashionable between the 1st and 5th centuries double finger rings seem to have been made in Antioch and Alexandria (see Lightfoot, 1985, for a history and census of two-finger rings). Some writers suggest they were made for funeral purposes, but they were probably also actually worn and bear vivid witness to the late Roman practice of loading up the fingers with rings. In type, they adopt the same forms used other finger rings."

2. Byzantine cloisonné Ring
Constantinople?, 10th century
gold and enamel
"Cloisonné enamel consists of cloisons forming the outline of a decorative pattern and soldered to the surface. The enamels are laid into the shapes and fired."

3.Renaissance Gemstone Ring
Spain (or perhaps Colonial Spain), c. 1650
gold and diamonds
"Found in wreckage from the Nuestra Señora de Las Maravillas. (1656)
he galleon Nuestra Señora de Las Maravillas set out from Spain in 1655 bringing up the rear of a large flotilla, sailing to South America via the Canary Islands. It loaded up with silver, gold, and emeralds in Panama in March 25, 1655 and set sail for Havana in the same year. Leaving Havana on January 1, 1656, it collided with the larger Almiranta and sunk. After a few early attempts of recovery, the wreck remained untouched for three hundred years until discovered by Robert Marx in 1972, and eventually in 1986 Captain Herbert Humphreys negotiated a successful contract for the salvage rights with the Bahamanian government. He colorfully wrote: “…To dive beneath the sea and hold in your hand a weapon, a coin, a piece of jewellery or a tool that belonged to some unknown man or woman long dead to the search, is an experience few people can have. I have seen the stuff that dreams are made of.”

4. Renaissance "Penny" Ring
Italy?, 15th century
gold and turquoise
"Developed from the medieval “claw” setting, this is a type of cusped ring, where the area between the claws is pushed away from the collet, the bezel forming a flower that encircles the bud—or literally the stone. Sometimes called "penny" rings because of their small size and doubtless modest cost, several rings of this type being worn together on one finger. Mined in Persia, turquoise is a soft and porous mineral highly prized in the Middle Ages for its talismanic virtues, promising contentment to the wearer, but also protection against illness, drowning, poisoning, or having an accident while horseback riding."

5.Gothic Tart Mold Ring
England, 12th-13th century
gold and pyrope garnet
"One of the two types of Gothic decorative rings with gemstones; the “moule à tarte” ring is characterized by a rectangular bezel, the underside of which resembles a tart, or pie-shaped mold, and a plain hoop. It is usually set with a cabochon stone, most often with a garnet or a sapphire. This type of ring is typically medieval and comes in many variations developed to accommodate the irregular stones, sometimes with straight bezels and sometimes with sloping ones as occurs here. Like other garnets, pyrope is the birthstone for January."

6. Gothic Tart Mold Ring
England, 13th century
gold and emerald
See #5 for further information on this style.

7. Late Roman Gemstone Ring
Roman Empire, 3rd-4th century
gold and glass
"The Roman love of colors, goldsmith work, and exotic forms comes together in this type of ring. Most extant examples combine red and green stones (usually garnets or rubies and emeralds, sometimes paste), and most employ extensive granulation. The triple bezel finds a variant in double and even quadruple bezel rings (e.g., Victoria & Albert Museum, 475-1871), perhaps inspired, like the two- and more finger rings, by the Roman custom of wearing multiple rings (as many as sixteen) on one hand. An identical type of bezel can be found in rings from the Thetford Hoard (London, British Museum) dating from Roman Britain in the 4th century. "

8. Renaissance Gemstone Ring
Spain?, 17th century
gold and rock crystal
"This simple, elegant type of ring postdates the box bezel and appears to date parallel the fashion for cluster rings. The purity of its design sets off the faceted stone, which was often a diamond. In this case the stone is a rose-cut rock crystal, a cut that developed either at the end of the fifteenth or in the early years of the sixteenth century and was favored especially during the seventeenth century. The rose cut and other stylistic elements of the present ring suggest a date in the seventeenth century."

9. Renaissance Gemstone Ring
Northern Europe, 16th century
gold and rock crystal
"The ring fits well in a group of Renaissance fashion rings meant to show off the skills of the master goldsmith and forming a transition between the plainer medieval gemstone rings, especially the cusped rings of which echoes remain here, and the later Renaissance and Baroque rings on which simple goldsmith work is designed to show the intricate cuts of precious stones."

10. Fatimid Ring
Southern Spain, 9th-11th century
gold and turquoise
"The fabrication of this ring is typical of the craftsmanship of Fatimid goldsmiths: boxlike construction, gold stringing loops, paired twisted wires, filigree; a method using granules of gold, and occasionally inlay work with gems were also employed. The six-pointed star, a familiar symbol in Islamic art, is usually called "Solomon's seal," which was believed to ward off bad luck. The Fatimid dynasty (909–1171) ruled over present-day Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, Egypt, and Syria. They were renowned for their rich splendid jewellery, and their rivalry with the Umayyad, Arabs living in Spain, did not prevent them from traveling all over Southern Spain in the guise of merchants."

On the site, you can find masses of information on all these styles, as well as a really interesting essay entitled The Intimacy of Rings.

"The relationship between owner and ring can be associated with this idea of a confined and intimate world. Possessing at the same time the ring and the finger it encircles, the owner has no need of someone else's regard or even of a mirror to admire what he or she wears. The ring is tied to the idea of completeness, which probably explains the oft-recounted burning desire to possess it."

Aha! I knew there was a reason!

Anyhow, the entire site is connected to Les Enluminures, another really interesting resource for Medieval history. Totally not getting any work done today.


WendyB said...

Great site!!! I was just contemplating a two-finger ring in this book (did I already give you the link?): http://www.amazon.com/Rings-Jewelry-Power-Love

In Yr Fshn said...

Ah! No, madam, you certainly did not! I just put it on hold a the library though---looks amazing!
The two-finger deals seem a little hard to manuever with, right?

WendyB said...

I'd imagine so. Funny, there's a very large one I was looking at at Kaviar and Kind over the summer...just goes to show there's nothing new under the sun, right? (and I would be amazed if they ever sold that thing, no offense to the designer!)

In Yr Fshn said...

Maybe one of the Olsen twins will try to revive a trend that would obviously only be useful for people who aren't gainfully employed?
So surprising that a designer would risk it, truthfully. Was it expensive?

WendyB said...

I think the Olsens may have been seen wearing a two-fingered ring! I could just be dreaming. The ring got a lot of editorial a while ago. Maybe that helped sell other pieces. I'll find the designer's name for you.

miss vintage love said...

Oh wow, those rings are absolutely amazing.

Sarah B. said...

I love #4!

Anachronista said...

Lovely stuff, thanks for the heads-up on these sites.

Lady N said...

oooh...great post! These are so romantic looking.

Debbie Shiamay said...

Beautiful rings! And a very insighful post too haha! I added you to my links if that's okay :)

In Yr Fshn said...

I'm glad everybody liked them! I think I love 3, and it's story, best. Something very romantic about shipwrecks...
Debbie: Thank you so much for adding me!

riz said...

Wow, how much research went into this post??!! Awesome. Are you a medievalist too?? Seems like people into jewelry inevitably are...Thanks for the comment, and for linking me and nice blog!!

In Yr Fshn said...

Riz--it wasn't so bad. The website was really a wealth of information. To be honest, making the composite of all the rings took the longest! As for being a medievalist... well, I love the jewelry and am fascintaed by the times. Does that make me one?