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Splendid 16th c. Enamel Gold Ring


One of the most superb jewels we have the pleasure to present takes the form of a ring from the 1500s! Truly rare, this 22k yellow gold ring is punctuated on top and back (as was customary for the time) with enamels of grey blue, black, maroon, verdant green and white. Elaborately designed, it integrates a table cut (faceted with a flat top and just five simple slim polished edges) rock crystal set closed back and foiled.

The crystal is set into a deep cinquefoil (five-sided) bezel with sides ornamented with indented cusps. The evolution of this bezel comes from what is often referred to as a “pie dish” bezel which entirely encased a stone in unadorned metal with only the top of the gem in visible. Also typical of the period, the shoulders are strongly emphasized with volutes and sculptural details as well as enameled. During a number of centuries, rock crystal was sometimes used in place of the very scarce diamond. While diamonds existed, they were exceedingly rare as most large diamond mines were not discovered until the 1800s.

For its age condition is quite remarkable with the ring being entirely intact and with a good deal of enamel remaining. (See the "Size" tab for full condition). Imagine this ring directly from a painting such as The Lady Emily Howard of 1610. That portrait displayed a somewhat similar ring tucked into the folds of her frilled lace ruff!

Date: 16th century.

For similar examples see pages 66 and 67 in "Historic Rings" Diana Scarisbrick.

Historical Notes: The 16th century found itself at the beginning of a shift for gem-set finger rings. Technology was evolving which allowed the development of stone faceting (or polishing). Emerging from the centuries old cabochon form (rounded top and flat bottom) some gems were now faceted with multiple facets. Cuts such as the point (the almost raw crystal cut of the diamond) had been present, the hog back (a seldom seen cut with some facets and almost a roof top center of two facets) arrived as did the table cut (flat top with one side facet on each side) – taking their place alongside the cabochon. Innovations such as placing foil beneath a transparent gem to increase the sparkle or saturation of color became the order of the day.

Important: This ring should not be subjected to rough wear such as sports, house work or constant knocking against objects such as keys and the like. While this ring is suitable for wear, its great age and enamel should be respected. In addition, foiled jewelry should not be exposed to water for any extended period of time nor soaked in any other liquid. In addition, avoid steam and ultrasonic cleaning.

+ Measurements, Condition & More

Measurements: 7/16 of an inch (1.1 cm) in length north to south on the hand and rises 1/4 of an inch (0.8 cm) in height off the finger. Weight of 3.2 grams (2.1 dwt).

Ring Size: US 6 (UK L-1/2; Euro or Int. Circum. 51.8 mm; Int. Dia. 16.5 mm; Japan 11). We do not recommend sizing this ring due to its great age and the enamel work. ring_sizing$

Hallmarks: Engraved to interior, HG; S.

Condition: Excellent for its great age; enamel is about 70% intact; rock crystal has an edge chip; bezel has been expertly reinforced.

Origin: Possibly English.

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