Exceptionally Rare Tudor Ring of Gold
We must stretch our imagination back in history some nearly 500 years ago to an era vastly different from our own. The Age of the Tudors saw the reign that included such great monarchs as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This was a time of history and progress that emerged from the Middle Ages to a time of the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Renaissance. The style of jewelry was very distinctive and served a very different purpose than that of today. I am extremely pleased to present a singular and fine ring dating to circa 1550-1590. Exceptionally rare, this ring is one which if you were to examine important contemporary to that time portraits in museums, you will find rings of similar design gracing the fingers of many high profile and most notable woman. In all likelihood, you will not see another for years and years unless you find yourself in a famous museum. Truly a find and in great demand.
The ring is made of 23 to 24k gold, which is accurate for the time. It is luminous and bright rich yellow gold, which only this high carat gold can bring forth. Fashioned in a quatrefoil motif, the central stone is set in a characteristic four-part cusped bezel. The outer shape is nearly oval but the inner form has four (4) deep cusp or scallop shaped recesses on each side of the stone. This type of mounting was used during the 16th century and fell out of favor as time passed; modified versions were still used until the end of the 17th century. The stone is glass and the color of a deep rich amber gold. It is table cut (with a flat top) and has smooth bezels on each of its four sides.
The shank is a mastery all its own with deeply carved gorgeous curvilinear and organic forms. Often used were foliate designs with realistic plants or leaves as inspiration. Following this historical trend, the designs are refined and classical. The deepest inner recesses once contained enamel, most likely black and white in color, but time has only left us the stunning gold work (these areas are quite small). Now if you look with magnification you find stippled gold. This texture was produced on purpose to hold in the original enamel. If you look at the gold work, you see the thickness of the gold and the tool marks of the hand of the artisan who shaped this treasure and graced the finger of an aristocrat or noblewoman. The back of the shank is rounded and plain. Overall, it is very heavy for its size, weighing 5 grams.
The sensibilities of the times were somewhat contained, refined and controlled. During this period, the artisans often shied away from ostentation, and the rings are very different from the grandeur of the 18th century. Frequently, rings have one simple central stone, and the cut was usually a table cut (as is this one). A few cuts were the “pointed” cut that was used mostly for diamonds. This cut left the natural crystal intact and, consequently, pointed. After 1540, the gold work was frequently adorned with enamel-- as is this one. The overall proportion and scale were generally smaller, and often several rings were worn on one finger. Additionally, in Renaissance portraits you also find rings of similar design and feel, and occasionally worn with a type of string tied to the wrist.
The ring’s condition is quite remarkable with its long travels through the years. It has what appears to be a date appropriate setting and stone cut. The back has a small rectangular cut out, although unusual, is of yet unexplained and research on this proceeds. It could have been done originally but this would be atypical. It may have been done later if the stone were cleaned or reset with another stone. Nonetheless, this appears to have been done long ago if not original. As previously stated, the enamel is gone and the inner shank has scratches that are not visible when ring is worn. The scratches may be a result of long ago cleaning or polishing or perhaps due to being in the earth for lo so many centuries. Otherwise, it is in wonderful condition for such a rare and ancient ring.
Measures 3/8 of an inch across and high for the cusped bezel around the stone. The shank at wider portions measures about 3/16 of an inch across. The size is a US 7-½ (UK O).
Provenance: This has been in a private collection for many years. Family history relates that it was discovered in the ground at Tewkesbury near Gloucester, England. (Interesting to note this is the ancient battle site where the War of the Roses took place on May 4, 1471).
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