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  • Place of origin:

    Germany (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1350-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, silver gilt, engraved

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 6, shelf B, box 22

The decorative device of two hands clasped in love and trust is found all over Europe, on brooches, and on rings, such as this example. This type of ring is commonly known as a 'fede' (faith) ring. The expression fede or mani in fede is taken from the Italian, meaning 'hands clasped in trust'. The term was popular among nineteenth-century collectors, though it is found as early as the seventeenth century. Among the definitions of 'fede' in John Florio's 1611 Dictionarie of the Italian and English Tongues is 'a ring made with hand in hand'. The term ‘hand in hand’ was common in 16th and 17th century England, for example in the ring left by Johan Broucker to her sister in 1577, described as a 'ringe of golde with an hande in hande'.

This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.
As the clasping of hands was part of the medieval betrothal ceremony, it is not surprising to find rings decorated like this, although it is impossible now to be certain exactly whether they commemorated friendship, love, betrothal or marriage.
The 'fede' motif continues in use today on the Irish 'claddagh' ring.

Physical description

'Fede' (Faith) ring; silver gilt, engraved. The hoop in the form of two clasped hands. The hoop inscribed in lombardic lettering I/H/E/S/V/S.

Place of Origin

Germany (possibly, made)


ca. 1350-1400 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silver, silver gilt, engraved

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed in lombardic lettering


Height: 2.5 cm, Width: 2.5 cm, Depth: 0.9 cm

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Descriptive line

'Fede' (Faith) ring, the hoop with two clasped hands, and inscribed in lombardic lettering IHESVS, possibly Germany, ca. 1350-1400

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Campbell, Marian, Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500, London, V&A Publishing, 2009, p.95, fig.108


Silver; Gold


Engraving (incising); Gilding

Subjects depicted

Love; Faith


Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project


Metalwork Collection

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