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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    Europe (West, made)

  • Date:

    1300-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold set with a cabochon sapphire

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:

    M.285-1962

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 5, shelf C, box 4

The hexagonal shape of the bezel on this ring was made to fit a large polished sapphire. Gemstones were highly valued in the medieval world, sapphires, rubies, garnets, amethysts and rock crystal being the most commonly used. Diamonds were highly valued but much less common. They were prized, as now, for their colour and lustre but also for their perceived amuletic or talismanic powers. Books known as 'lapidaries' listed the powers attributed to each stone. The Liber Lapidum of Marbodus of Rennes (1067-81) was one of the most widely read and claimed that sapphires could protect the body, cool fevers and headaches, calm the eyes and cure stammers.

This ring was formerly part of the collection of Dame Joan Evans (1893-1977), art historian and collector. Early on she collected gems and jewels which resulted in the 1921 book, English Jewellery from the 5th Century BC to 1800. She published widely on jewellery, French medieval art and architecture. Evans was elected the first woman president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1959 (through 1964). She was a trustee of the British Museum (1963-67). In her personal life, she donated time and money to many charitable historic causes, nearly all of them anonymously. Her will left collections to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Birmingham City Art Gallery.

She gave her gem and jewellery collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum through a series of gifts, beginning in 1960. Her association with the museum went back to her childhood and she developed personal friendships with the museum curators and Directors. In 1965, after looking through her jewels with curator Charles Oman and discussing the gift to the V&A, she wrote that: ‘I never expected to feel like a millionaire, but I did today and it was a real creative pleasure to see how my bits and pieces fitted into your great collection to make the best conspectus of jewels I have ever seen. I don’t exaggerate my part; at least I know enough for that. But it’s the fitting in that gave me such surprise and pleasure. I bought better than I knew.’

In 1975, two years before her death aged 84, Joan Evans made over her remaining jewels to the museum, choosing to remain anonymous during her lifetime. As she wrote jokingly to Charles Oman, her village was ‘divided into those who think it must have been me and those who say it cannot have been because I am so shabby.’

In her final years, offering her collection to the museum, she wrote movingly that ‘My jewels come to your Department with love and gratitude. It has been kind to me for 65 years.’

Physical description

Gold ring, the hexagonal bezel is set with an uncut sapphire.

Place of Origin

Europe (West, made)

Date

1300-1400 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Gold set with a cabochon sapphire

Dimensions

Height: 2.7 cm, Width: 2.3 cm, Depth: 1.5 cm

Object history note

Acquired by Sir John Evans(?) in Pressburg, 1886.

Descriptive line

Gold ring, the hexagonal bezel is set with a cabochon sapphire, Western Europe, 1300-1400.

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

Hindman, Sandra ed. Cycles of life: rings from the Benjamin Zucker family collection, London, 2014, p.153

Materials

Gold; Sapphire

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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