Ring

ca. 1400 (made)
Ring thumbnail 1
Ring thumbnail 2
+2
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Rings were the most widely worn jewels in the middle ages. They were worn by men, women and children, often in large number and across all the fingers. They vary in size from tiny rings worn on the top joint of a little finger to large rings, to be worn on the thumb or over a pair of gloves.

This ring is set with a natural or point-cut diamond. The diamond takes its name from the Greek adamas, meaning invincible or untamed. Gems have always been considered natural talismans because of their brilliance and hardness; diamonds were thought to provide courage, as well as protection from nightmares. Because of the cutting difficulties posed by the hardness of diamonds, they were not commonly used in rings, and then only in their natural pointed, crystal shape.

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 .’


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold, engraved; diamond crystal
Brief Description
Gold ring, set with a natural diamond crystal. The shoulders inscribed in black letter ave / maria, Western Europe, about 1400.
Physical Description
Gold ring, set with half a natural diamond crystal. The diamond set in a high triangular collet rising from scrolls. The shoulders inscribed in black letter ave / maria.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.9cm
  • Width: 2.1cm
  • Depth: 0.5cm
Marks and Inscriptions
ave / maria (Inscribed in black lettering, on the shoulders.)
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
Previously in the Guilhou collection and then acquired by Dame Joan Evans.

Similar rings have been found by metal detectorists, including LEIC-559D08, found in Fleckney, Leicestershire in 2008, sold by Bonhams Bond Street in April 2011 and a ring found in Manley, Cheshire in 2002 (Finds record LVPL2060).
Subject depicted
Summary
Rings were the most widely worn jewels in the middle ages. They were worn by men, women and children, often in large number and across all the fingers. They vary in size from tiny rings worn on the top joint of a little finger to large rings, to be worn on the thumb or over a pair of gloves.



This ring is set with a natural or point-cut diamond. The diamond takes its name from the Greek adamas, meaning invincible or untamed. Gems have always been considered natural talismans because of their brilliance and hardness; diamonds were thought to provide courage, as well as protection from nightmares. Because of the cutting difficulties posed by the hardness of diamonds, they were not commonly used in rings, and then only in their natural pointed, crystal shape.



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 .’
Bibliographic References
  • Campbell, Marian, Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500, London, V&A Publishing, 2009, p. 28, fig. 23
  • Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, cat. 10, p 17
  • Bury, Shirley, Introduction to Rings, London, 1984, cat 25B
Collection
Accession Number
M.188-1975

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record createdMarch 14, 2006
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