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The development of betrothal ring giving

The date in the calendar is most associated with romance

front view Medieval clasp hands betrothal ring berganza hatton garden
Medieval clasp hands betrothal ring, circa 14th-15th century.
Ref: 26349

Today, if you were asked which date in the calendar is most associated with romance, surely the answer would be St Valentine's Day, celebrated each year on 14th February. This association of St Valentine being linked with the concept of romantic love, is traced to the literature of the Middle Ages. The first mention of the day in this context is in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parlement of Foules (1382), a poem written in honour of the first anniversary of the engagement of Anne of Bohemia to King Richard II of England. From that point, references to Valentine's Day continue to appear in European literature, including in that of Shakespeare.

Again, the principal metaphor of love- the heart- also made its first appearance around this time in the 13th century in the manuscript Roman de la Poire or Romance of the Pear by Thibaut. This was the earliest visual image of the heart as a symbol for love and still endures today as the definitive motif of affection and romance.

The fede design (featuring clasped hands) is symbolic of the marriage ceremony and the agreed union between two people; this was first thought up in the ancient world and saw a vigorously renewed interest in the medieval period.

Posy rings were the popular ring of the 16th-18th centuries, and a few rare examples can be seen as early as the 14th century. These rings derived their name from the short, sentimental expression, or ‘posy' inscribed on the inside or outside of the gold band. Rings of this type were often used as betrothal or wedding rings and are the precursors to the modern concept of wedding bands.

Tudor early diamond set betrothal rings are rarely seen, exquisite in design and would have been reserved solely for the highest echelons of society. Details such as elaborate engraved patterns adorn the gold and originally would have been inlaid with vivid coloured enamel providing quite a flamboyant and dramatic look. The diamond cut which adorned these early ‘solitaire' designs is very different to later fashions- the table cut is the earliest cut developed, and was achieved by simply grinding off the point of the octahedral crystal forming a flat facet at the top.

Another scarce and interesting type of post medieval betrothal ring is the Stuart crystal ring, a ring which displays an elaborate gold wirework love knot underneath its rose cut rock crystal dome.

Each extraordinary ring from this vast period offers a fascinating glimpse of a bygone era. Visit Berganza -in our shop or via our website- for more information about these rings and to view our entire one-of-a-kind stock.

front view gold posy ring berganza hatton garden
Gold posy ring 'A token of my love', circa late 17th century.
Ref: 20542
Tudor table cut diamond ring, circa 1485 1603. Hatton Garden
Tudor table cut diamond ring, circa 1485-1603.
Ref: 27576
Stuart love knot ring, circa 17th century berganza hatton garden
Stuart rock crystal love knot ring, circa 17th century.
Ref: 27524
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Updated 16/04/2024 at 10:34AM

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