Western Europe, c. 1580
Height 23.05 mm; exterior diam. of hoop 19.61 mm; bezel 9.59 {x} 13.48 mm.
Weight 5.10 grams
U.S. size 6; U.K. size L ½

For Shakespeare, the ruby was “unparagoned,” and Benvenuto Cellini valued it above all other gems on account of its glorious color.Cellini goes on to describe how to set it in a bezel, “enhancing it with foils of which some should be of so deep a glow that they seem quite dark and others differing in intensity till they have scarce any red in them at all.” The jeweler who created this setting seems to have followed Cellini’s instructions to the letter, for the five foiled stones, which glow with light and fire, are set at different angles on the cruciform bezel so that each can be fully appreciated. Since rubies are usually found in small sizes, the challenge was to group these five stones together to make one mass of uniform color, and he has chosen to set them into a cruciform motif. Although of course we can do no more than imagine the identity of the original owner of the present ring, rings like this may well have been gifts at child birth, the ruby in particular signaling success and prosperity.

Provenance: Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Art Museum, 1985–2013.

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