JEWISH WEDDING RING
Central or Eastern Europe (Hungary?), 19th century
Weight 19.2 gr.; circumference 72.5 mm.; US size 15; UK size Z+3
The Jewish custom of giving a wedding ring seems to have been known as early as the seventh and eighth century in Babylonia and then spread to other parts of the Diaspora. Possibly to date the first mention of a ring being given during a Jewish wedding ceremony, rather than as a symbol of betrothal, goes back to Rabbi Jakob hal Lewi Mölln in the Rhineland, about 1400 and is mentioned in the Maharil (Par. 5). The earliest surviving examples of Jewish wedding rings were found in the Colmar and Erfurt Treasures dating to the first half of the fourteenth century and during this period illustrations of the ceremony begin to appear in manuscripts. According to the rituals such rings were not allowed to include gemstones, color is introduced in some elaborate examples through the use of enamel. Most Jewish wedding rings bear an inscription with good luck wishes “Mazal Tov” in Hebrew and this would suggest an Ashkenazim tradition and origin in Western or Eastern Europe. Some rings are surmounted by an architectural bezel which alludes to the Torah’s vision of the house symbolizing the wedded couple’s future life and home. Due to the continuous exodus of the Jews through history the attributions of where a ring is made remains complicated, especially as some designs are influenced by the goldsmiths of the regions they settled in. The filigree decoration of the above ring is typical of the work of Transylvanian goldsmiths, some examples include enamel. Here the person for whom the ring was made preferred a plainer version.
A wide and ornate gold band with filigree domes, along the edges complex twisted wires and in between globules framed by corded wire to appear like flowers. On top a hinged gabled roof with tiles indicated by corded wires forms the bezel. When opened it reveals a thin sheet metal plaque with the engraved Hebrew inscription mazel tov, this in turn can be flipped and the compartment may have contained a paper with prayer.
Provenance: Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection, United States