Renaissance finger rings of this quality and condition are rare. Set with a single large table-cut diamond, this ring is a kaleidoscope of coloured enamel. The ring’s sophisticated openwork bezel and flamboyant shoulders terminate into elegant enamelled blackwork. Like Renaissance sculpture, this ring is best appreciated from all angles. This is a “wearable” sculpture.

A gold ring with a hoop in rounded D-section and “blackwork” ornament on the shoulder in opaque black with traces of white enamel. The elaborate hoop terminates in opaque dark blue enamel volutes with translucent red and white cartouches. These support the bezel set with a gold plinth and a table-cut diamond in a raised box setting with tapered sides. Like the center of a flower, it is surrounded by green enameled leaves and white buds, probably myrtle.    

Since the fifteenth century, diamonds were valued not only for their rarity and durability but also for their symbolism as betrothal or wedding rings, standing for virtue and constancy and worn by women as well as men. They are often seen in Renaissance portraiture, ostentatiously displayed by the wearer to show their marital status. The owner of this ring would have been of high social standing and may have been given the ring in promise of marriage or during a wedding ceremony.  

On the hoop is a French owl mark, a guarantee hallmark in use since 1893, for jewelry of unknown origin. 


Scarisbrick 2016, no. 11.


This ring is unique in its intricate design and symbolism. Table-cut diamonds in box settings were popular in the sixteenth century, however, the raised plinth encased by green foliage and white buds is exceptional. Renaissance goldsmiths integrated myrtle and its white flowers into the marriage story, which can be found in jewels of the time and even today is associated with love and included in bridal bouquets. “Blackwork” ornament on the shoulder was fashionable between 1585 until about 1620 and is found on various examples. See: Scarisbrick 2004, no. 159; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 312-313, no. 435-438. 


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