Ring with Garnet Cabochon
In the Middle Ages stones such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds were considered to be most precious and of great value, as also garnets which were hugely popular. They were sourced from countries in the Middle and Far East and traded within Europe through ports such as Venice and Genoa in Italy. It is therefore not unusual to find re-used gemstones even in magnificent reliquaries or other goldsmiths' work. Such gemstones were spolia from earlier periods, mainly from Roman or Byzantine jewelry and often had the drill holes from a previous mounting, sometimes the channels remain visible. Here the goldsmith used his ingenuity by filling the hole with gold and making it an ornamental feature. Rings with similar designs can be found all over Western Europe, it was a period of International styles and it is thus difficult to attribute the place of production. During the medieval period red gemstones were often mistakenly labeled as rubies, spinels or garnets. Due to the color garnets were thought to have beneficial properties to strengthen the heart, this ring may have been worn for its medical properties or given as a token of love. If only such jewels could tell the story of their owners.
The slender gold hoop is plain inside, and outside the ornament is composed of circular forms alternating with triple ridges in a frieze. There may originally have been enamel. The hoop ends support a high cup-shaped bezel with oblong garnet cabochon. On one end the garnet has a gold insert which was a decorative solution to cover the original drill hole from an earlier piece of jewelry. The ring is in good wearable condition.
In the Alice and Louis Koch Collection there is a similar ring in type and proportions with oblong-shaped ruby cabochon (Chadour 1994, vol. 1, no. 572 with further parallels). For the circular ornamentation of the hoop, cf. a group of ring brooches found on the beach in Tyre, Lebanon and compared with the Colmar Treasure (exh. cat. Treasures of the Black Death 2009, nos. 36 d-f). These have traces of enamel which may point to an original enameling of the circles on the present ring. Similar settings with cabochons in the jewelry found in the Colmar and Erfurt Treasures suggest a date for the ring in the second half of the 13th-14th century (exh. cat. Treasures of the Black Death 2009). A further example found in Norway, cf. Alf Hammervold, Fingerringer fra Middelalderen I Norge, Oslo 1997, no. 84) shows how international designs were at the time.