"The diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world," this was written by Pliny, the Roman Naturalist and author of the "Natural History" in the first century AD.  Through its history the diamond was admired for its extreme hardness and translucency. By the fifteenth century the earliest known betrothal or wedding rings with this gemstone became fashionable. In Renaissance and Baroque Europe, diamonds, at the time sourced from India, have been associated with enduring love and were symbolic of constancy and virtue. The symbolism and function of the diamond in an engagement or wedding jewel continues today. Throughout the seventeenth century, diamond cuts became increasingly elaborate to create an amazing sparkle in the glow of candlelight.

Gold hoop with D-section, plain on the interior and on the exterior engraved with acanthus scrolls on the shoulder with traces of black and dotted white enamel. The bezel, shaped like a flower, has in the center a larger diamond which is surrounded by eight smaller diamonds, all table-cut and in cusped closed settings. The bezel is flanked on either side with clusters with three diamonds in the same settings. Along the tapering bezel sides is black enameled arcading. Some of the enamel is missing due to age and wear; the ring is in good wearable condition.


Cluster rings became popular in the seventeenth century and replaced larger single gemstone settings, creating an equally dazzling effect, yet more affordable solution. By this period in Western Europe, diamonds were set in silver to enhance the whiteness of the stone; however, in Portugal and Spain it continued to be fashionable to set them in gold.

 Goldsmiths's drawings of similar cluster rings appear in the Llibres de Passanties, Museu d'historia de la Cuitat, Barcelona, between 1620 and 1640. For related examples and settings, cf. Alice and Louis Koch Collection, Swiss National Museum, Zurich (Chadour 1994, no. 768); Hashimoto Collection, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo (Scarisbrick 2004, no. 183). For further examples, see: Scarisbrick 1993, p. 96; Scarisbrick 2007, no. 441.  


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