Jewish Wedding Ring
Gold Jewish wedding ring with engraved abbreviated form of “Mazel tov.”
Wide band of gold sheet with fine corded wires as edging, accompanied by friezes of rope-like wire. Along the exterior of the hoop are six domed bosses in filigree with corded wire ring and globule centers, these alternate with pairs of globules framed with corded wire. A rectangular plaque engraved with Hebrew letters, showing the abbreviated form of “Mazel tov” (good fortune) forms the bezel. The ring shows signs of age through wear and is in good condition. Globule tip of one boss is missing.
From the important Judaica Collection of the late Abraham Halpern. Beginning in the 1970s, and over a period of fifty years, Mr. Halpern acquired rare examples of Jewish art and culture and was legendary in the field. Sotheby’s, New York, 25 November 1981, lot 85.
The inscription Mazal Tov or its abbreviation “M T” means lucky star and is a wish of good fortune for the future life of the newlywed couple. Its use indicates the ring was used/worn by the Ashkenazim Jewish community. The rope-style filigree decoration suggests the ring was produced in Eastern Europe and exported, probably to be worn in Central Europe depending on the migration of the Jews due to political circumstances.
In Antiquity a coin or its equivalent value was given to the father of the bride as a pledge for the betrothal contract or symbolic buying of the bride. The practice can be traced back to the seventh and eight centuries BC in Babylonia, and it spread to Egypt after the diaspora. When the coin was substituted by the ring ritual is uncertain. The earliest mention appears to be from 1400 and Rabbi Jakob hal Lewi Moelln (1365-1427) from Mainz who describes the wedding ceremony and the giving of the ring in the Niggunei Maharil (para 5).
Jewish wedding rings were symbols of good faith and intended for ceremonial use. Often on loan by the synagogue, these were required to be made of precious metal, yet unadorned, and the use of gemstones was not permitted.
For the history of the Jewish wedding ring with varying examples, cf. Chadour 1994, vol. II, pp. 323-333 and for the type, cf. cat. nos. 1088-1092 with further references. This ring type was made either as a single band, double or even triple and can be found in major museum collections throughout Europe, for variants, see also: Hindman/Chadour-Sampson/ Hadjadj/ Ogden/Scarisbrick, Cycles of Life, Rings from the Benjamin Zucker Family Collection, 2014, nos. 11-14.