Renaissance Diamond Ring
This ring is an exceptionally refined example of a popular sixteenth-century diamond solitaire. The strong geometry of the bezel is complemented by lyrical, mannerist-style ornament that was incised with a burin after casting. Rings of this type developed around the year 1500 from the fifteenth-century cusped ring and remained popular for a century thereafter. Within sixteenth-century aristocratic circles, diamond rings like this bore associations with love, fidelity, and marriage. Revered for its hardness and invulnerability to fire, the diamond came to symbolize the durability of the marriage bond. As such, diamond rings took a central role in rituals of matrimony. Mary, the last Valois duchess of Burgundy, requested a diamond ring from her fiancé, Archduke Maximillian, while Jacobus Typotius records the use of a diamond to symbolize everlasting love during the wedding ceremonies of Marguerite of Angoulême and Henri II of Navarre in 1527.
This lost-wax ring bears a point-cut diamond within a high quatrefoil bezel. The chased and engraved foliate patterns adorning the cusped petals of the bezel bear traces of black enamel. The bezel transitions to the hoop with shoulders adorned with three-dimensional strapwork and incised leaf-like patterns. While the enamel is lost and the tip of the diamond has been chipped, the ring is in overall excellent condition and testifies to the high technical and artistic achievement of sixteenth-century goldsmiths.
For other quatrefoil rings set with point-cut gems or raw octahedral diamonds, see Victoria and Albert Museum (published in Oman, 1912, nos. 1937, 1938, 1940); ex-Harari Collection (square box bezel set with a ruby; published in Boardman, 1977, nos. 170, 171); ex-Melvin Gutman Collection (published in Parke-Bernet Galleries, The Melvin Gutman Jewelry Part V, May 15, 1970, lot 36); Hashimoto Collection, 9CL026 (raised box bezel set with a ruby, ex-Phillips Collection; published in Scarisbrick, 2004, no. 158); the Zucker Collection (published in Scarisbrick, 2007, nos. 426-430, and Hindman 2014, nos. 33 and 34).