Two meaningful rings

Two meaningful rings

Anon.

(a) c.1400; (b) 16th century

England or France

ring

a) This ring is made from engraved gold, set with a sapphire and a garnet. It is a ‘posy’ ring—the name derived from ‘poesy’ or poetry because it has an inscription on the inside: ‘due tout mon coer’ (‘with all my heart’). It is typical of medieval love tokens with messages worn next to the skin. The ring’s pair of gems suggests a relationship between two lovers, while underneath the stones in the bezel is a little compartment that could have held another love token, such as a strand of hair.

b) This is a ‘fede’ ring (from Italian féde: trust, loyalty), made from enamelled gold and set with turquoises. It is in a ‘gimmel’ design (with two interlocking hoops), the hand and heart symbolizing love and faith. The ring is inscribed ‘SYMON. CORNELISZ. CORNELISIE ENCELS. D.’

Both rings once belonged to Dame Joan Evans (1893–1977), historian and pioneering scholar of jewellery and design who studied and was then Librarian at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. She later became the first woman President of the Society of Antiquaries, and donated her collection of gems and jewellery to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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