Renaissance ruby ring
‘Her worth is far above rubies.’
This ring, circa 1600, exemplifies the classic Renaissance ring, in which each part – the bezel, shoulders, hoop and gemstone are clearly defined but all merge together as one artistic whole. The high carat gold shank has a petalled bezel finely decorated with black and white enamel. ‘Blackwork’ enamel first appeared around 1585 and consisted of patterns of small curved and broken scrolls against a black or white enamel ground, contrasting with the bright enamels popular earlier in the sixteenth century. The ring is set with its original ruby, a gemstone highly prized for its rarity, beauty and talismanic or magical qualities. Its owner may have believed that a ruby would protect him or her from perils, including the loss of land and rank, as well as demonstrating his or her status and good taste. It is size L [US 5 and 1/2] and has survived in remarkably fine condition. For similar examples see the V and A Museum jewellery collection and Scarisbrick’s Historic Rings.