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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

It's a Ring thing!

A 17th century Posy ring with engraved poem from Les Enluminures
A Ring Presented to Julia
by Robert Herrick

Julia, I bring
   To thee this ring,
Made for thy finger fit;
   To show by this
   That our love is
(Or should be) like to it.

 And as this round
   Is nowhere found
To flaw, or else to sever;
   So let our love
   As endless prove,
And pure as gold for ever.

Men and women alike have worn rings throughout recorded history. Rings are mentioned in Greek mythology and in the Bible. They have been discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs and early burial mounds. Rings were particularly popular with the Romans, used as symbols of wealth, power and status – even Roman slaves wore rings.

The very earliest rings recorded were made of gold, silver, iron or bone and were usually unadorned. Early rings set with a stone or engraved with a decorative motif were initially less common but quickly became the norm.
A 19th century 'Papal' ring , Italian circa 1830

Rings have been used as signatures in the form of a seal or signate; they have been used as symbols of rank or devotion or to advertise the membership of a select group. The Scriptures tell us that priests wore rings and today Bishops and the Pope still wear rings symbolising their consecration. Nuns who have taken final or "perpetual" vows indicate their status by wearing a simple silver ring on the left hand.

Rings have even been used to carry coded messages and even to conceal a draught of poison!

Rings conferring magical abilities are often mentioned in fairy tales and fiction.

In many ancient cultures, the circle was the symbol of eternity, with no beginning or end. The hole in the center of the ring also had significance. It wasn’t just considered a space, but rather a gateway, or door; leading to things and events both known and unknown. To give a woman a ring signifies never-ending and immortal love. Today in most religions a ring is worn on the finger on which it was placed during the wedding ceremony as a symbolic declaration of eternal love.

Gimmel Ring. Germany, circa 1600-50.
Victoria and Albert Museum

That being said, rings are of course principally worn as decorative items. The wearing of a ring allows its bearer to make a statement of wealth and fashion style – from delicate decorative ornate pieces to chunky ‘rapper style bling’ and everything in between!

Baby rings and two-finger ring
Fourth to fifth centuries, Roman and Byzantine,
Photograph by Les Enluminures
It was not unusual for a wealthy lady to wear more than one ring on each finger. Rings have been worn traditionally closest to the main hand but can also be positioned just before the knuckle joint and even on the tips of fingers. There are also early examples of double rings worn on two fingers simultaneously. The wearing of knuckle rings and double rings is experiencing something of a comeback recently.

St. Blaise wood and gilt reliquary at Braunschwieg
Rings in former times were not made to fit any specific finger but would rather be worn on the finger on which they best fitted. In Tudor England there was even a fashion to wear a cord around the wrist tied back to the ring if it was too large for the finger and also perhaps to protect against theft. Fortunately today jewellers can make a ring to suit a client’s specific finger!

Interestingly, this concept has now evolved into the modern ‘Slave Ring’ where a ring is connected to a bracelet. The term ‘Slave Ring’ in no way refers to actual slavery but to the fact that the ring and bracelet are linked and hence are slaves to one another. It is very popular in Asian communities especially for brides to wear the 'Hathphool' or 'Panja'.

Panja - a central stone linked to five finger rings with chains
Hathphool - a bracelet linked to a single finger ring with chain

Through time, the style and finish of rings have changed in keeping with the evolution of fashion but the function and concept remains. Some modern day rings ...

The Jens Hansen Movie Ring

Rouelle GISELE Cuff Handpiece

I found it fascinating digging into the history of rings - as you can see it is a Ring thing! I hope I have inspired you to think Rings next time you accessorize and be proud of the history it carries with it. And if you need a ring fix now, check out our Ring collection here.

Jkhoo Designs

Until next time...

Today and everyday ... is an adventure!

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