Good morning, my darlings!
We’re going deep into the world of antique jewelry today: it’ll involve facts and dates and everything.
As you know, I had the pleasure of attending the Jewelry History Series at the Miami Beach Antique Show back in January. One of my favorite parts was Emily Stoehrer’s presentation, “Castellini to Cartier: Historically Inspired Jewelry.” I was familiar with the concept of revival jewelry – designs that borrow from the style of an earlier era – but seeing the different examples of revival trends throughout history (like the Victorian and Art Deco era’s love for Egyptian motifs) was fascinating.
I was delighted when, while walking the show floor two days later, I found a perfect example of revival jewelry in two rings that Roy Rover showed me at his booth: one a Renaissance revival ring, one an actual Renaissance era piece. It was also a mark of RR’s supreme excellence that he greeted me, said “I know what you’ll like,” and handed these two killer pieces right over.
Let’s take a look, and I’ll show you what I mean.
This incredible piece is the Renaissance era ring. It dates to the year 1590. And I held it in my hand. Me, holding a ring from 1590. My job is the coolest ever.
(In the antique jewelry community of Instagram, the technical term for this view is the “ring butt.”)
The ring features a ruby – deliciously lumpy, as the whole piece is understandably worn by time – in a gold setting.
The setting was once adorned with black and white enamel, but only traces of the enamel remains today. The use of contrasting enamels to product a lush visual effect was common in Renaissance jewelry.
Traces of the black and white enamel and the underlying design in gold remain, especially in corners of the ring more protected from daily wear, like this corner of the ruby’s setting. (Ignore the red, it’s reflected from my dress.)
These details remain, even though this ring is 500 years old. Tell me that’s not the world’s coolest thing.
Here’s the Renaissance revival ring. Oh man, I love this thing. I wish I had found a way to buy it, despite my currently non-bountiful budgetary state.
But anyway: this beauty dates to the 1800’s. Can you see what makes it a Renaissance revival ring? The most obvious (and also my very favorite part) is that incredibly crisp and staggeringly gorgeous use of contrasting black and white enamel over gold. Such a magnificent harlequin-style effect, even though only two colors and the metal of the setting are used.
Did I mention that this Renaissance revival ring was utterly, swooningly perfect? Even if it’s young compared to the ring from 1590, seeing enamel from the 1800’s in condition this exquisite is impressive. Only the tiniest of scratches appear under magnification.
The squarish, almost sheared-pyramid design of the setting that holds the diamond is very reminiscent of common gemstone setting designs seen in Renaissance jewelry, as is the choice to set a round stone in the square setting. You can see an example here on The Barbor Jewel, which dates to the early 1600’s.
Look how far down the side that enamel goes!! According to Clare Phillips’ Jewels and Jewellery, white enameling was barely seen at all in jewelry design in the decades preceding the surge of Renaissance revival style in the mid 1800’s.
It blew my little jewelry-loving mind to see these two next to each other. I hope you think it’s as cool as I thought it was.
Want to learn more about historical revivalist jewelry? Here’s some additional reading from Antique Jewelry University, JCK Magazine’s archive, and The Jewelry Loupe.
Thanks to the always lovely Roy Rover for showing me his treasures and letting me take photos
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Josh Gann says
Renaissance style jewelry is experiencing a revival. These rings have unique design elements that have inspired jewelry makers to create some interesting pieces. One thing that sets them apart is the fact that the designers are creating pieces that are using all the same design elements jewelry makers used during the Renaissance.
Haritika Jewellery says
Thanks for sharing such a nice deep understanding for antique jewellery.
Really good points to upgrade our knowledge.
Amazing rings both; they give me the shivers! Wonder who wore them, what are their stories?!
Amy Roseveare says
Really interesting post, Becky! As you know, I’m always looking to learn more about antique jewlery. Thanks!
Thanks so much, Amy! I thought these pieces and the connection between them was just too cool not to share.
Stella Flame says
Nice analysis and what a great opportunity to get close and personal with those two pieces – love Renaissance rings!
Thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.