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Love ring

16th century

Gold fede ring, the bezel in the form of two clasped hands, the shoulders of the hoop decorated with half-figures and scrollwork

15.49 mm internal ring diameter; 6.03 g weight

Bought in Milan

Presented by Dr C.D.E. Fortnum in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897; WA1897.CDEF.F437

This type of love ring is the fede ring (from the Italian mani in fede, 'hands in faith'). The motif of the clasped hands derives from Roman times when the gesture of clasped right hands (dextrarum iunctio) symbolized marriage. The motif reappeared in the twelfth century. It was popular in both southern and northern Europe, particularly in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the north, the fede tended to be incorporated into the hoop or as the bezel. In Italy, it was positioned at the back of the hoop, with a nielloed bezel. The use of the motif can still be seen in the Irish Claddagh ring today.

Taylor & Scarisbrick, Finger Rings from Ancient Egypt to the present day, 1978, no. 637