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Love ring

Germany

Late 16th century

Gold fede ring, the square bezel set with a diamond within four triangular lobes also set with diamonds, the hoop chased and enamelled black at the shoulders with clasped hands beneath

16.31 mm internal ring diameter; 3.5 g weight

Bought in Innsbruck from the Habtmann family

Presented by Dr C.D.E. Fortnum in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897; WA1897.CDEF.F517

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.

Scarisbrick and Henig, Finger Rings, 2003, pl. 23.2; Taylor & Scarisbrick, Finger Rings from Ancient Egypt to the present day, 1978, no. 681