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Love ring

16th century

Gold fede ring, the bezel with two clasped hands in openwork, the plain flat hoop with chased bust and volute shoulders

15.49 mm internal ring diameter; 3.69 g weight

Presented by Dr C.D.E. Fortnum in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897; WA1897.CDEF.F435

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. 15.4