Rings, a gift as a proof of love and friendship
Rings given as a symbol of love and friendship are the most common, and in Balclis rings auctions in Barcelona there are many. Rings with a single gem, such as rubies, sapphires or emeralds, without a distinctive sign, are difficult to classify or recognize as love rings, but their use has been constant throughout history.
The meaning of rings in ancient times
In ancient times, rings were used as a symbol of love and friendship, and there were also exchange rings to enter into agreements. Such agreements were formalized with a handshake or “dextrarum iunctio”, so that, over time, betrothals were established with the same gesture.
Thus, we find rings of the 3rd Century AD that represented this union of hands, which in the 19th Century, collectors came to call them “fede ring”. Portraits of the man and the woman, respectively, were also usual, or as in case of Byzantium, the portraits of the betrothed in full body.
The Middle Ages incorporated these symbols, but also included inscriptions in Gothic letters with more or less poetic content. During the Renaissance, appeared the double hoop rings, detachable, richly worked with enamels and figural decorations of Classical style or with intertwined hands and including gems such as sapphires, diamonds, garnets or rubies.
Development of wedding rings
Subsequently, during the 17th and 18th Centuries, proliferated the heart-shaped rings, more or less abstract, set with more or less gems. Later, in the 18th Century, proliferated the wedding rings, consisting of a plain hoop of metal, gold or silver, without decorations, except maybe a short inscription.
Diamonds were soon incorporated into these plain rings and also coloured stones. Initials were also common, as well as portraits or symbolic decorations such as hearts, pigeons or panoplies. The 19th Century brought together all these trends and by the end of that Century, bracelets replaced rings as love or proposal gifts , but for a short time, until the emergence of the diamonds solitaire ring, which became the top love jewel.
Nowadays, it is common to wait for two rings as a sign of engagement: the first one, during the request for hand in marriage, is usually more important, and the second one, simpler, of wedding-style, is usually delivered during the betrothal.
Diamond’s great hardness and resistance have made it the perfect stone to symbolize the fidelity of marriage, from the14th Century to the present. Although at first it could only be offered by the elite of the time, such as the monarchy or high nobility, at the late 19th Century, with the discovery of the mines in Africa, the use of diamonds spread and their high supply democratised their use.
Diamonds in engagement rings
Since then, diamonds have become a necessary gem, especially since 1886, when Tiffany launched an innovative ring model in which the diamond was elevated above the ring thanks to the use of six claws that allowed light to enter from all sides.
As their cut has been refined, we can find a wide variety of diamonds: the brilliant cut is the flagship cut, followed by the emerald, princess, octagonal, rose or asscher cut. The mount can be simple in gold, white gold or platinum, with more minor stones such as rubies, sapphires or small minor diamonds. The most popular style is Art Déco, but the models from the 50’s also arise interest in Balclis.
Another type of widespread ring is the stamp-like ring. The oldest pieces found are from ancient Egypt. The most representative included rolls with hieroglyphics, often carved in lapis lazuli, agate, jade or rock crystal, mounted on a gold ring. Ancient Greece used them to represent literary and mythological decorations, and the Etruscans followed their steps by incorporating griffins or lions.
In Ancient Rome, stamp-like rings were one of the most important typologies. In that case, they used many “intaglio” pieces, consisting of flat stones, such as onyx, amethyst or carnelian, embossed in such a way that the represented object is sunken, as if it were a negative, keeping the same decorative elements.
In the new era, Christian symbols were incorporated into the iconography of these jewels. Fish, anchors or alpha and omega were recurrent symbols in rings, which you can find in rings auctions at Balclis.
Rings in the monarchy and nobility
The fall of the Western Roman Empire made that rings became highly appreciated among the different monarchies and nobility, and of course among the clerics, but they still kept a late-Roman aesthetic. In the Middle Ages, stamp-like rings played a key role, since they were used as an element of authentication of messages or as an object of alliance between kingdoms. The fundamental change of that period was the incorporation of heraldic symbols.
During the Renaissance, the intaglios reappeared, in an attempt to rediscover and reinterpret antiquity, and during the 17th and 18th Centuries it was not uncommon to incorporate the portrait of its wearer. The 19th Century brought together all the above motifs with a clear revival intention, and today it is still used in Europe as the symbol of belonging to nobility, regardless of whether or not it is used as a stamp.
Today’s rings, timeless rings
Nowadays, more and more women collectors want to purchase a piece for themselves, which must be, above all, functional and have beautiful shapes. So, refined designs are those that have proliferated the most, since they can be worn every day, with abstract or light compositions, and with sets of brightly coloured precious stones. The most common night or gala models are more flashy and extreme.