The book, Rings: Jewelry of Power, Love and Loyalty will forever go down in history as one of the most epic jewelry tomes. Every page turned, a slight gasp can easily become hyperventilation with illustrations depicting some incredible rings. There are so many examples of fine, historic rings dating back to the Byzantine 6th & 7th Century, even earlier Greek and Roman examples and Egyptian hieroglyphic engraved rings. The information-packed book is one to be studied and may I suggest, keeping a notebook on hand for note-taking and jotting down facts that grab your attention. Like one of my favorite facts–something I hadn’t known before–enamel was introduced in the 14th Century to ornament flowers and leaves on shoulders of rings. Since then, enamel has continued to be a favorite of designers and even consumers, like myself. I have always had a thing for enameled jewelry–the fine examples shown in this book of 14th Century enameled rings will blow you away!
I purchased this book several years ago and read it little by little in between working long hours and keeping up with a blog. Recently, I decided to sit down and finish what I had started and read the entire book…and I am so glad that I devoted the time to doing so!
Most of the pieces featured come from the collection of Mr. Benjamin Zucker, as well as the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, the Freud Museum in London, the Cartier Collection and various private collectors. The book travels through both time and topics, each chapter depicting a theme and running through the examples of rings significant to that theme starting from the first glimpses and then continuing on upward. The book starts out with a very important topic–Signets–perhaps the essence of rings and where they all began. A topic both adamant and necessary–Love, Marriage and Friendship–is by far a leading chapter and very informational. Favorites amongst collectors, like a gimmel ring or fede ring, are depicted here. My favorite part was reading the Latin inscriptions inside posy rings, like In Thee Made I My Choyce Alone, Love Is The Bond of Peace, God Above Joynd Us In Love, Love Me Only, Kepe Me In Mynd, Feare God Love Me, Love Well Thy Frende Tyll Deathe de Parte.
Amongst other topics, Memento Mori and Memorial rings are discussed–which are especially interesting to learn about and also as a collector, to be aware of the difference between them, although sometimes it could be a fine line! Understanding history’s greatest events and how they’ve shaped jewelry/ring design is abundant throughout this book and this topic is terribly intriguing. Memento Mori jewelry would never even exist if the excruciatingly high mortality rates were such a part of everyday life during the 17th Century.
I also enjoyed the last chapter called The Ring as an Accessory which delves into rings with a purpose, like ring watches, rings that hold handkerchiefs, and the famous calendar rings which were all the rage during the early 1800s. An extensive bibliography, notes to the text, notes to the illustrations and index end the book. As a reader, you are left wanting to reading more by Diana Scarisbrick, and you’ll be lucky to find out she has written a few more in the category of Jewelry. Happy reading!