This is an ancient Roman silver wedding/betrothal ring, dating to the 3rd - 4th century A.D. The rectangular shaped bezel is inlaid with a silver repoussé plaque (depicting a pair of figures standing vis à vis). These are clasping hands, agreeing on a contract, portrayed in ancient art as representative of betrothal and marriage.
The ancient Romans did not use engagement rings or wedding rings in exactly the same way as we do today. However, we know that in some cases, prior to the wedding ceremony, the sponsus offered his or her spouse (sponsa) a ring, the annulus pronubus. In archaeological research, it is difficult to recognize when and with what purpose a jewel was given - and that is true of wedding and engagement rings as well. However, there are a small group of rings that are well identified as annuli pronubi. It depicts the moment of joining the two right hands of husband and wife, a moment at the ceremony of the Roman marriage called dextrarum iunctio. Similar rings in gold depicting a pair of figures clasping hands have been attributed as wedding bands, though over time the deigns changed so we can never really be certain. I am more inclined towards this ring as being a betrothal piece, with the plaque easily changed over to a pair of clasped hands after the wedding. The silver foil has been decorated from behind (repoussé) with a stylized pair of figures, the plaque inset into the ring with a simplified rubbed bezel (again indicative of it being replaced by a dextrarum iunctio plaque).
This is a wonderful example in excellent condition, a nice ancient ring for your collection
OBJECT: Wedding / Betrothal Ring
DATE: c. 3rd - 4th century AD
RING SIZE: 6 1/4 (US) M 1/2 (UK)
SIZE: 19mm x 21mm x 3mm (bezel 11mm x 8mm x 2mm)
WEIGHT: 2.7 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. European Private Collection, Munich.
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