Medieval Gold & Amethyst Episcopal Finger Ring
This is wonderful medieval gold finger ring, dating to the 14th century A.D. The ring has a hexagonally shaped bezel, set with the original dark amethyst gemstone in a closed backed rubbed over setting (with ends tooled with scallop mounting). What is nice is the decorated shank, with five panels each with a cross (representing the five wounds of Christ).
From the 14th century, Episcopal ring changed from the earlier 'Stirrup' shaped examples, with more emphasis on the gemstone. As such the goldsmith was able to experiment with new settings (such as this hexagonally shaped bezel). The type of stones also used also changed, especially with disruptions in the trade of sapphires and rubies (due to wars and plague).
To the medieval mind, amethyst was especially popular, known for its magical and protective qualities, but also known as "the Bishop's Stone" worn to attract soothing influences in times of stress and to confer a pious calm on their wearers. To this day a single amethyst gemstone is worn on Episcopal rings by Bishops.
According to the Peterborough Lapidary (late 15th century English treatise on the 'Virtues' of stones and gems) tells us the Amethyst "is comforting to him who bears it when wild beasts come to him; very comforting to all sorrows. And holds a man in good belief and strength both of body and soul to him who bears it worthily and purely. And as the book of Moses tells you, he that bears him (the amethyst) will be welcome before kings and lords. And it makes a man meek. Whoever bears this stone will be more mindful of God, and be gracious. And whoever bears this amethyst, no evil spirit will have the power to do him harm; nor will he have any evil dreaming at night, neither in fire nor in water, nor fever, nor will he fear; and his cattle will increase, and his enemy will not overcome him in a rightful quarrel; nor will he be imprisoned nor die without repentance of his misdeeds, nor be long in prison, unless it is a religious one; nor will any horse stumble under him, nor will he assent to any treason..."
This is an excellent example of this genre of Episcopal rings, intact and perfectly wearable today.
OBJECT: Episcopal Ring
DATE: c. 14th century A.D.
MATERIAL: Gold & Amethyst
SIZE: 22.48mm x 20.70mm x 2.81mm (bezel 8.50mm x 7.46mm x 4.16mm)
RING SIZE: 8 (US) Q (UK)
WEIGHT: 1.9 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. European private collection, Paris, France.