This is a rare Renaissance gold finger ring, dating to the 16th - 17th century. The ring is of a 'figural' type usually decorated with dogs or rabbits - given as tokens of love or affection. This example, however, is decorated with a salamander. This was the symbol adopted as a livery by king Francis of France ( between 1515 - 1547) contemporary with Tudor king Henry VIII of England.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) wrote the following on the salamander: "This has no digestive organs, and gets no food but from the fire, in which it constantly renews its scaly skin. The salamander, which renews its scaly skin in the fire,—for virtue." Later, Paracelsus (1493–1541) suggested that the salamander was the elemental of fire. All Salamanders are connected with fire, with resistance to fire and protection from fire, as well as protection from poisons (which were thought to emanate from its mouth)
This salamander would have been depicted standing on a fire, the flames likely picked out in red enamels. You can see the swirls in the gold around the bezel where the flames would appear to lick the finger. Sadly the enamels are missing, but we can easily imagine what riot of color this ring would have appeared (sitting on the finger).
In Renaissance courtly etiquette, the salamander would have symbolized a burning desire. This ring, possibly once gifted to a lady by an amorous knight (to show his burning affection). Today it has survived in good wearable condition.
OBJECT: Figural Ring
DATE: c. 16th - 17th century A.D.
RING SIZE: 5 1/4 (US) K 1/4 (UK)
SIZE: 25mm x 22mm x 7mm (bezel 22mm x 19mm)
WEIGHT: 10.36 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. European Private Collection
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