Sale Title: IMPORTANT JEWELLERY
Location: London, King Street
Sale Date: Jun 15, 2006
Lot Number: 0398
Sale Number: 7240
Lot Title: AN EXTREMELY RARE MEDIAEVAL DIAMOND LOYALTY RING
Estimate: 30,000 – 50,000 British pounds
Price Realized: 84,000 British pounds – Sold After Sale
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
AN EXTREMELY RARE MEDIAEVAL DIAMOND LOYALTY RING The point-cut diamond to the star and heart engraved mount, ‘V’ and ‘A’ engraved shoulders, and inscribed hoop, 14th century
Discovered on the farmland of Manley Hall in the village of Manley in Cheshire, 19 May 2002 and filed as Treasure Trove on 17 June 2002. Manley is on the edge of Delamere Forest, which was originally the royal hunting ground of King Edward III
Enamelled and engraved rings from the 14th century often fall within a tradition of mediaeval ‘love rings’ where lovers’ initials may both be engraved within the ring. However, there may also be a stronger political influence behind this ring. The use of a diamond within a ring is very unusual in the 14th century and marks this ring as an important and significant object, and possibly gift. Historically, a valuable ring may have been given as a token of love, or alternatively as a sign of allegiance. One ring, known as the ‘Verney Ring’, was given in the 17th century by Charles I to Sir Edmund Verney, one of his most loyal followers during the Civil War. It has been noted that the ring offered here, bearing three ‘E’ initials between stars, dates to the time of Edward III during the 100 Years War. The series of Anglo-French conflicts known as the Hundred Years War dominating Edward’s reign were chiefly caused by disputes over English holdings in France and troubles between the Flemish weaving cities (allies of the English) and their French overlords. One wealthy Flemish weaving merchant, Jacob van Artevelde, emerged as a political leader against the French, forming the League of Flemish Towns in 1336 who supported Edward’s claim to the title of King of France (through his mother’s line) in 1340. Edward III and Van Artevelde were doubtlessly close. Holding the contentious position of primary English supporter within the French-ruled Ghent, Van Artevelde was assassinated in 1345, leaving a son, Philip Van Artevelde, whose godmother, Philippa of Hainault, was the wife of Edward III. In turn, Jacob Van Artevelde was godfather to Edward III’s and Philippa’s son, John of Gaunt. Philip continued the Flemish fight in his allegiance to the English King and Queen. The motto reading across both sides of the hoop, ‘loyaute sans fin’, indicates an eternal dedication of loyalty, and together with the initials ‘V’ and ‘A’ either side of the bezel would be an appropriate dedication between the King of England and his closest Flemish supporter within the political climate of the mid fourteenth century. Cf. D. Scarisbrick, Historic Rings, Kodansha International, 2004, pp. 59-60, no. 146 Cf. G. Kunz, Rings for the Finger, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1973, p. 190
One of the most splendid medieval finds to come up through the process of the Treasure Act is undoubtedly a gold and diamond ring found in Manley, Cheshire in 2002. Another ring found with coins at Thame in Oxfordshire in 1940 is similar enough in its detail to suggest a date in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century. The design of the Manley ring is complex with decorative elements which undoubtedly had greater significance for the original owner than is apparent to us today. It is inscribed on the top “sans fin” and on the bottom “loiauté” meaning ‘unceasing loyalty’. At the back of the hoop is a central, openwork band with three letters ‘E’ juxtaposed with three stars. The inscription is sufficiently chivalric in sentiment to have been passed between men and the allure of this very high-status jewel has led to some tentative historic associations.
The repetition of three letters ‘E’ with three stars convinced the finder that the ring was associated with Edward III. He felt that the black diamond signified the Black Prince and that the ring passed between father and son. However there is no supporting evidence for a royal association either through heraldry (which is absent from the design), a known use of the motto ‘sans fin loiauté’ by Edward III or any documented allusion to Edward signifying his royal status by the use of stars. A more recent speculative line of argument associates the ring with Edward III and his Flemish supporter Jacob van Artevelde on the assumption that the two open work letters on the shoulders of the ring, ‘V’ and ‘A’, stand for ‘van’ and ‘Artevelde’, but there is no substantive reason why this should be the case. A more convincing use of initial letters is their well documented place in courtship.
The crowned heart placed beneath the diamond amplifies the notion that this might be a romantic love ring. A ring at the British Museum almost identical in construction with open-work shoulders containing individual letters spelling ‘AMOURS’ suggests that the Manley ring belongs to a wider repertoire of love jewellery produced by the same goldsmith.
Inscription: sans fin loiauté
Current location of find: Private collection, sold at Christies.
Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder
Broad period: MEDIEVAL
Date from: AD 1350
Date to: AD 1540
Weight: 3.54 g
Diameter: 22 mm
Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 1st May 2002
Source links and info:
- Herepath,N (2002) LVPL2060 A MEDIEVAL FINGER RING — Finds.org.uk treasure database
- How a treasure hunter struck gold with a mysterious ring, by ROBERT HARDMAN, Daily Mail, 12 June 2006
- Important Jewellery, 15 June 2006 — Christie’s auction where ring was sold; lot no longer online.