I give you my heart with all my love….
How often will that have been said over the centuries. Very, very often probably. And is still said…. Sometimes the sentence may have been accompanied with a gift. And who wouldn’t fall for a suitor bringing a very nice and very precious gift?
In Sandra Hindman’s book (S. Hindman. 2007. Towards an art history of medieval rings. Paul Holberton Publishing, London, UK. ISBN 978-1903470640. Medieval (gold) rings from a private collection placed in perspective.) a very nice example is shown of a golden ring with a large heart-shaped ruby, lord of stones, with engravings of ivy and the text ‘CORTEPORTAMOR’ estimated to be just for the right period of our re-enactment group, the fourteenth century. Nowadays, I would probably laugh hard and find the ring very much over the top, but perhaps in older times I would just have been delighted. Well, actually no one ever gave me a present like that, so I will just have to make it myself!
The Gothic heart shaped 14th Century love ring in gold and ruby.
With engravings of clinging ivy and text inscription. Height 23 mm,
inner diameter 12.3 mm, outer diameter 18.7 mm, bezel 21.6 x 17.5 mm.
Stone approx. 10.2x 10.8 x 7.7 mm.
The original ring is of course full of symbolism. Ruby is and was a very precious stone surrounded by myths of warding of danger, having the power of fire, removing evil thoughts and of influencing the decisions, mental and physical health of the person wearing it. The ivy expresses fidelity and eternity, as the evergreen crawls and creeps towards the sky, forming a union with whatever it clings to, becoming almost inseparable. And the text to make it even more plain in old Italian that the heart caries love… Someone really had to be convinced.
(Above) Text engraved on the Gothic Love Ring's hoop.
(Left) Engraving with ivy on the bezel of the Gothic Love Ring's hoop.
In Medieval times rubies were probably traded along the spice trading routes, arriving in Europe from India. Nowadays it proves to be difficult to find heart-shaped cabochon natural rubies of the size desired for the ring. Well, at least, I could not find affordable ones. In the end I resorted to buying a synthetic, opaque one – made in China - that as side bonus seems to come closer in appearance to the more pale pink colour of the original stone.
The ring itself is made from 1 mm thick silver plate material. I started sawing out the shape for the band and the heart in one strip very much like a loop shapes cigar band. Sizes. I neatly filed the ends of my band and soldered them together. Next I made the ring round on my ring mandrel. For the heart shaped stone I made the setting out of 0.5 mm silver plate. I drew the heart shape on a small paper and used to strips of approximately 5 mm to form to half shapes that soldered together exactly fell around my ruby.
Repeated annealing the hoop and bezel of my silver ring to be able to slowly mould it to its round shape.
On a half round file I now hollowed out the setting so that the bottom fitted nicely on my ring. I soldered the two pieces together. With a small file I made the top of the setting thinner to make it easier for the time I was going to fit the stone into the setting. Then I had to file and sand the whole thing thoroughly, before polishing it.
The heart shaped setting soldered to the rounded hoop and bezel. After this the heart shape was filed to its final shape and sanded.
The ring was polished except for the inside of the setting.
The text and ivy has been written with a black marker on the hoop and bezel before engraving.
When it was nice and shiny I used a black marker to draw on the ivy vines and fit all the letters of the text on the ring itself. I am not a good engraver, but having the ring firm and stable in my ring clamp it worked out quite nicely. I lightly polished the ring again to get rid of any small scratches made. Then I placed the stone in its setting and slowly pushed, bit by bit, the setting round the stone. Bling bling, ready to show off!
The result shown from three different sides.
The CORTEPORTAMOR text on the replica.
A small movie to show the ring from all sides.
There are various other examples of heart-shaped rings and jewellery found in private collections and museums. Some examples are given below: A medieval 'A'-engraved heart-pendant of bronze (private collection), a medieval children's silver ring with gold-plated heart (private collection), an engraved gold ring with a heart shaped wolf's teeth (14th century, V&A museum, London, UK), and a heart shaped brooch engraved at the back with the text (14th century, V&A museum, London, UK).
Two pictures of a medieval small heart shaped children's ring in silver and gold (the heart) found on a terp - a man-made dwelling mound - in Friesland, the Netherlands. The ring is ornamented with diagonal ribs.
A medieval bronze pendant with a nice green patina, engraved with an A. Archaeological find, Germany.
Gold heart- shaped brooch with stylised leaves and flowers or feathers, made in France or England around 1400. The brooch would have been colourfully enamelled, both at the front and back. Engraved on the reverse in a dentillated border is the black-letter inscription 'NOSTRE ET TOUT DITZ A VOSTRE [D]ESEIR' (Ours and always at your desire), each word separated by a small floral sprig. Brooches often fastened garments with a slit at the neck; they were used both by men and women (V&A museum, item 86-1899, London, UK).
Decorated gold ring with wolf's tooth set in a heart-shaped bezel, made between 1200-1300 in France or England, inscription added around 1375-1425. Gems, but also other materials, such as teeth, were supposed to have magical properties. Inside the hoop are two engravings: a magic formula and a biblical phrase. The charm: ‘BURO + BERTO + BERNETO’ is to protect against toothache; the biblical phrase 'CONSUMMATUM + EST' are the last words Christ spoke on the Cross, and were used as a charm to calm storms. This large ring likely belonged to a man, possibly a merchant who travelled at sea (V&A museum, item 816-1902, London, UK).