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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

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Fede ring

Fede from Italian, "fede" is "trust". A type of finger ring, often worn as a betrothal ring or an engagement ring, but sometimes merely as a token of affection, having as decoration an engraved pair of clasped right hands or two such hands moulded to form the bezel. They were usually made of silver (some of gold).

On some examples from the 15th century the hands are at the back of the ring, and the bezel is ornamented, sometimes with a gemstone or a woman's head or heart. Occasionally the fede ring was made in the form of a gimmel ring, with the hands on separate hoops and made to link together; these were sometimes separated so that each of an engaged couple could wear half until the marriage.

Fede rings were used from Roman days, and were popular throughout Europe from the 12th until the 18th century. Some have an inscription (usually amatory; but sometimes religious or magical) around the hoops. The term 'fede' is said to have been introduced by 19th-century ring collectors from the Italian mani in fede (hands in trust).

Links in the form of clasped hands were used in marriage chains of the 16th century.

From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson

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