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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

Welcome to our extensive antique jewelry glossary with around 1,500 jewelry related entries.If you feel you are missing an explanation, feel free to let us know and we will add it.

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Finger ring

finger ring

See our: rings.

A type of ring to be worn by a man or a woman on one of the fingers, or sometimes on the thumb.

The ring consists of two parts:

  • the circular band, called the shank or hoop
  • the raised part on the front, called the bezel, which is often broadened to support a collet for setting a gemstone, or which bears an engraved, stamped or enamelled motif or a seal or a scarab
The part that includes the bezel and the set stone is sometimes called the chaton.

Such rings are of many forms, often depending on the occasion of their use, e.g.

  • coronation ring
  • betrothal ring
  • engagement ring
  • wedding ring
  • guard ring
  • keeper ring
  • cocktail ring
  • mourning ring
  • serjeant ring
  • archer's thumb ring

Or the religious significance of the use, e.g.

  • devotional ring
  • ecclesiastical ring
  • papal ring
  • iconographic ring
  • decade ring

Other such rings are of many shapes and styles, e.g.

  • browning ring
  • bunch ring
  • charm ring
  • cluster ring
  • coiled ring
  • coin ring
  • commemorative ring
  • crossover ring
  • double-hoop ring
  • eternity ring
  • fede ring
  • finger mask
  • fob ring
  • giardinetto ring
  • gimmel ring
  • glove ring
  • grasshopper ring
  • gypsy ring
  • handkerchief ring
  • investiture ring
  • jet ring
  • key ring
  • locket ring
  • lover's-knot ring
  • marquise ring
  • nun's ring
  • poison ring
  • polyhedron ring
  • portrait ring
  • posy ring
  • puzzle ring
  • regard ring
  • scientific ring
  • snake ring
  • split ring
  • stirrup ring
  • swivel ring
  • thumb ring
  • trinity ring
  • twin-bezel ring
  • watch ring
  • widow's ring
  • wire ring

Originally one finger ring was worn by a person, but from Roman times, and later in the 17th century, men and women wore several rings on any finger as well as on the thumb (and not only on the bottom joint), and often several on the same finger, including sometimes a guard ring. From the 16th century finger rings were worn by women in various manners, e.g. sewn to a dress or tied on a bow. From c. 1600 in England such rings, when worn on a finger, were sometimes attached to a long black thread or ribbon tied around the wrist, or were worn suspended from a ribbon around the neck or threaded on a cord around a hat. Men in Germany sometimes wore rings strung on a hat band. When having a portrait painted, especially in Tudor and Stuart times, men and women often wore all of their rings.

A wedding ring was originally worn by the bride on the third finger of the left hand (the belief being that from there a vein, vena amoris, connected with the heart), but in the Middle Ages it was worn, for a then reversed belief, on the right hand. The wedding ring was placed on the left hand in England, but after the ceremony it was worn on any finger or on the thumb. The wearing of a wedding ring by a man, while frequently on the Continent and now also in the United States (and customary in the East), is less frequent in England.

Persons wearing gloves sometimes wore a ring over the glove or slashed the glove to reveal it underneath.

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

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