Throughout history, people have coveted beautiful pieces of jewelry and worn them not just on special occasions but every day of their lives. Rings, in particular, have always been very popular with men and women from all strata of society and are often never removed by the wearer.
Since humankind first learned how to work with metals, we have produced rings in a wide variety of styles, with many classic designs from the past being as prized today as they were when they were first conceived.
Let’s brush up on some ancient ring types from various periods of history.
Although the tools available to jewelers in ancient Greece were rudimentary by modern standards, they managed to create beautiful rings featuring stunning intaglios and intricate wire work. Popular themes at the time included Greek gods and mythical beasts, depicted in intricate detail on rings made from gold, silver, bronze, and iron, among other materials. The Hercules knot, worn as a protective amulet or as a symbol of unity on a wedding ring, is a classic design from this period.
Roman jewelers also produced many intaglio rings, featuring images of Roman gods and goddesses along with military figures and symbols of the day. Engagement and wedding rings with the faces of the happy couple immortalized in bronze, silver and other metals were also very much in vogue at the time.
Rings from the Byzantine era are available in a wide variety of styles, thanks to the vastness of this ancient empire. At its height, it stretched across Mediterranean Europe and North Africa, from what is now southern Spain and Portugal in the west, to Egypt and Mesopotamia (now modern Turkey) in the east. Delicate enamel work featuring carved designs, granulation, and lace-like filigree were all popular techniques used by jewelers in this period to create stunning rings.
Saxon & Viking
Intricate designs featuring spirals, twisted chevrons, braids, and knots, were created from single strands of metal by Saxon jewelers. Vikings, on the other hand, favored animals and geometric designs, along with delicate filigree and repoussé work.
The rarity of precious metals and gemstones in the Middle Ages meant that gold rings set with precious stones were reserved for the nobility and royal family, or the extremely wealthy. Bright stones contrasting with rich gold tones were the order of the day for those with the means to acquire such jewelry. Seal rings, used in place of a signature due to widespread illiteracy at the time, were more commonly worn and were often fashioned from silver or bronze.
Tudor rings were often heavily decorated, not just on the face of the ring but on the sides and even the reverse in some cases. Table-cut diamonds were favored by the wealthy, complemented by rich enameling or detailed engraving.
Rings from this period of history, in common with much of the jewelry produced at the time, feature designs reflecting the religious turmoil and internal strife that prevailed in England during the reign of the Stuart monarchs. Exceptions include rock crystal love knots and rings with elaborate gold wire work depicting the initials of betrothed couples.
The rings produced over the last 3,000 years include a wonderful diversity of designs and personal stories.
Thought owning an ancient ring was an impossibility? At Berganza, you can browse one of the most extensive collections of ancient rings in the world. Their archives go beyond the basic jewelry periods we know well (Georgian, Victorian, Art Deco, etc). They created the following infographic to help you visualize each style more effectively.