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THE girdle of elaborate workmanship formed no inconsiderable part of the jewelry of the wealthy in the Middle Ages. Though actual examples are extremely rare, there is scarcely an effigy or picture from the thirteenth century to the beginning of the sixteenth which does not supply us with some varied form of this indispensable article, while the wills and inventories of the period often contain descriptions of girdles of extraordinary richness.

By the poor, too, the girdle was habitually worn, but with them it frequently dwindled down to a few metal knobs sewn on to leather or on to coarse cloth. In addition to the upper girdle for fastening round the waist, a lower girdle was worn, both as an ornament and as a belt for the sword. It was a broad and sometimes stiff band which loosely encircled the body about the hips, and in the case of male attire was sometimes attached to the lower border of the tunic, with which it converged.

Of the narrower and more pliable species of girdle, the portions reserved for special enrichment were the ends, one of which terminated in the buckle, and the other in the pendant or mordant. Always a favorite field in former times for the display of the jeweler’s art, it was likewise richly adorned by the goldsmiths of the later Middle Ages.

At the other end of the girdle was a metal attachment which gave it consistency where it was most required. This girdle end, which hung down and was known as the tag or pendant, was decorated with various designs frequently of an architectural character and sometimes set with precious stones; but whenever such decorations projected beyond the sides of the strap the buckle was made wider in like manner, and if tassels and other ornaments were added they were always of such size that they could pass easily through the buckle.

The metal shape thus covering the end of the belt was also called the mordant, especially if in the absence of a buckle it was so constructed as to hook on to a clasp to facilitate securing the belt round the person. The mordant often forms with the buckle-plate a single design, its decorated front being either as large as the plate, or of such a shape as to form with it a regular figure.

From the twelfth century, when from sepulchral monuments we obtain our first information respecting the girdle, until the seventeenth, we nearly always find that the end, when passed through the buckle, was twisted round the waist-strap and hung down in front, in the case of men about twelve inches and with women almost to the ground. But when, instead of a buckle, a clasp formed of a central stud or rosette was employed, either the end of the girdle itself hung down, or an additional chain was attached at the point of junction.

To this was sometimes suspended a pomander-box, tablets, or a pendent reliquary. This mode, however, of suspending such objects did not come generally into vogue till the time of the Renaissance.

The girdle itself was usually about two yards in length, and consisted of a strap of stamped leather, or a band of material with a firm foundation, upon which were set button-shaped decorations at regular intervals. This was known as the studded girdle.

Among the wealthy the studs were composed of the precious metals, against which the laws both at home and abroad (of little effect it would seem) contained special prohibitions. The studs upon the girdles of the poor were generally of the alloy of brass and tin called latten or laton, and the term ” pearled with latoun” is mentioned in the Canterbury Tales.
Bars of metal were attached vertically at intervals to the belt or girdle to maintain the rigidity of the material. The word bar was subsequently applied to all such attachments, which were sometimes perforated to allow the tongue of the buckle to pass through them.

Another species of girdle was called the baldrick —derived from the French baudrier ; the bmidroier being the currier who prepared skins for the purpose. The term baldric or baudric, sometimes applied to the military belt worn round the waist, was generally employed for a belt worn over one shoulder, across the breast, and under the opposite arm.’ It was often of a rich description and set with precious stones, and in early times was occasionally hung with little bells.” Among the girdles in the possession of Henry IV* one is garnished with heads of stags and small pearls, and another with ostrich plumes and little golden bells. Others, mostly of stuff, are garnished with various flowers, mostly roses, or with ivy leaves, and the majority are hung with little bells.

In addition to such enrichments, which included also coats of arms, girdles bore inscriptions, engraved on the buckle-plate, or formed of letters sewn upon the band. These latter were often of an amatory or of a superstitious character; for, like other articles of medieval jewelry, the girdle, on account of the stones, etc., set upon it, was frequently considered endowed with talismanic properties.

Chaucer in his adaptation of the older ” Roman de la Rose” describes the rich jeweled girdle, worn by one of the characters in the Garden of Love. It was set with stones evidently valued for their mystic properties.

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OF all classes of medieval jewelry finger rings have been preserved in the greatest number. Among the various causes that have contributed to this result must be reckoned their very general use in former times, their comparatively small value, which often saved them from the melting-pot, and the fact that they were almost the only articles of value usually buried with the dead.

As regards the use and form of the finger ring during the Middle Ages, we find that it retains in the main its primitive symbolical character; being employed as an emblem rather than an ornament, to signify the investiture of office, the binding of the nuptial bond, and especially as a signet.

Though the occurrence of numerous rings without a seal or other mark proves their general acceptance as purely ornamental articles, so deeply was the spirit of the age imbued with leanings towards the mysterious and the occult, that nearly every ring is supposed to be endowed with some talismanic or satanic efficacy.

For convenience sake medieval rings may be separated into four main divisions: (i) ecclesiastical and devotional rings; (2) charm rings ; (3) love and marriage rings ; and (4) ornamental rings, including signets.

Rings have always been looked upon with favor by the Church; they were worn regularly by the higher clergy, and formed part of their ecclesiastical insignia. The British Museum possesses an important collection of gilt bronze finger rings of enormous size, each set with a foiled glass or crystal. Most of them bear on the hoop symbols of the four evangelists, the Ox, Lion, Angel, and Eagle, as well as the triple crown and crossed keys with the arms of various popes, and sometimes those of contemporary rulers, mostly of the fifteenth century.

These so-called papal rings, of which other examples, and duplicates, exist, are believed to have been presented or sent by popes or cardinals as emblems of investiture when conferring an office or dignity. A jeweled ring was always worn by a bishop, and was an essential part of his costume when pontificating. It was specially made for him, and usually went with him to the grave.

Hence it happens that many of these rings have survived, and are preserved both in museums—the collection in the Franks Bequest in the British Museum being the most extensive—and in the cathedrals where they have been found.

In the earliest times bishops usually wore engraved rings for use as signets, but they seem to have had a large jeweled one as well for ceremonial use. According to the instructions of Pope Innocent III in 1194, the episcopal ring was to be of solid gold set with a precious stone on which nothing was to be cut; hence the thirteenth-century rings are at times somewhat rudely fashioned, with the shape of the bezel adapted to the gem just as it was found, its surface merely being polished. Among the stones usually chosen for the purpose were the ruby indicating glory, the sapphire purity, the emerald tranquility and happiness, and crystal simplicity.

MEDIEVAL RINGS also worn, and on some rings an inscription is added to give a Christian name to the pagan figure; but others were merely regarded as ornaments without meaning, like one dating from the twelfth century in the Water-ton Collection, which bears a Roman cameo in plasma of a female head in high relief; or like the curious example found in the coffin of Seffrid, Bishop of Chichester in which is mounted a Gnostic intaglio.

The most usual form of ring, and one which seems to have been reserved chiefly for bishops, is of a pointed or stirrup shape. It is commonly found set with a small sapphire, more rarely with an emerald, and sometimes, as in William of Wykeham’s ring at New College, with a ruby (PI. XXIII, i). The fashion for this type appears to have lasted from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. The episcopal ring was formerly worn on the right hand, but is placed at the present day upon the annular finger—the third finger of the left hand. Not more than one episcopal ring is now worn, but on sepulchral effigies and early pictures bishops are represented with three or four rings on the right hand, not infrequently upon the second joint of the fingers, and also upon the thumb. They were generally worn over the gloves, the backs of which were ornamented in addition with a large jewel. These rings were often, therefore, of considerable size, so that when worn without a glove a guard-ring was necessary to prevent their falling off.’ Mitred abbots were allowed to wear the ring; by others it might be worn, but not during the celebration of the Mass.

The use of a ring was forbidden to the lower clergy. Among the rings to be classed under the heading of religious or devotional rings, the most important are the so-called iconography rings, that is, those which have on”Episcopal rings” the bezels, or on the shoulders, which are generally grooved or fluted, figures of the Virgin and Child, or of patron saints. They are nearly all of the same style of workmanship, and date almost exclusively from the fifteenth century. They are peculiar to England and Scotland. Several examples are preserved in the National Museum of Antiquities at Edinburgh, and others in the three great English ring collections.

Two exquisite English gold rings of this kind, dating from the first half of the fifteenth century, are in the British Museum. One, found at Coventry in 1802, is engraved with the five wounds of Christ, together with the legends describing them, and on the inside an inscription containing the names of the Three Kings of Cologne. The other ring was dug up at Godstow Priory, near Oxford, and is of small diameter, suited for a lady’s finger, but has a broad hoop engraved with sacred figures.

It appears to have been employed as a love ring, for within the hoop is an inscription. Another form of religious or devotional ring which was sometimes used in place of the ordinary rosary of beads was the decade ring. This was so called from its usually having at intervals round the hoop ten knobs which were used for repeating ten Aves, and a head or bezel for the Paternoster.

Finger rings, to an even greater extent than any other species of medieval jewelry, were designed to act as talismans or amulets; and they served, more than any other purpose, that of charms. Their virtue was imparted sometimes by the stone, and sometimes by the device, inscription, or magical letters engraved upon them. The mystic virtues attributed to stones as well as to engraved gems during the Middle Ages has been frequently alluded to.

Among the different stones (like the sapphire, for instance, the very word for which implies protection against drunkenness) carried in the bezel of the ring, which were supposed to make the wearer proof against evil influences, the most valued was the toad-stone. It was supposed to be found in the head of a toad, but is in reality the fossil palatal tooth of a species of fish—the ray. A toad-stone in a ring was said to indicate the presence of poison by perspiring and changing color.

Toad-stones were much sought after, and were highly prized, even in Shakespeare’s day. Sweet are the uses of adversity ; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. Ben Jonson alludes to the custom of wearing the stone in rings :— Were you enamored about his copper rings, His saffron jewel, with the toad-stone in it.

In addition to the stones already mentioned, greatly valued was the Turkey-stone or turquoise, as the ” Compassionate turquoise, which does tell By looking pale, the wearer is not well.” It was his turquoise ring which Shylock would not have lost ” for a wilderness of monkeys.” The use of charm rings seems to have been not uncommon in early times. It was one of the articles of impeachment against Hubert de Burgh, the great justice of Henry III, that whereas the King had in his treasury a ring which rendered the wearer invincible in battle, his minister furtively removed the same and bestowed it upon Llewellyn of Wales.

As charm rings, too, must be reckoned those which enclosed small relics. But rings so used seem for the most part to have been worn attached by a ribbon or chain to the neck, and not on the finger. Since such highly valued objects as charmed stones could only be obtained by a few, inscriptions often took their place.

Many of the devotional rings, with the names Jesus, Mary, and Joseph engraved on them, were used as a preservative against the plague ; but the most popular inscription was, as has been seen, the names of the Three Kings of the East, which were a powerful charm against peril by travel and sudden death. Such rings were worn against the cramp.

There were also carat rings of superstitious use, which bore charms in the form of inscriptions. Many other rings of this class have names and strange barbaric words and combinations utterly unintelligible. The wedding ring appears to be of Roman origin, and was usually given at the betrothal as a pledge of the engagement.

Two forms of these rings are the “gimmel” and the “posy” rings. Gimmel rings are composed of two hoops forming, when closed, one ring, and so constructed as to play when open one within the other. They are of two sorts: those which are either plain or set with precious stones, and those which have the device of the two right hands joined. Inscriptions or mottoes, as a rule in Norman-French, are to be found on rings of the fourteenth, and more frequently on those of the fifteenth century.

They were called ” chansons ” and also “reasons,” and later, posies. These love inscriptions, generally engraved on the outside of the ring (though placed inside in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) are for the most part the same as those found on the brooches of the time, inscriptions such as Je suis ici en lieu d’anii, and the like, being of frequent occurrence.

More rarely the motto is in English, as on the beautiful gold ring in the British Museum. New Year’s Day among the Romans was a time in which objects of jewelry were usually among the presents which it was the custom to exchange on that occasion.

In the Middle Ages also the advent of the New Year was celebrated by the bestowal of presents. Among these times jewelry was a prominent item, and on the rings of the period the inscription, £n bon an frequently occurs.

A very extensive group of medieval finger rings is formed by signets. These are marked with some device, such as an animal, a bird, a tree, or any other object, so that they could be easily recognized ; hence they were often given as credentials to a messenger.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries rings of silver, and occasionally of gold, occur, with a crest or coat-of-arms, or with devices in the form of initials, and certain arbitrary signs called merchants’ marks, which were used by merchants and others not entitled to armorial bearings.

Such rings were often worn on the thumb. Though armorial signets were worn in Italy as early as the fourteenth century, they were not common in England till the commencement of the sixteenth. Somewhat similar are certain devotional signet rings of silver or base metal, engraved with an initial— generally the letter I surmounted by a coronet.

The I is probably the initial of the Savior’s name, such rings being worn from a belief in the efficacy of holy names as preservatives from evil. In connection with the medieval use of ancient engraved stones, Upon the metal setting around these gems a legend in Latin was often engraved ; the most usual inscription being SIGILLUM SECRETI, SIGILLUM MEUM, followed by the name of the owner.

Rings which have the appearance of being purely ornamental were worn throughout the Middle Ages in considerable numbers both by men and women; yet at the same time it must ever be borne in mind that the stones set in them had probably in the eyes of the possessors a value quite independent of their use as ornaments. In the Gold Ornament Room of the British Museum is a collection of five English rings of silver of the twelfth century. They are of small intrinsic value, but of considerable interest as authenticated examples of ornamental rings of the period ; for with the exception of those found on the fingers of prelates, the date of early rings is sometimes difficult to determine.

The rings were dug up at Lark Hill, near Worcester, in 1854, together with upwards of two hundred pennies of Henry II. They probably date, therefore, from about the end of the century. The peculiarity of many of the richer ornamental rings of this period is the tendency to place the stone upon a high case or stalk, so that the bezel is raised considerably above the hand.

In the fifteenth century a large number of rings appear to have been habitually worn; and on the monument of Lady Stafford in Bromsgrove Church, Worcestershire (1450), every finger but the last one on the right hand is decorated with a ring. In many of the Flemish pictures of the same date we find ornamental rings set with table-cut or cabochon stones. The form of these is admirably represented in the portrait of a goldsmith, ascribed to Gerard David, in the Royal Gallery at Vienna. In his right hand he holds one ring, and in the left a short roll of parchment, on which are placed four more.

The rings are somewhat massive, and thicken towards the bezel, where they are mounted with table-cut stones within plain claw settings. In the same gallery is John van Eyck’s portrait, dated 1436, of John De Leeuw, jeweler to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. He holds between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand a gold ring set with a small cabochon stone.

This notice of medieval finger rings may be concluded by drawing attention to a picture which, in view of the jewelry of the Middle Ages, is one of the most fascinating of all the productions of the Flemish school.

Appropriately enough, the patron saint of goldsmiths is figured in his shop; and the picture thus affords us a singularly interesting and attractive representation of the interior of a jeweler’s shop in the middle of the fifteenth century with every detail of its glittering contents. St. Eloy or Eligius, whose figure, for all we know, may be the portrait of some well-known jeweler of the day, is seen seated at the goldsmith’s bench, beside which stand Dagobert, King of France, and St. Godeberta. He is employed in weighing the ring with which the King seeks to espouse the Virgin Saint; but instead, so the legend runs, of giving her the engagement ring, he slipped on her finger a ruby ring, mystically espousing her to Christ.

The King wears, pinned to the front of his black chaperon, a brooch or enseigne, set with a ruby surrounded by four pearls and having a pendent drop. Round his neck is a curb chain of alternate plain and beaded links, from which hangs a jewel formed of two lions head-dress, and is of embroidered gold sewn with pearls. The pendant of her neck-chain, hidden by the bodice, lies between the breasts.

Very carefully rendered is each item of the choice collection of objects that forms the goldsmith’s stock-in-trade, exhibited on a stall covered with white linen on the left hand of the goldsmith-saint. Below is a box of rings, some plain, some mounted, ranged along three rolls of parchment. Beside them lie large pearls and precious stones, and seed pearls sorted in a shell by themselves.

Behind, against the back, rest a branch of coral and oblong pieces of rock crystal and of opaque stone of porphyry-red. Above, on a piece of dark cloth, hang three splendid jewels—a pendant and two brooches, and next to them a pair of tooth-like pendants.

From the shelf on the top is suspended a string of red, amber, and pale blue rosary beads, and in the middle a girdle end of brown leather with buckle and mounts of gilded metal. The remainder of the collection, formed of various vessels, comprises a crystal cylinder set with gold and precious stones and a mounted coconut cup; and on the upper shelf a covered cup and a couple of tall flagons of silver parcel-gilt. This remarkable picture at once brings to mind that strangely interesting series of interiors afterwards produced by Quentin Matsys and Marinus van Romerswael, representing money-changers, bankers, or usurers busily engaged in counting up or weighing coins scattered before them on a table, upon which also sometimes lie a handsome ring or two, a richly jeweled pendant, or unset precious stones and pearls.

Bracelets were as little in vogue as earrings during the Middle Ages, and remarks made concerning the latter apply also to bracelets, in that they only appear as the lingering traces of Byzantine fashions which, until the commencement of the twelfth century, made themselves strongly felt throughout the whole of Europe.

In the National Museum at Munich is a gold armlet formed of two hinged halves covered with filigree and beaded ornament. Its outer rims are of twisted gold, and within are bands of fine plaited wire. It is adorned with bosses of filigree alternating with pyramidal projections. The origin of this fine ornament is unknown, but it probably dates from about the eleventh or twelfth century.

The National Museum of Buda-Pesth contains a pair of very similar armlets. In connection with these ornaments the persistence of tradition in goldsmith’s work is curiously seen, since armlets closely resembling the earlier examples are made and worn in Cairo at the present day. During the latter part of the Middle Ages it appears to have been a common practice for ladies to wear rosaries or chaplets of beads upon their wrists as bracelets.

With these exceptions, the long sleeves that were worn throughout the greater part of the Middle Ages did not favor the use of an ornament that demanded the bare skin as a foundation. Ornamental circlets round the upper arm, which are not infrequently met with in pictures, must be regarded as gold-embroidered edgings or bands.

It is true they were frequently set with pearls, stones, and decorations in gold, but as they were sewn upon the sleeves they have no actual claim to the name of armlets. Armlets or bracelets appear to have been worn to a certain extent towards the close of the fifteenth century, but to have been reserved chiefly for summer wear.

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The brooches considered have been constructed either with a spring pin or acns, which was held in its place by a hook or catch, or with a hinged acus, which, having pierced the material, was fixed similarly by a catch, and prevented by the weight of the garment from becoming unloosened.

The term fibula, generally employed by archaeologists to denote all early brooches, has so far been applied only to the dress-fasteners of classical times; and though the word brooch (from the French broche, meaning a spit) was not introduced into England until after the Norman Conquest, it is for the sake of clearness used here to describe what are generally known among Anglo-Saxon ornaments as fibulae.

In later Roman times, and among the Irish and Anglo-Saxons, the ring-brooch was sometimes formed with an opening on one side, and the pin or acus, which was not hinged, but moved freely to any part of the ring, having been passed through the tissue, was brought through this opening. The ring was then turned till the pin rested upon its rim.

At the time of the Norman Conquest the opening of the brooch is closed, the ring becomes flat and has a pin of the same length as its diameter. Instead of running loosely, the pin is hinged upon a constriction of the ring, and it either traverses the tissue which has been brought through the latter, or a band is passed over it from beneath the sides of the ring.

When the portions of the garment thus connected are drawn back, the pin falls across the front of the ring and is held securely in its place. This ring-brooch was known as the fermail (Latin firmactihtm, signifying a clasp)—a term employed both in old French and old English inventories.

The ring-brooch was worn by both sexes. It appears on the monumental effigy of Richard Coeur de Lion at Rouen, on that of Berengaria his queen at Le Mans, and on several of the thirteenth-century sculptures on the west front of Wells Cathedral. It served to gather up the fullness of the surcoat on the breast of the knight, as shown by the effigy, known as that of William Mareschel the Elder, Earl of Pembroke, in the Temple Church; but was generally used to close the opening in the robes at the throat of either sex, and is seen thus on many effigies of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.’

Among the few examples of medieval jewelry that have survived, brooches and finger rings predominate. Brooches differ slightly according to the nationality to which they belong: those of English origin forming of themselves a class of considerable variety and extent.

The earliest were circles of small diameter and narrow frame, either plain, or decorated with simple designs. Mystic words and letters were subsequently added; but as the brooch became larger, amatory mottoes took their place.

Religious formulae were also employed, particularly in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when the brooch reached its full development. The various inscriptions and designs engraved on medieval brooches are of great interest. The majority of inscriptions are mottoes in French, such as were frequently employed as posies upon rings and other love-gifts.

An inscription which occurs more than once is lo . svi . ici . EN . LiEV . DAMi. Another cJianson, reading thus in modern French— -Je suis ici, a toi void, is found on several brooches in the British Museum. The dainty Prioress, Madame Eglentine, in the prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales wore— … a brooch of gold. The popularity of this last motto on the personal ornaments of the Middle Ages may be attributed to its supposed influence as a love-charm. A considerable number of legends are of a religious character, with allusions to the Virgin and Savior, while a few are talismanic, and contain inscriptions such as the names of the Kings of the East.

Ring-brooches, though generally circular, show a variety of other shapes, such as hearts, trefoils, lozenges, etc. A heart-shaped brooch of fine workmanship in chased and engraved gold is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It appears to be French and of the fifteenth century. Upon its back is the inscription— Nostre et tout ditz a vostre cfjesir.

The brooches worn by the wealthy are often magnificent examples of jewelry, enriched with gems set in delicate gold work. A number of the existing brooches are of such diminutive size—less than half an inch in diameter—that they could only have been employed for fastening the very thinnest tissue. The larger gold ring-brooches, of fine workmanship and set with precious stones, are of great rarity.

In the British Museum are several choice specimens: the finest, formerly in the Londesborough Collection, dates from the fourteenth century. It is mounted with pearls, cabochon sapphires and emeralds, arranged in a variety of settings, and further enriched with four bosses carved K 129 and pierced in the forms of dragons and cockatrices.

A remarkable brooch of the thirteenth century, also from a well-known collection, that of Baron Pichon, is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is a circular gold ring two inches in diameter, enriched with four sapphires and six rubies in high cone-like settings formed of simple sheets of metal wrapped round the stones.

The bases of these collets are hidden on the inner side by an encircling wreath of vine leaves delicately cut and stamped in gold. The back is ornamented with a leaf design in niello. There is a somewhat similar brooch, though only a fragment, in the Gem Room of the British Museum.

A gold brooch also dating from the thirteenth century, and, like the majority, of French workmanship, is in the Carrand Collection in the Museo Nazionale (Bargello), Florence. This fine example, formerly in the Debruge Collection, is decorated with exquisite Gothic foliage in naturalistic style, and with figures of two lions in full relief. It is set with two large rubies and four small emeralds. In the same collection is an extremely interesting brooch, likewise French, and of the fourteenth century. A flat ring of gold ornamented with concentric rings of enamel, the two outer being blue and the inner white.

Upon the latter, in letters reserved in the gold, is the inscription iesus autem transiens per med., which occurs also on the cameo of Charles V at Paris, and was held by those who bore it to possess a prophylactic virtue. The brooch is further ornamented with four vernicles- engraved with exquisite feeling at equal distances upon its surface.

How large was the demand for brooches of these materials can be gauged from a French writer of the thirteenth century, Jean de Garlande, a poet and grammarian, who in his Latin vocabulary refers to brooch-makers as a special class of craftsmen, who, apart from goldsmiths, were sufficiently numerous to bear the title o{fermailleurs^ —makers of fermails. To about the end of the fifteenth century belongs a satirical poem printed in London with the title Cocke Lovelies Bote, where ” latten workers and broche makers” are specially mentioned among the London crafts or trades.

The manufacture of the finest brooches, however, was always reserved for the goldsmiths—a fact indicated by the quartering of brooches on the arms of the Goldsmiths’ Company. There would be no justification for any general reference to medieval ring-brooches that omitted to give some account of those worn in Scotland. Brooches formed an indispensable accessory to the Highland dress of both sexes, in that they served to fix upon the shoulder an invariable article of clothing of the Highlanders—the Scottish plaid.

In the latest development of the Scottish brooch of the Celtic type, the pin, as has been observed, is hinged upon the ring, and after piercing the garment is held in its place by a catch at the back of the brooch. Upon the introduction of the ring-brooch with a pin equal to the diameter of the ring, this mode of fastening was only in very few cases retained, and preference in general was given to the English manner of adjustment.

The earliest form of the Scottish ring-brooch, which dates from about the thirteenth century, is a flattened circular ring, upon which talismanic inscriptions in Latin, generally of a religious character va appeared. These, together with some traces of Gothic design, last throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

After this period the knowledge of Latin seems to decrease, for it is rendered so barbarously on the sixteenth-century brooches as to be almost unintelligible. On the later brooches the decoration is purely ornamental, with interlaced work and foliaceous scrolls; and brooches of this type, on which the character of an earlier period is retained, were made as late as the eighteenth century.

The designs of the silver brooches were produced by engraving accompanied by niello work ; those of the brass brooches usually by engraving alone. The National Museum of Antiquities at Edinburgh possesses a large and important collection of Scottish brooches, while a few Highland families have preserved for many generations massive silver brooches of elaborate workmanship.

Formerly in the possession of the Campbells of Glenlyon, and now in the British Museum, is a brooch known as the Glenlyon brooch. It dates from about the fifteenth century. It is about 3 inches in width, and is formed of a flat ring set with pearls on tall cone-shaped turrets, alternating with crystals and pieces of amethyst.

Across the center is a richly decorated bar, upon which rest the points of two pins attached to the edge of the’ ring. On the back of the brooch, in black-letter, is the favorite inscription of medieval amulets. The last word, the declaration of the dying Savior, ” It is finished,” was often inscribed upon brooches and other ornaments of the Middle Ages,as were likewise the Angelic Salutation, the tituhis i.n.r.i., and other so-called caracts, all of which were considered to possess some talismanic efficacy.

In many cases the open space in the middle of the ring, as in modern brooches, was filled up, and in the early examples was sometimes occupied by a turret-like ornamentation set with a crystal; while obelisks rising from the ring of the brooch were set with polished stones such as cairngorms (still popular on Scottish jewelry), or with Scottish pearls.

The finest examples of this type of brooch are known as the “brooch of Lorn,” the ” Ugadale brooch,” and the ” Loch Buy brooch.” The brooch of Lorn, still in the possession of the lineal descendants of the Mac-dougals of Lorn, dates from the fifteenth century. It consists of a disc of silver 4′ inches in diamenter, enriched with filigree. In the centre is a raised capsule crowned with a large rock crystal, and round the ring of the brooch a circle of eight obelisks. The Ugadale brooch, the property of the Macneals of Firfergus, is of somewhat similar nature, save that the turrets, eight in number, are towards the center of the brooch and arranged close round the raised crystal.

The Loch Buy brooch, of more elaborate workmanship, is likewise surmounted by a cabochon crystal on a raised dais. On the ring, within a low border, are ten tall turrets, each surmounted with a Scottish pearl. This famous brooch, long in the possession of the Macleans of Loch Buy in the Isle of Mull, came later into the collection of Ralph Bernal, one of the first and most eminent of latter-day connoisseurs, at whose sale in 1855 it was purchased by the British Museum.

In addition to the Highland circular brooches, a considerable number in the shape of hearts have been found in Scotland, sometimes surmounted with a crown, and in a few instances set with jewels. They were mostly love-tokens and betrothal gifts, and many of them bear on the reverse the word love. Brooches of this form are known as ” Luckenbooth” brooches, from their having been commonly sold in the Luckenbooths, the street stalls, around St. Giles Church on the High Street, Edinburgh.

The use of the word Luckenbooth calls to mind the fact that the goldsmiths of Paris also worked and dwelt in booths, which as late as the fourteenth century were situated on the Pont du Change and the Pont Notre Dame. In this connection it is worth noticing that in England, as well as in France and Scotland, the working goldsmiths, like the followers of other trades, occupied distinct quarters by themselves, and they had in London one part of the Chepe set apart for them to dwell and trade in. The custom of the various crafts thus confining themselves to particular quarters, which is of remote antiquity, greatly facilitated the formation and government of trade guilds.

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The student of jewelry the Middle Ages offer Tfar greater problems than the periods of classic antiquity. The main reason for this is to be found in the fact that throughout medieval and later periods ornaments were more closely associated with dress, and dress itself became subject to the most marked changes and constant divergences of fashion.

In the days of antiquity, so far as our knowledge goes, the idea of fashion, in the present sense of the term, did not exist. But in the Middle Ages, as Luthmer points out, it becomes an important factor in the history of civilization.

The duration of each prevalent fashion tended to become shorter and shorter, and the new mode was usually an absolute contrast to the preceding one. Though ornaments, owing to their higher material value, did not alter with each successive change in dress, nevertheless they underwent rapid variations of style.

The custom of burying objects in graves, which continued for a considerable time after the introduction of Christianity, affords a tolerably clear idea of the various ornaments worn during the earlier periods of the Middle Ages.

Coming to a later period, from the time of the first Crusade onward, discoveries in the graves are extremely rare, and one has to look in many directions for information respecting the articles then in use.

Though there seems to have been an immense production of personal ornaments throughout the whole of Europe, their intrinsic value has been too great to allow of their preservation and the artistic qualities of those that have survived cause one to regret all the more the wholesale destruction that must have occurred.

The jewels of the period are, in fact, so few in number, and furnish such striking varieties, that it is impossible to give an exhaustive synopsis of the different changes that took place in their form. The utmost that can be attempted is to take single characteristic pieces and allow them to stand as types of the whole epoch.

Personal ornaments at this time began to have a wider significance than that of being merely decorations pleasant to the eye. Their material value comes more in the foreground. They began to form the nucleus of family and household treasures.

The uncertain conditions of life made it desirable for the individual to have his most precious possessions in a portable form. An unfortunate war or royal displeasure might cost a prince or baron his land or his castles; but his movable goods, consisting of precious stones and gold and silver ornaments, were not so easily exposed to the vagaries of his superiors. Thus the numerous inventories of household goods that have come down from those times show an astounding increase in the matter of jewels and treasures among the great and lesser grandees, both secular and ecclesiastical, while there is a corresponding advance at the same time in craftsmanship.

To this change in the significance of ornaments is to be attributed their rarity in graves. Jewelry had, in fact, assumed the character of money passed from hand to hand, and was constantly, so to speak, re-coined, for even if held in steadfast possession it had to submit to changes of fashion and undergo frequent resetting.

Particularly was this the case at the period of the Renaissance, when almost everything Gothic was remodeled. -Tombs, then, supply little or no information; and for the present purpose one may make shift to use the chance descriptions of romancers, and such pictorial representations of jewelry as are presented by effigies on brasses, tombstones, and other monumental sculpture, and also by illuminated manuscripts.

Monumental effigies show a number of accurately executed personal ornaments, which, belonging as they do mainly to sovereigns and individuals of wealth and distinction, may be taken as the highest types of those then worn.

The miniatures and decorations of manuscripts executed towards the end of the period under review also afford considerable assistance; for illuminators were intensely fond of introducing jewels among the plants, flowers, birds, and butterflies minutely depicted on ornamental borders.

The inventories of personal effects made for various purposes, and often full of graphic details, throughout the whole of the period supply absolutely trustworthy evidence as to contemporary ornaments.

Pictures, which are among the chief sources of information, are not at one’s disposal until towards the termination of this epoch, but such as were produced during the later Gothic style, particularly in Italy-, Germany, and the Low Countries, furnish numerous examples of jewelry painted with loving care and minute detail.

Even from these sources of information, however, one could form but an inadequate idea of the precise character of medieval jewelry. But, while the various reasons mentioned have resulted in the general destruction of articles made for secular use, among precious objects consecrated to religious uses a small number of personal ornaments have been preserved. This may be due, perhaps, to the sanctity of the places containing them, or perhaps to the precautions of their guardians, who have hidden them in time of trouble.

They have survived many and strange vicissitudes, and their safety is now secured by a new-created archaeological value, in place of the religious devotion which was their former guardian. In the treasury—an edifice attached to the church—there was kept in early times, among the vestments and plate used in its services, a vast collection of reliquaries and jewels gradually brought together, and preserved as memorials of the piety of the faithful.

In numerous cases the treasury must have constituted a veritable museum, exhibiting examples of jewelry of each successive style. Some idea can be formed of the immense scope, as well as of the magnificence of its contents, from the early inventories which archaeologists of recent years have taken pains to gather together and publish.

The relative abundance of jewelry of Merovingian and Prankish times, and the great rarity of jewelry from the ninth century onward, are phenomena observable in every museum. The reason for this lies in the fact that until the time of Charlemagne the dead were buried with their weapons and with every article of jewelry.

The Emperor forbade this mainly as a heathen practice, but largely because he saw the disadvantage of so many costly objects being withdrawn from circulation, with consequent loss to the national resources.

This almost complete absence of examples renders, it difficult to estimate precisely the style of ornaments then in use. But as far as can be judged, Byzantine influence seems to have affected all forms of jewelry.

It is known, at all events, that until about the twelfth century active commercial transactions between France and Germany on the one hand, and Byzantium on the other, were carried on by way of Venice. Not only did Byzantine workmen settle in the great seaport of the Adriatic, but imitations of work from the Eastern Roman provinces were probably made there at an early date by native artists.

Such traffic appears to have been particularly active during the Carlovingian period ; while the close friendship of Charlemagne with Haroun al-Raschid, the celebrated caliph of the Saracens, renders it further probable that models of Oriental art abounded in the West in the ninth century.

These were not merely confined to articles of jewelry and other goldsmith’s productions, but included also sumptuous dress materials interwoven with threads of gold, embroideries studded with gems and pearls, and other objects which the splendor of the rulers of the West and the princes of the Church borrowed from the magnificence prevalent in the East and at the Byzantine Court.

The Eastern influence which during the fourth and fifth centuries had come westwards by way of Byzantium, and had acquired new power owing to the sovereignty of the Arabs in Spain and Sicily during the eighth and ninth centuries, increased considerably at the time of the Crusades.

The knights and princes of the West brought back not only impressions of culture from Syria and Palestine, but also actual specimens of gold ornaments and precious stones. There then began an invasion of skilled workmen from the towns of Asia Minor, and a regular importation of such treasures by the merchants of the Italian republics, to wit, Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, who, under the banner of the Cross, re-established their trade with the East.

Until about the twelfth century ornaments followed for the most part the style of those in use in the Eastern Roman provinces. Some were adorned with cloisonne enamel introduced from Byzantium, and first executed by Continental workmen about the eighth century.

Cloisonne, however, was, in turn, abandoned for champleve enamel, the manufacture of which upon the Lower Rhine had been encouraged by the Church, through the instrumentality of the Greek monks. By the beginning of the twelfth century, they seem to have become lastingly independent of the East, even with regard to its ornaments, as may be inferred from various remarkable productions in gold and silver, and particularly in gilded copper adorned with champleve enamel, such as shrines and other sacred objects.

Many of these are still preserved in the ecclesiastical treasuries of Germany, while museums at home and abroad all possess beautiful examples. Though the personal ornaments of this period are now almost entirely lost to us in the original, there has yet been preserved a treasure of inestimable value in the form of a technological manual handed down from the Middle Ages.

The work referred to is the famous treatise of Theophilus entitled Schedula Diver-sarum Artiuni, which describes the technical processes of almost all the industrial arts cultivated eight centuries ago.

After describing his workshop, Theophilus mentions his tools, and proceeds to describe minutely the various processes necessary for the metal-worker to understand; and shows how the goldsmith was required to be at the same time a modeler, sculptor, smelter, enameler, jewel-mounter, and inlay-worker.

Altogether, to judge from the directions there given, more especially those relating to the technical work of the goldsmiths, these Schedttlcs would seem to reflect the ancient knowledge and practices of Byzantine workmen, of which, however, the goldsmiths of the twelfth century appear to have become completely independent.

The perfection of artistic work attained by the monasteries led to the production of sumptuous objects to meet the requirements of the Church in connection with its services, while costly shrines were made to contain the numerous relics brought home by pilgrims from the Holy Land.

Continued in Part 2

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