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13th Century Gold Double Ring Brooch

Did you guess it was a brooch of some sort? It is actually a cast gold double ring brooch which now belongs to the Victoria and Albert Museum of Design in London . Ancient brooches are called fibula and the round kinds are also known as annular brooches. They were the forerunners of the modern safety pin and brooches. Long ago, jewelry was not merely decorative but functional as well. This piece was designed to fasten a garment together at the neck like two buttons. Or perhaps in the horizontal position to hold together a cloak.

It is a unique piece which once belonged to someone wealthy. It's only 6.5 cm (about 2.5 inches) high or long so it probably belonged to a child. There are supposed to be tiny heads of dogs in the design but I can't see it. Imitation emeralds also adorned the piece as well as a central tear shaped sapphire. Emeralds were thought to protect against poison. Real emeralds were rare so that's probablywhy imitation ones were used.

They were necessary in a time when buttons, zippers and velcro didn't exist. There is one surviving ring brooch in the British Museum with a Latin inscription which translates as "I am a brooch to guard the breast that no rascal may put his hand thereof"! Goes to show people long ago had a sense of humor!

Thanks for all your excellent comments. I enjoyed seeing so many of you putting on your thinking caps just for the fun of it. Diana Norman of Diana Norman Designs wondered if I should have given some idea of dimension and what the materials were. I didn't think the dimensions really mattered in making the guess. Sizing will just depend on whether it was for a man, woman or child, not what it is. Men in those days wore pretty ornate jewelry too. Materials are also not a clue for its use but only pointed to the relative wealth of the wearer. But her eagle eyes spotted the hinges - the pins are hinged on one end (or springs were used on some fibula) with the business end secured on a pin rest.

Lisa of A Bead A Day considered it gorgeous but had no idea what it might be. She just went straight into creative mode and said "it would be wonderful as a focal piece in a necklace with different ribbons, like velvet, strung through the loops and tied at the neck." Willena had an unusual guess. She thought it was a cincher for the back of the dress to make it more fitting. However, tight fitting dresses or gowns then were made so with backlacing not jewelry.

Many of you did guess it was a fastener of sorts like BetteJo of BetteJo's Bead Creations : A Bead A Day. Tamara of Frejya's Jewels said it a fastener for a cape or jacket. Shaiha of Love, Romance & More Reviews and Ashlyn thought the same - a fastener for a cloak. Dagmar of Kokopelli Designs nailed the correct name, fibula.

But the winner of this fun guessing game is Robyn Hawk from California who writes as "a fly on the wall"on several blogs including one called Tuscon Gem Show- Live! She caught my blog post tweet on Twitter and tweeted back the correct answer. It was a clever piece of sleuthing, rather like a treasure hunt on the internet. She clicked on the picture which takes you to another web page and there on the URL line was the name I assigned the picture and didn't change - double ring brooch! It was then easy enough to find a link to the museum item listing on artfund.org and send it to me. She therefore not only found what it was but where it is now. Robyn is presently studying jewelry design and working on a Graduate Gemologist Certificate from GIA (Gemological Institute of America). Well done!

References
Hugh Tait (1986). Jewelry : 7000 years. British Museum
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5 comments:

  1. I could have told you it was a double-ring brooch on the guessing post... we must be careful what we name our images! Inquiring minds will always find a way. Though, I didn't quite know what a double-ring brooch was for... now it all makes sense! I'm always learning something new when I visit, thanks Pearl!

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  2. I actually saw the name of the pic as your blog was loading, which is where I came up with whatever I mentioned about a brooch. I guess I should have looked further! :)

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  3. Hi there! Very cool item!! I wanted to know I mentioned your blog on abeadaday today, Hope you don't mind!!! Thanks, Lisa C.

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  4. Thanks for this post! That was very interesting and fun to guess what it is. Hm, fibula? I think I heard that somewhere in my early years during my history lessons. And remembered it! So school really prepares for life sometimes, right?

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  5. So that's what it is! Thanks Pearl, that was a fun and suspenseful post :)

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