Wednesday, 18 July 2007

wire rings

Some of you might have seen my wire rings by now. I'm fascinated by medieval wire jewelry because it's so simple to make with few tools, and looks cool. I've taught making these with stripped copper electrical wire, and was able to briefly explain the context, and get people to make rings and even the slowest was complete within 45 minutes. I can't think of many other medieval mini projects that can be taught on such a short timescale without the teacher doing a lot of preparation work.

Here's my latest collection (in silver so they could be donated as silver rondell tokens):
These are based on an brass wire example from late 13th- early 14th C London, as described in "Dress Accessories".

The original piece is rather carelessly made, with less care to where the wire sits than I now show. They did take care to make sure the ends of the wire pointed outwards, rather than into the finger though.

I've been playing with the subtle changes you can make to the pattern. Here are some closeups as examples.(Sorry the closeup photos are dark, otherwise the reflection off the wire is too much with my primitive photography setup).

With lots of twists close together:With one twist separated by wide gaps:
With two twists separated by gaps:With three twists separated by gaps:
Note that the one-two-three twists represent the first three passes of the neatest way to make these rings - by making multiple passes around the ring. At first I thought it would be better to make all the twists in one pass around the ring, but that doesn't work well in wire. The medieval example though, only makes one pass around the ring - it just doesn't add many twists.

And here's a few experiments (not at all based on medieval precedent), that I did just for fun:


Anonymous said...

Nice to see these are becoming more popular.

I've lost count of how many I've made over the year, or how many I've given away.

Last year while preping for a chemistry exam (in less than an hours time) I decided to try my hand at a little anglo-saxon ring from a 5th century burial. I was very pleased with the result.

It was in this book 'Dress in Anglo-Saxon England', Revised and Enlarged Edition by Gale R. Owen-Crocker

You should have a look at it if you like the london digs ones.

Teffania said...

Alas if only they were becoming more popular around here. As you can see the blog post dates from2007, And I'd already been making rings for a while by then, and teaching how to make them to anyone who would sit still. I gave out dozens as Silver rondell tokens about the time of this blog post, but people seemed to prefer a tacky curtain ring to an authentic finger ring for the purpose. I can't seem to convince anyone else round here to take up the cause. I remember someone telling me you were selling some, and me hoping you'd taken up the cause, but then deciding it was just a case of parralel evolution.

I should indeed take a look at the new edition of "Dress in Anglo saxon england", I haven't looked at it since the first edition was the only edition. Mind you 5th C is a little early for me, but cute is cute.

Erin said...

Hi Teffania,
Can you please point me to some references and instructions for these? I could do with some easily produced, documentable items to give away.

Teffania said...

Hi Erin,

For doccumentation take a look in the book "Dress acessories". I'm afraid the link I put in expired, try:

Egan,Pritchard et al 1991 "Dress accessories, c. 1150-c. 1450" Museum of London
I'm not providing an isbn because it's been reprinted several times with a different isbn each time.

It's readily available in Libraries, online and reenactor's collections.

As for instructions - really you don't need much. Take a 0.5-2m piece of wire (a wide variety of widths work,as along as you can easily bend it by hand), coil it 1-3 times around a finger to make a ring sized frame, slip it off then begin passing the remaining wire through the inside of hte ring, around hte outside, etc to form the small spiral on the outside. Give it a go, I bet it'll look like a ring. The second one will look even better.

Teffania said...

For higher authenticity, use a wire that is thick enough and stiff enough to hold a ring shape with one strand. wrap around only once. point the ends of hte wire perpendicular to the direction of the ring (outwards, towards the adjacent finger).

The original is quite scrappy looking, hence why I also experimented with alternate ways of making such rings.

Spiralling rings are quite common from the viking age onwards (although I think they wax & wane a little). I use viking age because most of the finds are scandanvian or in places influenced by vikings (like england, but see also latvian friendship rings).

What marks this ring as special for me is that the wire remains a constant width and is not forged. There really is nothing on this ring that even needs as much as a hammer to make it.

So far in my occasional browsings of acheological literature I haven't seen anythign like this, although I haven't read the new edition of "Dress in Anglo-saxon England" and haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of any of relevant the York archeological trust publications, which seem a likely next place to look: