medieval finger rings

In January 2009 Karsten and I took a course on the making of jewellery at the 'Volkshochschule' in Tübingen. We wanted to make some finger rings based on medieval sources. There are not that many re-enactment shops selling (good) jewellery and I believe modern rings usually look somewhat different. There are many portraits were the (wealthy) depicted wear finger rings (some of them seem to wear all that they possess for that special occasion). And besides the paintings there is a wealth of finds in museums and on the internet...

two signet rings

We based our signet rings (roughly) on some medieval signet rings that showed the initials of their owners on the bezel. I chose not to use my own initials but the initials of my ancestor Magdalena Imhof, who lived in Nürnberg from 1456 to 1505 (and could probably have afforded a far better signet ring than I can produce...) Anyway, here are some examples of period signet rings and our work:

signet ring, V&A museum signet ring, V&A museum signet ring, Derby museum
signet ring, Bettina signet ring, Bettina signet ring, Karsten

silver signet rings

September 10, 2009: As most signet rings used to be made of gold or at least gilded, we plan to gild ours, too. Karsten's father has some kind of 'Galvani bath' which we might use... We'll visit his parents next week, let's hope we remember taking the rings with us this time!

September 24, 2009: We actually managed to gild our signet rings :-) And it was surprisingly easy! We prepared the rings by polishing them really thoroughly, then we degreased them with ethanol. We placed a stainless steel anode in our simple galvanic bath and filled it with gold electrolyte solution. As cathode we formed a hook from silver wire to attach our rings to. We then applied voltage and in almost no time the rings turned from silver to golden. We left them in for a little longer for good measure and to get a thicker gold coating... To ensure an even coating we kept changing the position of the wire. Taken freshly from the galvanic bath the rings looked - a bit disappointing - more like copper than gold. But fortunately a little polishing immediately gave them the desired nicely golden sheen... As the gold coating is just a few micro meters thick, the equipment we used was surprisingly cheap. But we'll have to see how long the gold will last, of course. Here are some pictures of the procedure and the newly gilded rings:

gilding1 gilding2 gilding3
gilding4 gilding5 gilding6
gilding7 gilding8 gilding9

gilding the signet rings

Now I'm looking for new things to drop into the little galvanic bath...