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The Ring: From Middle-Earth to Modern History

A guest blog by Steve "Rifflo" Fitch, Reporter - Middle-Earth News





[A ring is] "The article of jewelry around which centers tradition, antiquity, utility and symbolic meaning of the greatest reverential character."

In the JRR Tolkien classics, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring represented the embodiment of evil, control and hate.  Its presence and influence was such that some would say that the One Ring was the tenth member of the Fellowship.

"There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power." - Gandalf

The ring was of a simple gold appearance without design or identity. The simple outward appearance of the One Ring is purposeful.  The simplicity was meant to hide the internal nature of the ring and to hide its real purpose. The lack of design further strengthened the Rings disdain for a cultural identity to any people in Middle-Earth. Of course, when put to fire, the real nature is revealed as the inscription magically appears on its surface;

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In our history, a ring has represented unions of marriage, social and political allegiance, trophies, religion, and intrigue. 

"Marriage requires a person to prepare four types of rings: engagement ring, wedding ring, enduring, suffering" - unknown author. 

It was the Egyptians that started the tradition of wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand. This was due to their belief that a “love vein” was within the third finger which led directly to the heart.  The wedding ring is arguably the most know and greatest symbol that a ring holds which is a gesture of love and commitment.  A historic ring representing love and commitment would be the Claddagh Ring. Created by Richard Joyce, while in captivity, was inspired and later presented to his love whom he married. 

When looking for my own wedding ring years ago, I wasn’t used to wearing rings so I chose a very plain gold band. When designer Jens Hansen and Weta Workshop released the One Ring – Gold Plated Tungsten Carbide recently and I knew I wanted to own it. Later this turned into a thought of “I wonder if my wife would be alright with me wearing this as my wedding band”.

After talking to my wife about it, and after some rolling of her eyes,she finally agreed. Now I wear it as my wedding band, as proud as any nerd could be! A friend of mine found it funny that my wedding band was something depicted as the “ultimate evil”, what would be considered the opposite of what it was supposed to mean. The positive I get from this is, if I get in trouble with my wife, I will say that the One Ring made me do it!

“It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor’s finge." - Andy Warhol

It was during the medieval period in history that the ring became popular. This was worn by all classes of people and was usually made from iron, copper, silver and gold. Typically, the material used to make the ring was an indicator of a person’s social class.
A ring shrouded in mystery is the Iffland-Ring. It is likely one of two surviving rings of a set of eleven. This diamond studded ring, depicts German actor, August Wilhelm Iffland. The ring is handed down by its owner to someone that he regards as “the most significant German-speaking actor”. Commissioned by Iffland, it is unclear as to when he first passed on the ring. The ring is now possessed by Swiss actor, Bruno Ganz.

The Romans were fond of rings and observed rules to wearing such jewelry. Signet rings were wearable on either hand but rings with stones were considered “effeminate” if worn on the right hand. Gold was worn only on certain occasions. Some wealthy Romans even had special rings to wear that represented seasons.

“A sense is what has the power of receiving into itself the sensible forms of things without the matter, in the way in which a piece of wax takes on the impression a signet ring without the iron or gold." - Aristotle

Signet rings became popular during the time of the Roman Empire. Many times these were given as recognition of victory.  The signet became so revered and acknowledged for its status that households would create special caskets to hold them. As time went on the popularity grew including the size of the ring. Some were so large that it was hard to maintain on the finger!

There are many mentions of rings in Holy Scriptures. From the Egyptians, Anglo-Saxons to the Pope, the ring is a strong symbol. The Ring of the Fisherman or the Piscatory Ring, is an official ring worn by the Pope. It is a signet that has a representation of Peter, the first Pope, fishing from a boat.

Not all rings were made for good. Some were made for assasination and intrigue. Originating in India, the “poison ring” or “pillbox ring” was a type of ring with a secret container within that held some form of poison or substance. During the 16th century, this ring was used to poison and enemy food or drink or to assist in a suicide of the wearer. The Greek orator, Demosthenes used such a ring to commit suicide on the island of Calauria. The Carthaginian general Hannibal also committed suicide by consuming poison from a ring after been given orders to surrender.
 
"Nihil sine labore - nothing comes without work" - Jens Hansen

The ring has had a rich and diverse history with many meanings. Jens Hansen is now part of that history as creator of the One Ring for the Peter Jackson epics, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The Return of the King’s Oscar win for best picture solidified the legacy of Peter Jackson as a director and the lore of Tolkien to a new modern audience. In the center of this historic achievement was the work of Jens Hansen through the design and contribution of the One Ring to the films.

Jens Hansen - The Ringmaker (noreply@blogger.com)
Jens Hansen - The Ringmaker (noreply@blogger.com)

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*Jens Hansen – Gold & Silversmith is the designer and maker of The Movie Ring (the rings made for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies), the ONE Ring(s) (made exclusively for Weta Workshop under their license from Warner Bros.) and The Jens Hansen Replica Ring (the replica rings available from Jens Hansen – Gold & Silversmith). Jens Hansen is not otherwise authorised, endorsed, affiliated or otherwise associated with Tolkein Enterprises, The Saul Zaentz Company (owner of the trade marks LORD OF THE RINGS, THE HOBBIT and THE ONE RING), New Line Productions or Warner Bros.

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