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De Clercq Roman Diamond Ring, 3rd – 4th Century AD. Les Enluminures

NEW YORK – Les Enluminures New York, Paris, Chicago is pleased to present “Cycles of Life: Rings from the Benjamin Zucker Family Collection,” an exhibition of 41 exceptional museum-quality rings selected from the celebrated private collection of one of today’s world leading gem dealers, experts, and connoisseurs. Spanning from the 1st century BC to the mid-19th century AD, the rings will be on public view together for the first time and for sale at Les Enluminures’ New York gallery from October 31 through December 6, 2014.


Renaissance Rothschild Diamond Ruby and Enamel Gimmel Ring with Memento Mori, dated 1631. Les Enluminures

The collection features many fine examples of the major types of rings created during the late Rome, Migration Era, Romanesque and Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and early Modern periods individually selected for their exceptional quality of stones, rarity, and level of artistry. All but a few exceptions have been on loan to the Walters Art Museum, MD, since 1985. Many boast sterling provenances dating back generations to Europe’s most prominent collecting families, including the de Clercqs, and the Rothschilds as well as from the celebrated jewelry collectors Dame Joan Evans, Ernest Guilhou, Ralph Harari, and Melvin Gutman. Prices range from about $15,000 to the low seven figures.


Renaissance Rothschild Diamond Ruby and Enamel Gimmel Ring with Memento Mori, dated 1631. Les Enluminures

The Benjamin Zucker Family Collection is renowned for its breadth and depth in certain areas, such as precious colored stones, Jewish marriage rings, and diamonds. Zucker began assembling his collection in 1969, when enchanted by a gold, enamel, and filigree 17th-century Jewish marriage ring, which was part the Melvin Gutman collection auction of antique jewelry at Sotheby Parke Bernet.


Greek snake ring with a garnet heart, Hellenistic Greece, 2nd-1st century BC. Les Enluminures

As the only type of jewelry worn continuously through the ages, finger rings have held many ceremonial facets and functions throughout history. Rather than presented chronologically; the rings will be displayed in sections organized according to timeless themes that form the cycles of life: birth, love, betrothal, marriage, mourning, and death. Included among the vast array of styles illustrating these themes will be Signet rings ranging from the 3rd-17th centuries; Ancient Roman friendship and engagement rings; medieval Posy rings; Renaissance and Baroque wedding rings; Jewish marriage rings from the 17th-19th centuries, and memorial and Death’s Head memento mori rings from the 17th-19th centuries. They will include a significant grouping of precious diamond-set ringsranging from an uncut diamond from the 3rd-4thcentury, and table-cut, point-cut, and rose-cut diamonds from the 16th-18th centuries, to brilliant-cut diamonds from the 18th century.


Late renaissance diamond cluster ring – most likely of Spanish origin, ca 1630-40.  The ring comes with a secret compartment that contained an opiate in some form.  It was not uncommon to have these secret compartments in rings and some would hold religious relics whereas some would contain poison so that the bearer could remove their enemies of rivals by pouring it into their food or drink!  Les Enluminures

According to Dr. Sandra Hindman, founder of Les Enluminures, “we are absolutely thrilled to have acquired this unparalleled collection. It’s a dealer’s dream come true at every imaginable level–the quality of diamonds, precious colored stones, and Jewish marriage rings offered are superb, as are the accompanying provenances. I have known Benjamin Zucker for a long time, and I have always admired his exquisite taste as a collector, as well as his acute intelligence. It’s a wonderful honor to be able to pay tribute to his level of dedication by advancing further scholarship on his collection. We especially look forward to presenting these incredible examples of such dedicated connoisseurship to clients, old and new, as wearable, intimate works of art.


Roman gold ring with two snakes. Les Enluminures

“Cycles of Life” will detail how rings like sculpture, painting, and manuscript illumination are expressive of the culture of their time, while referencing the enduring allure of certain styles and settings, gems and cutting techniques. Moreover, the exhibition will explore the distinctive role of rings as the most personal forms of jewelry, by shedding greater insight about the beliefs, sentiments, status, and practices of their former owners. Ultimately, these multifaceted discoveries form a remarkable testament to the discerning eye of Benjamin Zucker, who has assembled this extraordinary collection over last 40 years, many of which have been the subject of numerous national and international museum exhibitions, loans, and publications. Bearing witness to the cycles of life from birth to death, according to Zucker, “if you follow the rings, they are really like compasses leading you to lots of intellectual discoveries.”


Roman gold ring with two snakes. Les Enluminures

About Les Enluminures

Les Enluminures was founded in Paris in 1991 by Dr. Sandra Hindman in association with the Chicago-based business, and opened its New York gallery in May 2012. Specializing in manuscripts and miniatures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the gallery also offers for sale jewelry dating from c. 300 to 1650 A.D., including a wide range of rings from the Early Christian and Byzantine, Early Medieval, Gothic, and Renaissance and Baroque periods. It organizes four or five exhibitions a year, some travelling and in collaboration with other dealers, which are often accompanied by catalogues.


Medieval Sapphire and Gold Ring set with a 10th century Sapphire inscribed in Arabic. Les Enluminures

Les Enluminures exhibits at many prestigious art and antique shows, including: The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht; the Winter Antiques Show in New York, and Masterpiece in London. International clients of the gallery include: the Musée du Louvre in Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, as well as many other institutional and private clients worldwide.


Perpetual Calendar Ring. Gold and Blackenamel. Les Enluminures


Memento Mori Ring. Les Enluminures


Roman ring with greek inscription. Les Enluminures


Gold ring with hand holding a heartLes Enluminures


Mourning ring of Lieutenant-colonel Thomas. Les Enluminures

LES ENLUMINURESfrom October 31 – December 6, 2014. 23 East 73rd Street, 7th Floor, Penthouse, New York, NY 10021 – tel +1 212 717 7273. Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays 10 AM to 6 PM