Until the end of the last century, the practice of kissing a Catholic bishop's ring was a widely-observed social custom in Ireland. However, with the increasing secularisation of Irish society, and a decline in deference to their lordships, the practice is on the wane. But, according to Adam's auctioneers where "a bishop's amethyst set ring" is to go under the hammer in a jewellery auction on Tuesday, "in Catholic tradition, to reverence or 'kiss' the ring of the bishop as a sign of respect for his authority is still proper".
The traditional ring is gold set with a violet amethyst gemstone and, according to Adam’s, is “a symbol of the bishop’s fidelity to and nuptial bond with the church, his spouse” and “signifies the bishop’s symbolic marriage to the church or Christ”.
The 18ct gold ring, hallmarked “Dublin, William IV, 1935”, [see photograph] consigned to auction by an unnamed client, will go under the hammer at Adam’s auction of Fine Jewellery & Watches in Dublin on Tuesday (October 18th) as Lot 122 with an estimate of €400-€800.
Jewellery of more temporal – and tempting – significance in the auction includes pieces of 19th-century Etruscan Revival jewellery which were made copying the designs of ancient jewellery found by archaeologists excavating Etruscan tombs in Italy. Lot 69, for example, is a pair of French gold and malachite pendent earrings, made circa 1860, and estimated at €2,800-€3,800 [see photograph]; and Lot 166, a gold and diamond bracelet and mourning brooch, dating from circa 1870 (€600-€800).
Adam's has a new feature in the catalogue – a review of the auction by a guest reviewer – in this case, designer Louise Kennedy who has selected a "personal wish list" from the sale including Lot 1, a late Victorian diamond star brooch/pendant of the type once favoured by Sisi, the Empress of Austria, estimated at €1,500-€2,000 [see photograph] and Lot 168, a pair of 1950s ruby and diamond earclips by the Crown Jewellers, Garrard & Co of Regent St, London estimated at €2,000-€3,000.
Other highlights include Lot 158, an Edwardian (circa 1905) natural pearl and diamond bracelet sold by the Scottish diamond merchants Edward & Sons of Buchanan Street, Glasgow (€6,000-€8,000); and Lot 155, an art déco emerald and diamond brooch, dating from circa 1930 (€6,500-€8,500).
At O'Reilly's Auction Rooms in Francis Street Dublin the following day (Wednesday, October 19th ) there's also a big selection of jewellery and watches, including, of interest to men, although possibly not bishops, Lot 217, a set of 15ct gold mother-of-pearl and ruby dress studs, in the original case of jewellers A Bartlett & Sons, Piccadilly, London (€400-€450) [see photograph] and Lot 150 a pair of 9ct gold mother-of-pearl and emerald circular cufflinks (€300-€400)[see photograph]; and Lot 245: a Rolex Prince Duo watch in 14ct gold, circa 1920 (originally retailed by Bucherer) estimated at €7,500-€8,000 [see photograph].
The highest-priced item is neither vintage nor antique but instead, Lot 183 is a “modern round brilliant-cut diamond solitaire ring with a 4.01 carat diamond, F VS1 (EDR Diamond Report)” estimated at €58,000-€62,000. More modestly-priced lots include Lot 205, a Victorian ruby, sapphire and diamond butterfly brooch (€500-€600).