The Story of Staffa

Roman jewellery inspired the centuries following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Roman style rings were still very much in fashion during the Middle Ages. But one new style of ring emerged: the stirrup ring, as this example, now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The stirrup ring, with its distinctive form that suggests both a horse stirrup and a gothic arch, was in fashion from the 12th century well into the 14th century. They were most commonly set with a sapphire.

Rings were more than simply decoration to the medieval wearer: a ring could be worn as a sign of faith, as an amulet to ward off evil or to “cure” an illness. Particularly sapphires were considered the gem amongst the gems, a sacred stone that gave the wearer spiritual strength. Most likely the medieval example here was worn by a man.

stirrup ring medieval riders mobile

The stirrup, an item that many would consider a small and uninteresting piece of equipment used by horse back riders, played a significant role and even changed the course of history. Stirrups originally were invented in central Asia where fierce nomadic tribes roamed around on horses. China, Korea and Japan started to use stirrups around the 4th-5th century AD. 

The stirrup made its way to Europe around the 6th or 7th century. The introduction of the stirrup not only made the mounted knight supreme in medieval warfare, but may have initiated complex and far-reaching social and cultural changes in Europe. Few inventions have been so simple as the stirrup, but few have had so catalytic an influence on history. The European society became dominated by an aristocracy of knights on horses. No wonder the goldsmiths of that time came up with a new design: a ring in the form of a stirrup.

Our stirrup ring is different from the medieval example, more stylised, but still recognisable as a stirrup. Pure lines give way to intensely coloured sapphires, just like in the medieval ring that inspired us. The best known colour of sapphires is corn-blue, but the gem comes also in other, lively colours, like orange. Rubies are also sapphires, they are highly saturated in fuchsia-pink. The only other gems we used are emerald-green tsavorites, as a contrast colour. Tsavorites are equally precious, a gem that was only discovered in the 20th century. The gemstones are set in 18k yellow gold.

We named the collection Staffa, the Italian word for stirrup. Wear your Staffa rings individual or stacked and remember how the small stirrup was nevertheless a game-changer and altered the course of history.

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