Thursday, September 24, 2015
The origin of gimmal rings (also known as gimmel or puzzle rings) is not certain, but they began to appear in the 1600s with designs like clasped hands incorporated into interlocking rings. If a third ring was added to the puzzle, it often bore a heart which fit into the clasped hands, very similar to Ireland's claddagh ring. However, gimmal rings were most popular in Germany and England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The lore surrounding the ring is that in ancient times, a Turkish nobleman who loved his wife very much wanted to be sure she remained true to him while he was away. He asked the local jeweler to fashion a puzzle ring that would fall apart if it was removed,. It is said he gave her the ring but wouldn't tell her the solution. For this reason, this puzzle ring is also known as a Turkish wedding band even though the Turkish people don't wear puzzle rings as a wedding ring.
Heart-shaped gemstones were often incorporated in the design and split between two rings so when the two rings were joined they formed a complete heart. Apart, the two rings allowed the bride and groom to each wear a piece of the other's heart, until they were wed. Gemstones were also fashioned in a variety of traditional gemstone cuts, but simpler ring designs were also popular and bore engravings. For instance, Martin Luther wore a gimmal ring in his engagement to Catherine Bora in 1525. It read, "Whom God has joined together, Let no man put asunder."
Gimmal rings created by two interlocking rings provided a ring for bride and one for the groom as a sign that they were betrothed. When they took their vows they fit the two rings together to form a wedding band for the new bride.
Some rings were made up of three interlocking rings. In that case, one was worn by the bride, one by the groom, and the third by a witness – what we'd call a best man today. When a witness was involved, it became more than an engagement. It represented a contract. The witness would be present when the wedding vows were exchanged and then all three rings were joined to form a wedding band for the bride to wear.
Over the last few years, the puzzle ring has resurged in popularity in North America.