Marriage

French traditional jewellery - marriage

 

 


The village wedding by Samuel Luke Fildes

click on the photos to enlarge them in high resolution

 

 

The wedding ring

 

The wedding band, very important because it would be blessed by the priest and then exchanged during the ceremony, was traditionally in yellow or rose gold, and sometimes hollow or gold plated for modest budgets.  The oldest ones, called "tors", were made of two gold wires twisted and then soldered together.  Today, white gold and platinum are the most popular, and with the abrupt rise in the price of gold, multiplied by four in five years, we see a tendency towards inexpensive wedding bands in stainless steel, tungsten or titanium.   Note that it is possible to purchase wedding bands specially made with a weak spot designed to break should the ring be caught in a machine.  Very few are purchased, a pity as numerous fingers would be saved from amputation each year were their use to be generalised.

Gimmel rings, twinned wedding bands, were sometimes offered in the early nineteenth century.  These gimmel rings are unique in that they open up into two distinct bands which nevertheless remain joined, and which symbolise the two souls joined together, separate and yet inseparable.  The names of the couple as well as the date of the marriage were usually engraved on the inside.  The workmanship of these rings is fantastic, they were entirely hand finished and the joint is almost invisible and only a knife-blade can tease them apart, a fingernail is too blunt.  One also sees gimmel rings made of three distinct bands which slide apart so that the two clasped hands open to reveal a heart on the central band.  The word gimmel is derived from the French jumelle, meaning twin.  I think we can assume that the symbolism of the two souls united would have also applied to the tors rings, and that the gimmel rings were derived from the tors.   Antique tors and gimmel rings are very rare today because they are fragile and it was difficult to repair them or change their size; the majority were certainly melted a long time ago.

 


 gimmel ring double
wedding band engraved 1884


  tors ring, gold

 


gent's wedding or signet ring

 

 

 


gimmel ring triple
wedding band shown open
 
gimmel ring triple wedding band -
shown closed

 

 


gimmel ring wedding band,
engraved
1830, shown closed


gimmel ring wedding band,
engraved
1830, shown open


gimmel ring wedding band,
engraved
1822, shown open

 

 


    gimmel ring or twinned wedding band, shown closed

 

 


    gimmel ring or twinned wedding band
shown closed
 
  gimmel ring or twinned wedding band
shown open

 

 

 

 

 


bague en or en trois parties ouvrant pour reveler un coeur, moderne

 


bague en or en trois parties ouvrant pour reveler un coeur, moderne

 

antique gimmel ring in gold made of three hinged rings which slide open to reveal a heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

modern copy of an antique gimmel ring in gold made of three hinged rings which slide open to reveal a heart

 

 

 


pair of rose gold wedding bands worn by a couple, chiselled gold, 1896

 

 

 


antique pink gold
wedding band

antique yellow gold
wedding band
 
antique pink gold
wedding band

antique yellow gold
wedding band

 

 

 

four views of a splendid wedding ring made for the marriage of Olivier de la Grange with Laetitia Boyer, the 12th of August 1846

 

 


The marriage treizain

 

Since at least the fourteenth century, and probably since the time of Clovis, the groom offered the bride during the ceremony a "treizain de mariage".  It consisted of thirteen coins or tokens in gold or silver.  The number thirteen represented Jesus and the twelve apostles, and the act of giving them symbolised a compensation to the bride for the goods or land brought by her to the union.  The coins or tokens were generally presented in a special metal cylindrical box, a case or a purse, the latter being made of gold, silver, gold-plated silver or silk.  Between one and three coins were kept by the priest, the others were destined to be guarded a lifetime but were almost always spent in one of the times of need that all couples go through.  This is why complete treizains are extremely rare today.  In the Treasure of Erfurt, in Germany, discovered in 1998, we can see an empty silver gilt treizain box dated to the first half of the 14th century. (1)

 

         
silver gilt treizain box found in the treasure of Erfurt, 14th century

 


The tokens found in sets of trezains are stamped with various texts:  "pour épouser" - "pour espouser" - "denier tournois" - "denier de foy" - "de nous deux coeurs une seule foy" - "pour toujours unis" - "la foi nous unit".  Silver coins, if offered, were frequently gold plated (by the mercury process) and sometimes engraved on one side with the initials or family crest of the couple.  The oldest treizain tokens were often bracteates (from the latin bractea, a thin piece of metal), thin tokens with a design in relief on one side and incuse on the other.  In some cases pairs of bracteates were soldered together to form a double-sided token, these are known as assembled bracteatesIn the inventory of the collection of jewels of the countess de Sault performed in 1595 was noted "a red satin purse containing 13 Spanish pistolles and 13 small gold coins engraved with the arms of Créquy which were given to the countess for her two marriages" (2)  (pistolles are small Spanish gold coins). The tradition of offering a treizain has ceased in France but continues today in Spain where small purses in velvet containing thirteen silver or silver plated tokens are still offered.


Marriage treizain complete with its silver
box and 12 bracteates, circa 1750-1800

Stamped "UNIS D'UN AMOUR ETERNEL"
still shiny after 200 years in an air-tight box!

 

 


 

 

It's worth bearing in mind that until the French revolution in 1789, the monetary system was based on the Roman one : twelve deniers (denarius) equalled one sol (solidus) and twenty sols one pound (libra).  There were thus 240 deniers or pennies in a pound, not very practical for calculating!  (This system was replaced by the Germinal franc decimal system in 1803 by Napoleon and, incredibly, survived in England and its colonies with their pennies, shillings and pounds until the introduction of the decimal system in 1971 for England and a bit earlier in the other commonwealth countries.)   A treizain thus represented one denier, the smallest coin, and a sol, the next largest.  When Clovis sent his emissaries to ask for the hand of Clotilde, they brought with them a denier and a sol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

marriage treizain, one-sided bracteates, circa 1750-1800
the legend reads - LA FOY NOUS UNIS (faith unites us)


 

 

 

 


detail of silver marriage token,
assembled bractéate, circa 1750-1800
'LA FOY NOUS UNNIS'  actual size = 10mm

 


marriage treizain complete with its silver
box and 12 assembled bracteates, circa 1750-1800

Stamped  "DENIER TOURNOIS * POVR ESPOUSER"

 

 

 


marriage treizain complete with its silver box and 13 gilt silver bracteates, circa 1750-1800
Stamped  " ESPOVSER"

 

 



marriage treizain of 25 centimes coins from 1844 - gold-plated in their fitted case
click on the photos to enlarge them in high resolution

 

 


marriage treizain purse in
gold with 12 gold
5 francs coins

marriage treizain purse in 
gold with 12 gold 
5 francs coins

 selection of gold purses,
period Napoléon III (25%)

 
     

 


treizain (incomplete) made with gilded 1/12 écu silver coins, circa 1690

 

 

The marriage medal
 

The treizain was replaced towards the start of the nineteenth century by a marriage medal, generally of silver, sometimes of gold, the reverse or edge of which was generally engraved with the names of the couple and the date of the ceremony.  The marriage medal was blessed along with the wedding bands during the ceremony by the priest. 

Later, the marriage medal was sometimes mounted as a brooch or pendant and worn by the bride. 

Today, in some towns, the mayor offers the couple a bronze marriage medal after the civil ceremony, (which by law has to precede the church ceremony).

 

 

 

 

 

wedding medal in gold

 

 

 

 

 


silver marriage medal

 

 


silver marriage medal


silver marriage medal

 

 


very large gold wedding medal, 1876, obverse


very large gold wedding medal, 1876, reverse

 

originally a presentation medal for the coronation of king Charles the tenth in 1825, this medal was engraved in 1876 to commemorate a marriage


 


engraved edge of wedding medal shown above, celebrating the marriage of
Eudoxe Regnouf de Vains and Isabelle Poujol d’Acqueville on the first of February 1876

 

 

 

 

 


silver marriage medal

   

 

 

 


marriage medal in silver engraved
by Mattei, the border in ivy represents
eternal love : "I attach myself or I die"


silver marriage medal


 

 

 

 

 


silver marriage medal

marriage medal in silver gilt


silver marriage medal


silver marriage medal

 

     

 


silver marriage medal
"Fidelité Bonheur"
engraved by Petit, obverse


silver marriage medal
engraved by Petit, reverse

 

silver gilt marriage medal


 

silver marriage medal
engraved by Montagny

 

silver marriage medal


 

 

 

 


silver marriage medal


silver marriage medal


marriage medal in silver gilt

       

    

 


wedding medal in silver from 1914 - obverse

wedding medal in silver from 1914 - reverse

 

 

 


gold wedding medallion, 1912, obverse


gold wedding medallion, 1912, reverse

200%

 

 


wedding medal in silver plated bronze offered
by the mayor and town councillors of Carcassonne


marriage medal in silver plated bronze offered
by the mayor and town councillors of Carcassonne

 

 


 marriage medal in silver, by Pieter van Abeele, circa 1657,
made in Holland, collected in Béthune, northern France, obverse


"Oprechte Liefde Tusschen Man en Vrouw
Duurt Eewiglyk Wel Zalig is de Trouw"


"True love between man and woman lasts forever,
so blessed is the fidelity"


 
marriage medal in silver, by Pieter van Abeele, circa 1657,
made in Holland, collected in Béthune, northern France, reverse


"Het Huwelyck is Goddelyke van Aart
Wanneer men Tsaam Vyt Reine Liefde Paart"


"Marriage is a divine institution whenever people
come together with true love"

click on the photos to enlarge them in high resolution

 

The wedding cup or loving cup

 

In some regions of France, the parents of the couple would present them with a silver or engraved glass wedding cup, which was used to give the toasts.  The cup was brought out regularly in order to toast births, baptisms, communions and made its last appearance filled with holy water at the foot of the coffin.......  The shapes of the Burgundy and Brittany wedding cups are quite characteristic; in other regions, they often shaped like a tall silver champagne glass engraved with a garter motif or like a silver teacup with a saucer. 

The silver or glass cup was presented to the bride, while the bridegroom would receive a flat 'tasse-à-vin' or tastevin.  In the past when people went out to eat, they would need to bring their own cutlery and the flat shape of the tastevin enabled it to be easily carried in a man's pocket.  Both cups were engraved with the initials of the owners to prevent problems when retrieving the cups.  Of course, silver was reserved for the wealthier couples; most couples had to make do with pewter, earthenware or even wooden cups and beakers.


silver loving cup or wedding cup from Brittany circa 1716-1717

 

 


silver loving cup or wedding cup from Burgundy circa 1780


  silver loving cup or wedding cup from Burgundy engraved 1855

 

50%

 

 


Silver tastevin

 

 

 


silver loving cup, not engraved with the initials of the couple.
note the garter motif around the cartouche.  XIXth century

 

 


silver loving cup, the engraved initials of the couple have
been polished off.
note the garter motif around the cartouche.  XIXth century

 

 


 


Silver marriage cup

 

 


Marriage in the Bresse region

 

 


Marriage

 

 


Marriage - photographer Godart, Lille

 

 


Marriage, photographer Henckendorn at Colmar

 

 

The silver cutlery service

 

A silver cutlery service was a very traditional gift often given to the couple, generally by the parents or by a wealthy relative.  This silverware was brought out for fancy meals after having been polished to sparkle.  Solid silver tended to be too expensive for most budgets and we notice that most silverware is in fact silver-plated, even though the recipients always believed it to be of solid silver. 

A traditional service consisted of twelve spoons, twelve forks, twelve dessert spoons (also used as teaspoons) and a ladle.  The knives were never offered with the service as the superstition claimed they would "cut" the friendship.  Until around 1950 the knives, sold separately, had handles of ebony, horn, ivory or Celluloid and thus didn't match the rest of the service.  Since then the knives have matching silver plated handles and are bought and offered with the rest of the service.

 

 


The wedding book by Arthur Blair Leighton

 

 

1 :   CATOIRE, Christine., Treasures of the Black Death, The Wallace Collection, 2009
2 :   LE BRETON, Gaston., Inventaire des bijoux et de l'orfèvrerie appartenant à Mme. la Comtesse de Sault, Imprimerie Nationale, 1882
 

 

Table of contents

weddding ring, engagement ring, diamond ring, bague de fiançailles, bague de foi, bague à la Duchess Anne, alliance en or,  ivoire de Dieppe, argenterie, métal argenté, argent massif, ménagère en argent, manche à gigot, pelle à tarte, pince à sucre, louche, cuillère à ragout en argent XVIII, sucrier en argent, service de baptême en argent, théière en argent, rince doigts en argent, Christofle, Tiffany, Têtard Frères, Fabergé, Mappin and Webb, cafetière en argent, chocolatière en argent, plateau en argent, argenterie art déco, argenterie art nouveau, manches a côtelettes en argent, service à découper en argent, service à confits, cuillère à Absinthe, saupoudreuse en argent, passe thé en argent, verseuse en argent, casserole en argent, bijou régional, bijoux régionaux, bijoux et orfèvres en Haute-Normandie, bijoux des régions de Fran

 

French traditional jewellery - marriage