The Finger Rings of Albus Dumbledore
Professor Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series has always been an inspirational character to me, partially for his skill and wisdom as a wizard and teacher and partially for his personal tastes in jewelry and clothing. Today I’m going to look a little deeper into the cultural elements that have influenced Dumbledore’s jewelry style.
Beginnings: Late Victorian
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was born in Gloucestershire, England in the summer of 1881. This would have been the Late Victorian period of jewelry history. Queen Victoria was in her later years and Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra would have become fashion trendsetters of the age. No single period of jewelry history had such a diverse group of jewelry attributed to it than the Victorian era. The Aesthetic movement, concerned with “art for art’s sake,” began in Britain around the 1870s and became recognized by designers and artists worldwide, eventually resulting in the Arts and Crafts movement. The period of mourning jewelry with its heavy brooches and large necklaces is over and we see jewelry getting smaller, lighter, and more dainty. We frequently see jewelry of this period with Diamonds cut in Rose Cuts, Old Mine cuts, and Old European cuts.
It seems likely that Dumbledore wouldn't have had much exposure to muggle fashion at this period of his life, considering that he lived in a rural area and because of his sisters magical instability, they would have stayed somewhat alienated from the community around them. While the rest of the country was wearing silver and colored gemstone during the daytime and gold, platinum, diamonds, and pearls as evening wear, Dumbledore was existing in more modest surroundings.
Hogwarts Education and Graduation: Art Nouveau
By the time Dumbledore finished his seven years of magical education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Art Nouveau movement was coming into style. Dumbledore returned home from graduation in 1899 and is prepared to go on a world tour when his mother is killed, so he must stay home and take care of his family.
Dumbledore was not yet adorning himself with jewelry but the rest of the world was. This was a period of free flowing lines along with motifs that included insects, especially dragonflies and butterflies, as fantasy creatures. The free flowing line was used to suggest movement and was an interpretation of the shapes and lines found in plants, a woman’s hair, feminine curves; essentially everything that moved, waved and undulated in nature. The way in which this line was employed came to define the characteristics of Art Nouveau as it manifested itself differently in various countries. In England, it appeared as a Celtic Revival flowing through squares, triangles and knots. This Celtic style sees another revival later in the 1970s and 80s. Dumbledore’s relocation to Hogwarts in Scotland might have made him extra aware of this Celtic Revivalism which was very popular in Scotland and still is today.
Hogwarts Professor: Edwardian
Dumbledore takes a year off after he graduates but quickly finds himself back in Hogwarts, this time as a professor. It’s the early 1900s and his style has gotten a lot more polished but he has not yet become the eccentric headmaster who wears flowing gowns, funny hats, and has a hand full of rings. This would have been one of Dumbledore’s most active and energetic periods in his life. He was teaching full time as well as starting to lead the battle against the anti-Muggle advocate Grindelwald. This period of Dumbledores life comes to a head in 1945 when he has a duel with Grindelwald, later proclaimed one of the greatest wizarding duels of all time.
Edward VII is leading the country and the Edwardian period is in full swing. Technological advances have been made in platinum fabrication. The Edwardian era is perhaps best known for extensive use of filigree techniques. By applying threads of gold, platinum, and other precious metals to the surface of their settings, Edwardian jewelers gave their jewelry a wonderfully lacy look. This is the period in which diamond tastes were changing to their current stage: In the early 1900s we see the modern Round Brilliant replacing the Old European cut in almost all diamond jewelry.
Headmaster: Celtic Revival
Dumbledore becomes headmaster of Hogwarts in the early 1970s and this is when we first start to see him adorning himself with jewelry. His first on-screen jewelry appearance is in a flashback to 1981 when he’s in court witnessing the trial of the Death Eater Karkaroff. The Celtic Revival style that influences Dumbledore’s jewelry and clothing kicked off in the early 1900s but saw another boom in the 1950’s and is still very much the fashion in the 1970s. This is a style identified by its use of intricate knotwork patterns that are influenced by Celtic art motifs from the Middle Ages: 500–1000 AD. As a wizard coming into his later years, it seems logical that Dumbledore would have styled himself after the famous wizard Merlin who lived during that period (540–618 AD). The actual jewelry of the Dark Ages Celtic period, which is characterized by twisting metal torques and simple bezel set rings, looks nothing like the jewelry that Dumbledore wears. The Celtic Revival style began as a conscious effort by Modern Celts, mostly in the British Isles, to express self-identification and nationalism.
Professor Dumbledore continues to dress himself in this Celtic Revival style until his final years. We often see various types of Celtic knots in his jewelry and clothes, including the Trinity Knot or Triquetra, which represents classical elements of Earth, Water, and Earth (land, sea, and sky). Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore died on June 30, 1997, at 115 years old, and was buried with his magical rings and his Trinity Knot embroidered gown.
Typically, we see Professor Dumbledore wearing four rings, two per hand.
On his right hand pinky, he wears a silver ring with what appears to be Black Onyx, a type of Chalcedony. With a summer birthday, Onyx might be Dumbledore’s birthstone. The magical properties of Black Onyx include giving you the power to accomplish goals, overcoming difficulties, and protecting you from evil spirits. Considering Dumbledore’s character, it seems logical that he would choose a stone that not only emphasized his astrological attributes but would also help him to overcome all the challenges he set before himself including his scholarly and academic pursuits as well as battling the dark wizard Grindelwald and later opposing Voldemort.
The second ring on Dumbledore’s right hand is a silver Celtic-style cross. This is an early Dark Ages symbol that might be a throwback to the time of Merlin who lived in that mysterious period of British history where Christianity was starting to confront druidic Paganism. Many of the Merlin stories take place in this time period and Merlin is often described as the last of his kind, a wizard of the old ways, worshipper of the old Gods. Dumbledore might wear this symbol in remembrance of Merlin, the most powerful wizard of his day who fought for the old Pagan ways in the face of a new and powerful religion that was sweeping the land. From the Pagan point of view, the Celtic Cross is symbolic of the four directions, the elements, and it is the meeting place for all divine energies. This symbol would make sense for Dumbledore who was one of the greatest wizards of all time and who would have wanted to master the human aspects represented by the four classical elements: Earth (physical power), Air (mental power), Water (emotional power), and Fire (will power)
The fact that all of Dumbledore’s rings are silver might also say something about his attitude towards the shining metal. Silver is said to enhance one’s psychic abilities as well as provide magical security and its said to reflect spells of harm back to the sender.
On Dumbeldore’s left hand, we find two more rings. On his ring finger we see a simple silver band with a Celtic Knotwork Interlace pattern. This pattern is said to represent the interconnection of life and our place within the universe. This idea pairs well with the four elements symbolized in the Celtic cross.
Finally, on Dumbledore’s left pinky with find another silver ring adorned with what seems to be a combination of a Celtic Cross and the Knotwork Interlace pattern, set with a Moonstone. Since the earliest times, Moonstone has been a tangible representstion of the magic of the moon — an amulet of protection for travelers, a channel for prophecy, and a tool for gaining wisdom. Moonstone is known as the Traveler’s Stone for the protection it affords, and because of its uplifting quality of hope. White Moonstone is said to carry the energy of the new moon at the height of its power, stimulating psychic perception, vision, and dream work.
This last ring seems to be culmination of all of Dumbledore’s rings, combining all the previous themes into one with addition of a gemstone that would have help him in his endeavors as someone who travels regularly and is constantly seeking hope in the dark times that he finds himself in. Dumbledore was a great wizard and a stylish headmaster and analyzing the concepts and properties of his jewelry aesthetic not only gives us a new perspective on the greatest wizard of all time, but it also gives a unique lens in which to appreciate the jewelry history of the 20th century.
About the Author
Justin K Prim is an American lapidary and gemologist living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. He has studied gemcutting traditions all over the world as well as attending gemology programs at GIA and AIGS. He is currently working on a book about the worldwide history of gemstone faceting. He works as a Lapidary Instructor for the Institute of Gem Trading as well as writing articles, producing videos, and giving talks about gem cutting history. He is also a huge fan of Harry Potter and of antique jewelry styles.
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