Finger Ring Collection

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'Iconographic' ring


Early 15th century

Gold iconographic ring, the flat oblong bezel with a figure of a saint holding a staff in one hand and a book in the other, the hoop resembling a twisted double cord

17.12 mm internal ring diameter; 3.82 g weight

Bought in London

Presented by Dr C.D.E. Fortnum in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897; WA1897.CDEF.F585

Taylor and Scarisbrick, Finger Rings from Ancient Egypt to the present day, 1978, no. 404

'Iconographic' ring: Termed ‘iconographic’ by Victorian collectors, this group of rings is apparently unique to England. The rings are silver or gold (occasionally latten) and engraved on the bezel or shoulders with devotional images or saints. They came into use in the fourteenth century, lasting until the Reformation and, apparent from many inscriptions, a popular New Year gift. The generally repetitive nature of the group suggests they were more likely made for stock as opposed to individually commissioned. Each saint was believed to protect the wearer against various misadventures.