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  • Place of origin:

    Europe (made)

  • Date:

    c. 1200-1300 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold, engraved; sapphire

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 5, shelf C, box 12

On medieval jewellery, love and affection were frequently expressed in inscriptions. Rings so inscribed are known as 'posy' rings (from 'poesy', or poetry). Such inscriptions can be in Latin or in French, both languages fairly widely understood or spoken by the elite in Western Europe. Love inscriptions often repeat each other, which suggests that goldsmiths used stock phrases. Perhaps the most commonly found inscription is 'Amor Vincit Omnia', a motto found on a brooch worn by the flirtatious Prioress in Chaucer's Prologue to the 'Canterbury Tales', written around 1390.

'Ave Maria gracia plena' (Hail Mary, full of grace), the salutation used by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary when announcing that she would bear the baby Jesus, is also commonly found on rings, purse-mounts and other small, personal items and may have had a magical or protective intention.

This ring is part of a large group of jewels given by the art historian and collector Dame Joan Evans (1893-1977). Dame Joan came from a family of distinguished archaeologists and scholars. Her interest in art and jewellery was formed at the knee of her father Sir John Evans and she wrote her first book 'A History of Jewellery' at the age of 17. She was one of the first women to take a full degree at Oxford which she followed with a distinguished career as an author and academic researcher. In 1933 she became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities and later a director. She had a long association with the V&A, making numerous lifetime gifts of jewellery and bequeathing her collection at her death in 1977.

Physical description

Gold ring, the projecting four-claw bezel set with a polished cabochon sapphire, the hoop with lion-mask shoulders. The hoop inscribed in Lombardic lettering AVE MARIA GRA[CIA] (Hail Mary Full of Grace) and AMOR VINCI[T] O[M]NIA (Love Conquers All).

Place of Origin

Europe (made)


c. 1200-1300 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gold, engraved; sapphire

Marks and inscriptions

'Hail Mary, full of Grace'
'Love Conquers All'
Inscription on the hoop, in Lombardic lettering, in Latin


Height: 2.9 cm, Width: 2.3 cm, Depth: 1.3 cm

Object history note

The angelic salutation 'Ave Maria gracia plena' (Hail Mary full of grace) is found inscribed on rings in the British Museum (Dalton 681-693) and on several rings in the Guilhou collection (sold Sotheby & Co. November, 1937).

Descriptive line

Gold ring set with a cabochon sapphire, with lion-mask shoulders, the hoop inscribed in lombardic lettering AVE MARIA GRA[CIA],AMOR VINCI[T] O[M]NIA, Europe, c. 1250-1300.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Campbell, Marian Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500 , London, V&A Publishing, 2009, pp. 92-4, fig.22
Bury, Shirley, Introduction to Rings, London, 1984, cat. 26B, p.24
Taylor, Gerald and Scarisbrick, Diana, Finger rings from ancient Egypt to the present day, Ashmolean Museum press, 1978, cat. 265
Hindman, Sandra, Towards a new art history of medieval rings: a private collection, London, 2007, p. 128
Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, cat. 5
Hindman, Sandra ed. Cycles of life: rings from the Benjamin Zucker family collection, London, 2014, p.59


Gold; Sapphire



Subjects depicted

Love; Lions (animals)


Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project; Religion; Romance


Metalwork Collection

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