Signet Ring thumbnail 1
Signet Ring thumbnail 2
+7
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Signet Ring

9th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The letters around the hoop of this ring spell out the name of Ahlstan, thought to refer to the Bishop of Sherborne from 817 to 867. Ahlstan had accompanied King Egbert on his invasion of North Wales in 828 and this ring was reported as having been found in Carnarvonshire around 1773. A letter with an illustration of the ring from Samuel Pegge to the Society of Antiquaries dated 6/7/1777 reports that 'The ring here represented was found by a labourer on the surface of the ground, on a common, at a place called Llys Faen, in the North East corner of Carnarvonshire.' Another gold ring was also found near the same place. It was shown at the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition in 1857 and subsequently acquired by the collector Edmund Waterton.

The high quality of this ring indicates that it was made for a person of stature. Two rings in the British Museum are decorated with similar lettering in niello and read Ethelwulf and Ethelswith and were made for the royal house of Wessex.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Nielloed gold
Brief Description
Nielloed gold ring, decorated with birds and monsters in lozenges alternating with the name + A LH ST A(and runic N) in roundels, with stylised leaf edges, Anglo Saxon, 9th century
Physical Description
Nielloed gold ring, decorated with birds and monsters in lozenges alternating with the name + A LH ST A(and runic N) in roundels, with stylised leaf edges.
Dimensions
  • Depth: 1cm
  • Diameter: 2.9cm
Style
Object history
Found probably in 1753 at Llysfaen near Colwyn Bay, Wales. Ex Waterton Collection, published by J.H. Hanshall in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1823; owned by Dr Pegge in 1771 and presented to the Society of Antiquaries in 1773.



This ring forms part of a collection of over 600 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-81). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.



Edmund Waterton used the fortune which was made by his family’s involvement in the British Guiana sugar plantations to put his collection together. His grandfather owned a plantation known as Walton Hall and his father, Charles Waterton, went to Guiana as a young man to help run La Jalousie and Fellowship, plantations which belonged to his uncles. When slavery was abolished in the British territories, Charles Waterton claimed £16283 6s 7d in government compensation and was recorded as having 300 enslaved people on the Walton Hall estate.





Historical significance: It has been suggested that the original owner was Ahlstan, Bishop of Sherborne (824-867)
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
The letters around the hoop of this ring spell out the name of Ahlstan, thought to refer to the Bishop of Sherborne from 817 to 867. Ahlstan had accompanied King Egbert on his invasion of North Wales in 828 and this ring was reported as having been found in Carnarvonshire around 1773. A letter with an illustration of the ring from Samuel Pegge to the Society of Antiquaries dated 6/7/1777 reports that 'The ring here represented was found by a labourer on the surface of the ground, on a common, at a place called Llys Faen, in the North East corner of Carnarvonshire.' Another gold ring was also found near the same place. It was shown at the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition in 1857 and subsequently acquired by the collector Edmund Waterton.



The high quality of this ring indicates that it was made for a person of stature. Two rings in the British Museum are decorated with similar lettering in niello and read Ethelwulf and Ethelswith and were made for the royal house of Wessex.
Bibliographic References
  • The Gentleman's Magazine (London, England), Volume 134, December 1823, pp. 433-34
  • Archaeologia, IV, p.47
  • Susan La Niece, Niello: a historical and technical survey; Antiquaries Journal, lxiii, 1983, pp. 279-297, cat. 102
  • Oman, Charles, Catalogue of rings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1930, reprinted Ipswich, 1993, cat. 227
  • Waterton, Edmund Dactyliotheca Watertoniana: a descriptive catalogue of the finger-rings in the collection of Mrs Waterton, (manuscript, 1866, now in National Art Library)
  • Waterton, Edmund 'On niello', Archaeological Journal, vol XIX, London 1862
  • 'British Guiana 2426 (Walton Hall)', Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, http://wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/7157 [accessed 28th May 2019].
Collection
Accession Number
627-1871

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record createdMarch 16, 2006
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