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  • Place of origin:


  • Date:

    1st century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This bronze ring is probably a roughly formed snake ring. Snakes have been used in jewellery since the ancient Egyptians. The Nile cobra was a symbol of royalty but the snake used in Greek and Roman jewellery was the non-venomous Asclepian snake (elaphe longissima ). Snakes were associated with healing deities such as Isis in Egypt or the Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. They symbolised regeneration, healing and rebirth and therefore were used as a symbol of eternity. The long sinuous form of the snake made it very suitable for use in jewellery, either as a ring or bracelet. Snake jewellery varies from quite elaborately decorated rings, engraved to suggest scales and which would have originally had bright, jewelled eyes, to more crudely made silver rings such as those found in the Norfolk Snettisham jewellery hoard, now in the British Museum.

This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). 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.

Physical description

Bronze ring, with a hoop composed of seven wire coils

Place of Origin



1st century (made)



Materials and Techniques



Depth: 2.1 cm, Diameter: 2.4 cm

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Descriptive line

Bronze ring, with a hoop composed of seven wire coils, Roman, 1st century

Subjects depicted

Serpents (animal)


Jewellery; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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