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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver with engraved carnelian

  • Museum number:

    401-1871

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Rings are known in Egypt from the Middle Kingdom (c.2050 BC – c.1800 BC) onwards. The earliest examples take the form of precious stone scarabs attached to loops of wire, usually bearing royal names and titles, or those of royal women. Soon afterwards, ‘private name’ stone scarabs also emerged, bearing the names or professional titles of particular individuals, or other unique identifiers such as a combination of symbols. These were often again made into rings. It is believed that these either acted as seals, or amulets, or even both. From the middle of the New Kingdom (c.1550 BC – c.1070 BC), rings also began to be mass-produced in glazed composition. Unlike scarab rings, these were not designed to identify particular individuals, and typically displayed bezels with stock designs – divine or protective symbols, or the name of the ruling King.

The wedjat eye, or ‘Eye of Horus’, represents the eye of the god Horus, which was believed to have been injured by his uncle Seth and subsequently healed. As such, it symbolised protection and wholeness, and was commonly used as an apotropaic symbol. The markings underneath the eye are based on those of a falcon, the animal associated with Horus and in whose form he was frequently depicted.

This ring originally formed part of the collection of Edmund Waterton, a collection of approximately 760 rings designed with the aim of illustrating the history of rings of all periods and types. The majority of the collection was acquired by the Museum in 1871, with a remaining part being acquired in 1899, after Waterton’s bankruptcy forced him to part with it in 1868. The rings were held as security against a loan by the jeweler Robert Phillips for two years, but when Waterton missed an 1870 deadline to repay the loan, Phillips sold the collection to the Museum, having first contacted regarding a possible purchase in 1869.

Physical description

Ring with a silver band and revolving carnelian bezel in the form of a wedjat eye. The front of the bezel is engraved with the eye design; on the reverse is an engraved ankh symbol.

Place of Origin

Egypt (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver with engraved carnelian

Dimensions

Height: 20 mm, Diameter: 21 mm Band

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Descriptive line

Silver ring with an engraved carnelian bezel in the form of a wedjat eye, or eye of Horus. Dated to the New Kingdom or later.

Materials

Silver; Carnelian

Techniques

Engraving

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Africa

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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