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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold ring set with a toadstone

  • Museum number:

    715-1871

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A toadstone is actually the fossilised tooth of a fish called Lepidotes, common in the Oolitic and Wealden Jurassic and Carboniferous strata of England. Also known as 'crapaudine' or 'crappot' it is a brown or orangeish substance believed to come from a toad's head. It was highly valued and reputed to protect the wearer against kidney diseases, to cure the bite of venomous creatures and to detect poison. It was also thought to protect pregnant women from fairies and demons and to prevent their child being exchanged for a changeling. When set in a ring it would give off heat in the presence of a poison. This was described by Fenton in 1569 "Being used in rings they give forewarning of venom".

The heart warming inscription reads 'A friend at need doth gould exceed', suggesting the value of friendship over worldly wealth and possibly indicating that the ring was a gift from one friend to another.

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

Gold ring, the circular bezel set with a toadstone and inscribed A friend at need doth gould exceed.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

17th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Gold ring set with a toadstone

Marks and inscriptions

A friend at need doth gould exceed
inscription on the circular bezel

Dimensions

Height: 2.3 cm, Width: 1.9 cm, Depth: 0.9 cm

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Historical significance: Toadstone is actually the fossilised tooth of a fish called Lepidotes common in the Oolitic and Wealden Jurassic and Carboniferous strata of England. Also known as 'crapaudine' or 'crappot' it is a brown or orangeish substance believed to come from a toad's head. It was highly valued and reputed to protect the wearer against kidney diseases, to cure the bite of venomous creatures and to detect poison. It was also thought to protect pregnant women from fairies and demons and to prevent their child being exchanged for a changeling. When set in a ring it would give off heat in the presence of a poison. This was described by Fenton in 1569 "Being used in rings they give forewarning of venom". The use of toadstones is well attested in literature.

Descriptive line

Gold ring the circular bezel set with a toadstone and inscribed A friend at need doth gould exceed, England, 17th century

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

Duffin, Christopher J. The Toadstone - a rather unlikely jewel. Jewellery History Today. Spring 2010, issue 8. pp. 3-4
Duffin, Christopher J. Fossils as Drugs: pharmaceutical palaeontology. Ferrantia 2002, vol. 54. pp. 1-83

Materials

Gold; Toadstone

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Amulets

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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