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British Galleries, Room 58b, case 1
The typical decade ring takes its name from the fact that it has ten knobs, although this one has eleven. The rings were used in the same way as a rosary . A 'Hail Mary' (Ave Maria) prayer was said for each of the knobs, and then an 'Our Father' (Paternoster) for the bezel (the centre of the ring).
Ownership & Use
Rosaries were forbidden in England and Wales by a statute of 1571, but the act does not mention decade rings. They continued to be made until at least the 18th century for use by Roman Catholics (who were known as 'recusants', because they refused to attend Church of England services). Many decade rings survive from the Liverpool area with its substantial Catholic population.
Decade rings in which the bezel was engraved with a saint appeared in the middle of the 15th century, but ceased to be produced after the Reformation. In this instance the bezel is engraved with the letter 'S'. This could have a religious significance (standing for servus or 'servant' of Christ), but may simply be the initial letter of the owner's name.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
'S', probably the initial of the owner
Height: 1.2 cm seal, estimated, Width: 0.7 cm seal, estimated, Diameter: 3 cm estimated
Labels and date
Like rosaries, these rings were a traditional aid to prayer. A 'Hail Mary' (Ave Maria) was said for each knob, an 'Our Father' (Paternoster) for the head or bezel of the ring. The Anglican Church preferred study of the Scriptures to personal recital of prayers of this kind. [27/03/2003]
Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project