Ring thumbnail 1
Ring thumbnail 2
Not currently on display at the V&A

Ring

early 14th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Rings were the most common medieval jewel - worn by women, men and children across all classes of society. Gemset rings, most commonly using a sapphire, garnet or ruby were reserved for the most wealthy. The irregular shape of the bezel on this ring was dictated by the form of the sapphire, polished but not yet cut into a regular shape. Four tiny emeralds were originally set at each point but only one now survives. The hoop is engraved with a regular repeating pattern.

This gold and sapphire ring was more than just a fashionable jewel. Medieval authors ascribed magical or spiritual properties to gemstones. Sapphires were believed by some writers to promote chastity, peace and reconciliation and to cure snake bites. The cool blue colour of the stone was also thought to cure headaches and heal ulcers. This celestial blue colour was described by the writer Bartholomeus Anglicus (died 1272) as 'most like heaven in fair weather' and was associated with the Virgin Mary, often depicted wearing a blue gown. The heavenly connection made sapphires a popular choice for bishops and several sapphire rings have been found in the tombs of English and French bishops.

The ring originally belonged to Dame Joan Evans, a pioneering jewellery historian and writer, who left her collection to the V&A.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved gold set with a sapphire and emerald
Brief description
Gold ring, the pentagonal bezel set with a sapphire with four small attached collets for emeralds (three missing). The hoop is engraved with saltires, West Europe, early 14th century.
Physical description
Gold ring, the pentagonal bezel set with a sapphire with four small attached collets for emeralds (three missing). The hoop is engraved with circles and chevrons.
Dimensions
  • Back of hoop to top of sapphire setting height: 2.5cm
  • Diameter across hoop diameter: 2cm
  • Depth: 1.5cm
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
Found in Durham, Philip Nelson Collection. Published in the Antiquaries Journal in 1940 as 'The finger-ring here illustrated is of English workmanship c. 1300, and was recently found in Durham. Its design is quite unusual, in that the central stone, a cabochon sapphire, in a deep pentagonal moulded setting, has placed about it, at the four cardinal points, small detached box-settings to contain cabochon emeralds. The shoulders of the ring are enriched with encised chevrons and smal punched-in circles.'
Association
Summary
Rings were the most common medieval jewel - worn by women, men and children across all classes of society. Gemset rings, most commonly using a sapphire, garnet or ruby were reserved for the most wealthy. The irregular shape of the bezel on this ring was dictated by the form of the sapphire, polished but not yet cut into a regular shape. Four tiny emeralds were originally set at each point but only one now survives. The hoop is engraved with a regular repeating pattern.



This gold and sapphire ring was more than just a fashionable jewel. Medieval authors ascribed magical or spiritual properties to gemstones. Sapphires were believed by some writers to promote chastity, peace and reconciliation and to cure snake bites. The cool blue colour of the stone was also thought to cure headaches and heal ulcers. This celestial blue colour was described by the writer Bartholomeus Anglicus (died 1272) as 'most like heaven in fair weather' and was associated with the Virgin Mary, often depicted wearing a blue gown. The heavenly connection made sapphires a popular choice for bishops and several sapphire rings have been found in the tombs of English and French bishops.



The ring originally belonged to Dame Joan Evans, a pioneering jewellery historian and writer, who left her collection to the V&A.
Bibliographic references
  • Nelson, P. (1940). An English medieval gold finger-ring. The Antiquaries Journal, 20(4), 509-509. doi:10.1017/S0003581500095494
  • Ik, Maria van Gelre. De hertogin en haar uitzonderlijke gebedenboek (1380-1429), ed. by Johan Oostermann. Nijmegen / Zwolle: Museum Het Valkhof / Waanders Uitgevers, 2018. ISBN 9789462622012. Catalogue of the exhibition held at Museum Het Valkhof Nijmegen, 13 October 2018 - 6 January 2019.
Collection
Accession number
M.183-1962

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Record createdMarch 14, 2006
Record URL
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