Jewellery, Watches and Objects of Vertu (14 September 2021)

Date of Auction: 14th September 2021

Sold for £4,000

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,400

A Medieval gold and emerald ring, circa 1200-1400, the plain circular hoop of slender tapering form, centred with a small oval cabochon emerald within sloped bezel with lipped edge, ring size R. £1,800-£2,400


Provenance: This ring was found in Devon in 2019 and is recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database ref: DEV-768804 and has subsequently been disclaimed.

H M Coroner Report (2019 T566), dated January 2020, makes reference to ‘the ring being typical of the 12th and 13th centuries (see Oman 1974: pages 18-20), a similar example on plate 15, Nos. B and C, both dated to the 13th century and both set with sapphires. Several similar examples of a more slender stirrup style ring have been recorded through the Treasure process and on the PAS database in particular 2014 T441 (SOM-138A64, Burnett 2014) and 2018 T374 (OXON-FD4029, Byard 2018). The emerald stone probably originated from mines in Egypt (Jennings et al 1993). Late medieval and post medieval lapidaries describe a number of potential apotropaic uses for emeralds, often associated with the maintenance of chastity due to their supposed ability to shatter during adulterous intercourse (Dobson 2018), an association referenced in an English 14th century context by Chaucer in the Prioress’ Tale as “this gemme of chastity, this emerald” although earlier classical authors including Pliny the Elder and Aristotle commented on its ability to improve business matters and win opinion. (Healy 1981)’.

See: Oman, Charles: British Rings 800-1914’, pub. Batsford, 1974, pages 18-20.
See: Dodson, K. 2018: The Price of Virtue for the Medieval Woman:Chastity and the Crucible of the Virgin, English Studies 99.6, pages 593-608.

See: Healy J.F. 1981. Pliny the Elder and ancient mineralogy, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 6(2), pages 166-180.