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'Iconographic' ring

England

Mid 15th century

Gold iconographic ring, the bezel facetted with the Virgin and Child flanked by Saints Helena and Barbara with St. John the Baptist and the Holy Trinity on the shoulders; inscribed 'en bon an' inside

19 mm internal ring diameter; 8.7 g weight

Bequeathed by CN Norris, 1949; WA.OA1454

Scarisbrick and Henig, Finger Rings, 2003, pl. 12.1

'Iconographic' ring: Termed ‘iconographic’ by Victorian collectors, this group of rings is apparently unique to England. The rings are silver or gold (occasionally latten) and engraved on the bezel or shoulders with devotional images or saints. They came into use in the fourteenth century, lasting until the Reformation and, apparent from many inscriptions, a popular New Year gift. The generally repetitive nature of the group suggests they were more likely made for stock as opposed to individually commissioned. Each saint was believed to protect the wearer against various misadventures.