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Edmund Waterton's Collection of Rings
Illustrated London News
17th January 1863
Edmund's Rings - Illustrated London News

Mr Waterton's Ancient Ring

Amongst the works of art in the Loan Collection at the South Kensington Museum was a collection of rings formed by Edmund Waterton, Esq., for the purpose of illustrating the history of finger-rings from the earliest date. A few of these have been selected for illustration.

1. Gold Etruscan ring. Around the hoop are figures of Hercules and Juno Lanuvina in relief. Hercules is clad in the spoils of a lion, and Juno in those of a goat. With his right hand Hercules holds the nodus, or knot, which Juno grasps with her left, and she in her right holds the gavy or girdle, the other end of which Hercules seizes with his left. In the space between the girdle and the knot a small scarab is et. This ring was found in Maremma in 1856 and weighs 475 grains.

2. Silver ring, curiously ornamented with lacertine work. North Saxon workmanship of the eleventh century. Found in the Thames at Chelsea in 1856.

3. A gold Hebrew wedding-ring of the latter part of the fifteenth century.

4. Gold Merovingian ring, with a projecting bezel set with a sapphire en cabochon A similar ring is in the museum at the Porte de Hal in Brussels.

5. Gold enamelled ring, of the sixteenth century, set with a turquoise and surrounded by six garnets. This ring is stated to have subsequently belonged to Frederick the Great, of Prussia, whose cypher is cut upon it.

6. Ring of horn or of hoof, surrounded by a thin hoop of silver, and with a bezel of silver affixed, in which is set a crapaudine or toadstone. A ring of the hoof of an ass was held to be efficient against epilepsy; and, although, this fable of a stone in the head of a toad has long been exploded, it may be amusing to read the following description of the "crapaudine," which is given by Nichols in his "Lapidary:" - "Some say this stone is found in the head of an old toade: others say that the old toade must be laid upon the cloth that is red and it will belch it up or otherwise not. You may give a like credit to both these reports, for as little truth is to be found in them as may possibly be. Witness Anselmus Boetius, in lib.ii, in the chapter on this stone, who saith that, to try this experiment in his youth, he took an old toade and laid upon a red cloth, and watched it a whole night to see it belch up his stone; but after his long and tedious watchful expectation he found the old toade in the same posture to gratify the great pangs of his whole night's restlessness."

7. The Ring of Henry, Lord Darnley, the husband of the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots. On the bezel it bears the two initials M. H., united by a lover's knot, and within the name HENRI L. DARNLEY, and his arms as Duke of Albany, and the year of their marriage, 1565.

The Darnley Ring.A more recent description of the Darnley Ring
This gold signet ring was said to have been found amongst the ruins of Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire in 1820. It was exhibited to the Archaeological Institute, Salisbury in 1849, and had been acquired by the ring collector and aesthete Edmund Waterton by 1857.
Waterton formed one of the most important ring collections of the 19th century but fell into financial difficulties in the 1870s and his collection was purchased by the Museum in 1871.
When the ring was first published and became widely known, it was said to have been the wedding ring of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry, Lord Darnley. The bezel of the ring is engraved with the initials H and M with a true lover's knot whilst the back of the bezel shows a coat of arms engraved with lion rampant and a crown and the inscription Henry L. Darnley, 1565.
The authenticity of the ring's associations was widely accepted until the publication of the Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue (V&A, 1982) in which Shirley Bury suggested that the crude nature of the inscription and style of lettering might indicate that it was added at a later date. Nonetheless, the ring's compelling story inspired the production of many silver replicas for sale to the devoted admirers of Mary, Queen of Scots.
(Source and © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, accessed 13 Feb 2016.)

8. Massive gold signet, bearing the bust of a man, and the name +AYFRET or ALFREY. This and the preceding one are of Anglo-Saxon workmanship.

9. Gold ring, chased, bezel formed of two birds,possibly intended for peacocks. Byzantine.

10. Gold Italian ring, fifteenth century; found at Poggio Mirbebo in 1800.

11. Massive gold signet, with the rebus of the Wylmot family. On the foot of the tree there is an B., on one side WY and on the other OT. Supposing the tree to be an elm, the name reads Wy-elm-ot or Wylmot. Fourteenth century.

12. Silver nielloed ring, with the head of a lady, and in front of her face a flower. Rings of this sort were used as engagement rings in the sixteenth century in Italy. They are very rare.

13. Massive gold ring, nielloed, and bearing the name +ALHSTAN, the letter N being represented by a Rune. This is generally believed to have been the ring of Alhstan, who was the Bishop of Sherborne from A.D. 823 to 867. It is fully described in the "Archaeologica," vol. iv., p. 47.

14. Gold signet, with a coroneted I. This is an early example of this type of signet, and gold rings of this class are most rare.

(Illustrated London News 17th January 1863)

A few pictures of the collection on loan to Wakefield Museum in 2016.

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