A Rare Medieval Gold Stirrup Ring

English, c.1200-1500


a buttery yellow gold ‘stirrup’ ring, with characteristic rising shoulders which terminate in a pointed bezel with triangular profile, mounted with a square shaped emerald cabochon, the shoulders embellished with applied gold decoration, possibly representing ears of wheat, hops or clusters of berries.

Discovered by a metal detectorist in 2018 in Yorkshire, treasure case number 2018/T400.

Height: 23mm
Width: 20mm

The most famous lapidary of the Middle Ages was Bishop Marbodus of Rennes (1035-1123) who wrote Liber Lapidum. In it he describes the emerald (smaragdus) as a cure for fever and epilepsy. It was also thought to soothe the eyes and ward off storms. 

The additional decoration makes this ring particularly unusual and rare. Examples of Medieval gold stirrup rings can be found in the collections of the British Museum (Museum Number:1885,0615.1), The Victoria and Albert Museum (Museum Number: 65,1871) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Museum Number: 2015.697).