Devotional ring, 13th/14th century
Gold and sapphire.
an exceptional medieval yellow gold ring, the exterior of the band engraved in Latin script ‘AVE MARIA GRACIA’, the shoulders mounted with raised gold quatrefoils and decorated with finely traversed grooves, the large kite shaped bezel positioned against gold bulwarks and set with an oval cabochon blue sapphire.
English, 13th/14th Century
Found by a teenage metal detectorist on cultivated land nearby to the village of Bacton in the county of Suffolk, England on 1st September 2015.
The ring qualified as Treasure under the Treasures Act of 1996 and was recorded under the auspices of the British Museum as Treasure Number 2015 T771 and on the Portable Antiquities Scheme as SF-4BD850.
Length 24.90mm, width 21.19mm, weight 3.53 grams
The construction of the bezel is like that of a 14th century ring found during excavations in Winchester (Biddle 1990, fig 176, no. 2086) and the form of the hoop, with decoration on the shoulder, is similar to that of a 13th century ring from Hatfield Forest, Suffolk (1908 1202.1) and a 14th century ring from Wells, Somerset (F.1825), both in the collection of the British Museum.
The engraving is taken from ‘Ave Maria gracia plena’, the salutation given by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in the Gospel of Luke. The ring is a devotional jewel and was worn to invoke the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Furthermore, sapphires were believed to have prophylactic qualities throughout medieval Europe.
Similar inscriptions have been found on other medieval finger rings see treasure cases IOW-844608, SOM-2E9408 and in particular SF-C864C6. See also the 13th century finger ring in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, M.181-1975
Biddle, M., Objects and Economy in medieval Winchester. (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990)