Iconographic Ring with Saint Barbara
Gilded silver ring with plain hoop on the interior and concave with ridged edges on the lower half of the exterior. Toward the shoulder, the hoop widens to form three ridges with two beaded edges and engraved friezes with stylized foliage and floral ornament. The bezel has three ridged panels in the center with a figure of Saint Barbara holding her attribute, a tower, flanked by scroll friezes. There is slight damage along one side of the bezel through age and wear. The ring is in good, wearable condition.
In the Middle Ages, rings with religious scenes and figures of saints were worn as a sign of faith, personal devotion, and for protection against the perils of life. Saints were chosen for the owner’s name or profession. Saint Barbara was venerated by miners, gunners, and men of the artillery and was believed to provide protective powers during childbirth.
This type of ring is known as an iconographic ring, a description which was given by Victorian era collectors because of their engraved religious scenes and popular saints. Such rings were either made of gold or gilded silver and are typical to England and Scotland. The number of ridges vary from one to three (and rarely four). Such rings were often given at weddings or as New Year’s gifts. For iconographic rings in museums and private collections, see: Oman 1974, p. 56; Scarisbrick 1993, p. 23; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 136-137; Scarisbrick/Henig 2003, pp. 42-43; Church 2011, pp. 20-21.