Kings, martyrs and angels: The gold and silver medieval rings discovered by detectorists in Wales

By Culture24 Reporter | 30 March 2016

Four superb late medieval and Renaissance gold and silver rings are the latest treasures declared in Wales

A photo of a gold ring found by archaeologists in Pembroke, Wales
© National Museum Cardiff
This late medieval gold ring was found in Pembrokeshire in February 2014 metal detectorist Kevin Higgs.

Dr Mark Redknap, the National Museum Wales specialist who provided expert evidence, says the decorative gold ring, which is of part-hollow construction with a hexagonal bezel set with a small uncut (cabochon) blue sapphire, dates to the 14th century.

A photo of a gold ring found by archaeologists in Pembroke, Wales
The silver gilt ring was found at Lamphey© National Museum Cardiff
This silver gilt fede (‘faith’) ring was found at Lamphey by a metal detectorist named as Mr Jenkins in October 2013. It is similar to some gold decorative rings dating to between about 1350 and 1480: the outside of the hoop has a late medieval inscription reading: jaspar : melchior : baltazar : in a mixture of upper and lower case crude black letter script.

This legend invokes the names of the magi, or Three Kings, supposed to be especially effective against falling sickness and fever. Tenby Museum wishes to acquire it.

A photo of a gold ring found by archaeologists in Pembroke, Wales
© National Museum of Wales
Jenkins also struck gold with this religious finger ring in Llandissilio West in December 2014. The ring is engraved with the images of the St Catherine holding a sword in her right hand.

A wheel (symbol of her martyrdom) protrudes from behind her left side. The hoop is decorated on the shoulders and sides with sprigs.

The inside of the hoop bears the legend ·en∙boen∙eure∙ (‘In Good Year’) in late medieval Black Letter script. According to Dr Redknap, such iconographic rings can bear one or more Christian figures or scenes engraved on the bezel, such as the Annunciation with Angel on one panel and Mary on a second panel.

Common legends are de bon cuer (‘Be of good heart’) and en boen an. St Catherine appears with St Barbara and St Christopher and the legend en bon cor on a late medieval gold ring from near St Gennys, near Bude in Cornwall.

The final word may be a variation of cor (‘heart’, spelled in various ways eg cuer on another late medieval iconographic ring). Narberth Museum wants to buy it.

A photo of a gold ring found by archaeologists in Pembroke, Wales
© National Museum of Wales
Higgs struck again with this silver-gilt posy-ring finger ring at Carew in June 2013. The outer surface has a repeating pattern of cells and raised single dots or pellets, while the inner face of the hoop is inscribed with the text: FEARE·GOD·ONLI, in Roman capitals.

Dr Redknap says this reflects sentiments expressed on other rings such as Feare God from Trawsfynydd, + FEARE GOD from Llantwit Major and lettering, enamelled decoration and form indicate that it is late 16th century in date. Tenby Museum is interested.

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