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Rare Silver 16th Century Ring

Item 10540

It is always a treat to come across a piece of very rare jewelry. This fascinating 16th century antique ring is part of that experience. It appears to be a signet ring designating the most renowned Catholic (and Anglican) sanctuary of Walsingham for Mary in England. It may have been worn by a visitor having made the pilgrimage to the shrine.

In 1061, five years before the Norman invasion of England, the Lady Richeldis de Faverches, lived in a manor in Walsingham (a town in Northern England) and had a vision from the Virgin Mary. In the vision, she was instructed to build a replica of the house where Gabriel appeared to the holy family to announce the coming of the birth of Jesus. Local lore held that in that area was a well with waters that possessed special healing properties. As a result of the vision and the belief in the divine properties of the well this became one of the great Christian shrines of England and known as the "Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham". In 1538 it was all but destroyed by King Henry VIII yet remains a place of pilgrimage to this day.

During the Middle Ages pilgrimages were long and dangerous journeys that often took years. Although many people died, these ventures were undertaken for faith, penance or to be healed of an ailment or physical condition. This hand-wrought silver ring bears the following insignia: the letter “W”, a crown, and a fleur de Lys motif enclosed by an incised braided border. One shoulder is detailed with a star; the other a floral motif. The “W” appears to represents Walsingham. The crown is symbolic of Mary who is traditionally shown carrying a scepter with a fleur de Lys or lily motif on the end and stars are often used to symbolize her crown. You can view one symbol almost exactly as the main seal (the W and the Crown) at the following web address: walsingham.org.uk/romancatholic/wa.html

Seal or signet rings of this type were common during the 16th and 17th centuries. Examples of seal rings rimmed with incised braided designs can be seen in Charles Oman's Book, "British Rings from 800 to 1914” on plates 38 to 43.

Measures more than ½ of an inch (1.4 cm) by just under ½ of an inch (1.2 cm) and has a weight of 11.8 grams.

Size: US 11-3/4 (British X; Euro 21, 66.5 mm). This ring cannot be sized by standard methods. However, it may be able to be sized with inserts or similar means. Please contact us for more information.

Condition is good with medium wear and patina as commensurate with age and use. Dates to circa early to mid 16th century. Very rare.