Berganza has recently acquired a remarkable piece of history, an Elizabethan intaglio ring thought to have been commissioned and owned by the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.
This important ring was discovered by a metal detector in 2018 near Hedingham Castle in Essex, the ancestral home of the Earls of Oxford, and is an extraordinary find! Jewellery surviving from the Elizabethan era is rare today, and this is a particularly exceptional example. The ring features a carnelian intaglio with a male bust engraved in profile and it has been suggested that the engraving depicts de Vere himself, in the style of a Roman Emperor.
De Vere was a favourite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I and became Earl of Oxford and Lord High Chamberlain at the young age of twelve, upon the death of his father. He subsequently grew up in the household of the Queen’s Secretary of State, William Cecil, as a royal ward.
De Vere led a very colourful life, and was embroiled in many plots and scandals, gaining quite a reputation among his peers! He spent much time in Europe, particularly the Italian states, where this ring was thought to have been created in the latter half of the 16th century. De Vere was also credited with bringing back many luxury items to the English court, although his extravagant spending led to much financial distress. Despite this, he remained a favourite of the Queen, who gave him an annual allowance to live off.
Edward de Vere was also known for his literary and theatrical endeavours, and was particularly highly regarded as a poet of the court. His poetry and plays were widely commended, and he became a patron of the arts, commissioning many books and translations. It has since been suggested that de Vere was writing under the pseudonym ‘Shakespeare’, an idea known as the ‘Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare Authorship’. Some of the evidence which has been put forward in favour of this theory include many instances in Shakespeare’s plays which mirror people and events in de Vere’s life. This theory is still debated today.
We rarely acquire a piece so historically connected and in such remarkable, museum quality condition. If you would like to know more about this exceptional ring, or are interested in another piece of history from our collection of ancient and early jewellery, you can visit the Berganza showroom, or book a virtual appointment with one of our specialists today!