A sapphire set medieval ring has just recently been discovered by a metal-detecting enthusiast in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Believed to date to the fourteenth-century, this object is therefore incredibly rare and features intricately carved representations of the Christ child and a female saint. The finder, a Mr Thompson, had only been in the forest for a number of minutes before his metal-detector sounded. Expecting to find some old coinage or rubbish, Mr Thompson was delighted to see a glint of gold emerge as he lifted the soil away. The ring, which has been valued in the region of £70,000, has been handed over to the Portable Antiquities Scheme so that it can be formally identified as treasure.
Sherwood Forest features prominently in English legends and tales from the Middle Ages. It is perhaps best known for being the home of Robin Hood, the fabled outlaw who, alongside his band of Merry Men, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. During this period, woodlands were havens for fugitives, as these areas fell under their own form of governance, known as ‘Forest Law’. Forests were also protected as hunting grounds for the King, who had exclusive rights to them.
Although it has not been possible thus far to ascertain exactly to whom this ring belonged, judging by the wealth and rarity of the materials used within it, its original owner would undoubtedly have been of extreme rank and importance. Whilst nowadays natural untreated sapphires are considered incredibly rare, in the medieval period they were even more so, as they could only be found in Asia and would have been brought to Britain via the Silk Road. The carved icons which decorate the shank reflect the piety of the wearer, whilst sapphire was associated with the preservation of chastity.
Browse our own collection of medieval rings, which includes beautifully carved iconographic rings and gem-set pieces.