Thursday, 13 June 2019

Poison Rings...

Dainty ring could be used to conceal keepsakes. c.1880

Historic jewelry has always captivated me. When I was younger, I’d sift through pages of the encyclopedia looking at all the necklaces, rings, crowns and other jewels the Royals wore during the renaissance. There was something more than the mere flicker of a ruby that attracted me, something deeper that had my imagination roaming to faraway lands where the characters I write came to life. 

It is how I've always created stories...based on something real that has existed. But there was more...what has attracted me all these years with the baubles and wares, is who wore them, what was going on in the world at that time, and oh how I wished to be able to teleport there! Museums do the same thing to me—my mind runs a mile a minute at who, what and where the artifact has been.

When I wrote the Branded Trilogy, I had to do a lot of research dating as far back as the American Colonies during the 1700’s it was the first time I'd seen the Box ring. 

As I was rummaging through pages and pages of history for the most recent book I'm writing, I came across the odd, but very mesmerizing piece of jewelry again. The Box ring, or also known as a locket ring. What else is a writer to do, but delve deeper into the history of this charming piece of jewelry. 

These rings were popular throughout Europe during the 16th Century. The rings were used to store many things from perfume, a lock of hair, to messages and devotional relics. Fashionable and different, most of the wealthy owned one.

The locket ring came to Europe from Asia, Russia and the Middle East during the Holy Trade. However, there were other uses for these rings that had nothing to do with placing one’s keepsakes inside.

The Poison ring had been used long before as a means to an end for those in captivity or before being placed into confinement. The small compartment under the bezel of the ring would hide arsenic, cyanide or the poison of choice. While the captor awaited the noose, guillotine, or other ways of torment, he would take the poison, thus ending his life without such torture.

The Poison rings became sought after pieces of jewelry during the war to elude capture, but also if the opportunity arose to poison your enemy. Rulers used these infamous rings to hide arsenic and poison their political rivals.

Lucrezia Borgia, the daughter of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (who later became Pope Alexander VI) The Borgia family was very powerful and wealthy. The Cardinal used his daughter as a pawn of trade to further the family’s status on the political ladder. But some would say Lucrezia was not to be toyed with. She owned an array of poison rings using them often at family parties.



The Poison ring was made with intercut detail. How one wanted to dispense the poison from inside depended on the ring’s construction.

For example, some rings had a tiny hole drilled into the left or right side of depending on which hand you wore it on, where the poison could be dispensed into a glass of wine. The wearer would simply remove the inside finger covering the hole and dump the contents out. The victim being none the wiser.

Other rings had a lever that when pressed with the inside of the finger would open the top of the bezel.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a more morbid style of ring emerged. Jewellers began making coffin style locket rings with images of skeletons and death inside. These were called Funeral or Mourning rings and given to mourners to remember the departed.

I’m not sure I’d wear any of these rings…but I’d love to know where they’ve been!

Happy Thursday, Friends!






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