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Finger-ring set with the Lord's Prayer

1650/1699

British Museum

British Museum

This gold ring contains a miniature version of the Lord's Prayer of the Christian faith, written by hand on a tiny disc of paper, less than a centimetre in diameter and set beneath a faceted sliver of rock-crystal. The writer has also managed to fit in his signature: 'William Mason Writing Master in the Minories, April 2, Anno Domini, 1676'. Designed to demonstrate the astonishing skill of the calligrapher, it can barely be deciphered without the aid of magnification. Miniature writing samples such as this can be seen as characteristic of seventeenth-century interest in scientific experiment and technical virtuosity.

The ring itself is a fine example of late seventeenth-century champlevé enamel work: the shoulders are decorated with foliate scrolls, while the sides of the bezel are bordered with parallel tongues, all in pale blue opaque enamel. It was evidently considered a remarkable piece early on in its history, for it was acquired by Sir Hans Sloane, whose collections became the foundation of the British Museum in 1753.

Such a ring had more than curiosity value for its wearer. Religious inscriptions were often held to protect against misfortune. Sloane owned many other rings with amuletic or healing properties, such as 'a dog fish tooth for the cramp'. The saints were also invoked for protection: one of Sloane's rings depicted St Anthony Abbot who preserved against the pest.

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  • Title: Finger-ring set with the Lord's Prayer
  • Date Created: 1650/1699
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 0.86in; Weight: 29.00grains
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: enamelled
  • Registration number: SLRings.19
  • Production place: Made in England
  • Material: gold; enamel; glass; paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Sloane, Hans

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