This finely modelled gold ring, decorated with a fierce human face, was made by the Celtic Iron Age La Tène culture. The La Tène civilization was centred around modern day Switzerland and northern Germany but stretched down into modern Italy. This ring is said to have been excavated in Sardinia. The La Tène metalworkers were famous for the quality of their work and very fine gold and silver rings, torcs and armlets have been found in tombs.
This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-81) and is one of the earliest objects in the collection. Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.