Turquoise was mined by the Ancient Egyptians in Sinai over 6000 years ago. It is most commonly found in veins and nodules around copper deposits. The copper also causes its sky-blue colour. It is relatively soft and easy to carve. Turquoise is a porous material, prone discolouration by the absorption of oils from the skin or from perfume. In this jewel, it has been made into a cameo of a female head, possibly Medusa. A cameo is a relief carving where the design stands proud of the surface.
This ring forms part of a collection of 154 gems bequeathed to the V&A by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet. Sir A. H. Church gave additional specimens in 1913. He also compiled the first catalogue Precious Stones: A Guide to the Townshend Collection. The first edition appeared in 1883. The stones are mounted as rings, although they may not have been intended to be worn.
Some of these, including this stone, were originally owned by Henry Philip Hope, a brother of the novelist and antiquary Thomas Hope. H. P. Hope formed a famous collection of diamonds and precious stones which was largely inherited by his three nephews. His collection included the Hope blue diamond, now in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington.