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Home > Auctions > 14th March 2013 > Medieval Gold 'Fidelity in Love' Lock Ring

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LOT 0898

Sold for (Inc. bp): £8,470

1" (2.50 grams, 23 mm overall, 17.80 mm internal diameter (approximate size British O 1/2, USA 7 1/2, Europe 16.0, Japan 15)).

A gold ring with slightly tapering, convex D-section band, the shoulders engraved with a reserved flame design with a hatched background and with the bezel formed as a compound padlock, symbolising fidelity and chastity.

Found Sherburn-in-Elmet, Yorkshire, UK, 2011; recorded under Portable Antiquities Scheme (reference YORYM-3C28C4); disclaimed under Treasure Act (reference 2011 T741); accompanied by nineteen documents (including British Museum report and Disclaim Letter, the Provisional Treasure Valuation at £4,000 and an article by the finder published on the National Council for Metal Detecting website).

The design and form of this ring appears to be without parallel in England as no similar examples are recorded or published in the standard references. The symbolism of the padlock signifying fidelity and chastity seems obvious and locks used as talismans were worn by Persian and Moslem girls seeking a suitor from at least medieval times (see Tanavoli, P. and Wertime, J. T., Locks From Iran, 1976); possibly suggesting that such a tradition would have been observed by western Crusaders and that this ring, which is undoubtedly custom made, could well have resulted from such observation or from tales of the tradition. The flame design to the shoulders could well represent the 'heat' of love or passion and, linked with the lock, it might be interpreted as signifying the wearer's intention to resist the temptations of the flesh and to stay faithful. Whatever the inspiration for its detailed design, it is a wonderfully evocative ring and the valuation by the often very conservative Treasure Valuation Committee at £4,000 reflects the rarity and its desirability.