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Home > Auctions > 5th March 2024 > 'The Drayton' Medieval Gold Stirrup-Shaped Bishop's Ring with Sapphire and Magical Inscription

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LOT 0423

GBP (£) 5,000 - 7,000
EUR (€) 5,840 - 8,180
USD ($) 6,340 - 8,870

Current bid: £4,000 (+bp*)
(1 Bid, Reserve not met)

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(1 Bid, Reserve not met)   |   Current bid: £4,000
1200-1300 A.D.
1 in. (3.95 grams, 25.72 mm overall, 19.75 x 18.44 mm internal diameter (approximate size British R, USA 8 1/2, Europe 18 3/4, Japan 18)).

The bezel expanding into a low flat topped triangle with facetted corners surmounted by a cabochon sapphire set within an asymmetrical hexagonal cell; expanded quatrefoils flanking the base of the bezel leading on to the angled hoop with a central ridge running around its circumference; three further quatrefoil panels evenly spaced around the band- one on both sides and the third at the base of the hoop; the bevelled sides of the hoop engraved with the inscription '+NI ONAN NRIO ONIC / NIAI AINO ANIOI NAN', which may not be meaningful, but these groups of letters may have been felt to be 'magical'.

Found whilst searching with a metal detector near Drayton, Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, UK, on Sunday 16th September 2018 by Chris Weir.
Declared as treasure under the Treasure Act with reference no.2018T853, subsequently disclaimed and returned to the finder.

Accompanied by a copy of the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) report no.GLO-0BFB91.
Accompanied by a letter from the finder describing the circumstances of finding.
This lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by search certificate no.12118-214086.

Cf. PAS-804C91/2002 T248, a similar ring also dated to the 13th century; a similar ring with an inscribed hoop read over two lines was recorded as 2002 T257, also with enigmatic inscription, but has been interpreted as most likely having romantic or magical significance.

Many late medieval rings and brooches bear similarly meaningless inscriptions, perhaps due to the illiteracy of the engraver who nevertheless was aware that customers required an inscription, so provided one. For discussion of such inscriptions see Evans, J., Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Oxford, 1922, pp.121-132, for inscribed jewels.