The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest museum in Britain, housing Oxford University's unrivalled collection of art and antiquities from Europe, Central Asia and the Far East. Nothing in the museum is as rich in human interest as the collection of rings illustrated in this book, for each not only enhanced the beauty of the hand, but also had a deeper personal significance. There are early signets from the Minoan civilisation discovered by Arthur Evans, which introduce the category of seal ring indispensable for business not only in the ancient world, but well into modern times. The key events-marriage and death-in the lives of the original owners are evoked by rings with symbols and loving messages. Biblical inscriptions, prayers, and images of Christ, the Virgin and the saints, illustrate the strength of religious faith in the age of the cathedrals. High ecclesiastical authority of that period is expressed by the famous ring found at Thame, designed for a relic of the True Cross. The extra-ordinary group of toadstone rings, used to assay poison, show how belief in the supernatural powers of stones persisted well into the seventeenth century. Of outstanding quality, these rings tell, in miniature, the fascinating story of jewellery from Pharaonic Egypt to Victorian Britain.
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