Fascinating Elizabethan Ring


Regular readers of my blog know that I am fascinated by the late 15th Century to the end of the 19th Century (*Many people – particularly foreign speakers of English – are confused by the centuries, so that would be the late 1400s to the end of the 1800s) My particular interests are the Borgias, the Tudors, the Reformation, and warfare in those times, primarily naval warfare and armour.

I also love jewellery, especially rings, and this time period was particularly rich in those. Gimmel rings (see bottom of post) are my great love but locket rings and poison rings are also favourites. You should see me in the Victoria and Albert and British museums in London. When I lived in London I spent every Sunday there!

I saw this ring when it was on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London and it fascinated me.



Queen Elizabeth I never spoke publicly about her mother, Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn brought about the Reformation because Henry VIII wanted to annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne.  Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, denied the annulment (despite previously having granted one to the King of France in return for French military aid to help Rome conquer the other city states of Italy) so Henry broke away from the Catholic Church and started the Church of England. He later had Anne Boleyn beheaded and went on to remarry…and remarry…and remarry….

This ring, commissioned by Elizabeth in about 1575, showed her enduring love for her dead mother. She wore it all the time. The Elizabethan ring is mother-of-pearl, the band is set with rubies and the ‘E’ contains six diamonds set over a blue enamel ‘R’. A stunning pearl is also clearly visible. . Upon her death on March 24th, 1603 the ring was removed from her finger and inside was discovered a secret compartment with two miniature enamel portraits – one of Elizabeth and one of her mother. This ring was then sent to James VI of Scotland as evidence of her death. It is now called The Chequers ring. I think it is so poignant. You always love your mum.









If anyone would like an article on Gimmel rings, let me know in the comments and I can do one for you. They are kind of like puzzle rings and Claddagh rings in one. Sometimes an engaged man and woman each wore one until they were married and then they would be put together and the woman would wear the interlocked ones. Sometimes the person witnessing the engagement would wear the third part and then all three would be put together during the wedding ceremony.







Rothschild Diamond, Ruby, and Enamel Gimmel Ring

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. Absolutely fascinating. I need to go to London and spend a whole weekend in the 1) National Portrait Museum; 2) V&A; 3) British Museum. My fascination is with the War of the Roses era and I love the costumes and jewels of Henry’s wives and of course Elizabeth.

    1. Oh then you would absolutely love it. The V and A particularly concentrates on design. Their jewellery section is epic. Though I think the British Museum has a larger selection on display. It is nice if you have an interest in a particular era because then you can concentrate on that and not be overwhelmed.

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