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Activity / challenge

Stories in Stones

Queen Victoria's Coronation Ring 1838, made from gold, sapphire, rubies, diamonds, silver
Rundell Bridge & Rundell, Queen Victoria's Coronation Ring 1838 (RCIN 31722) ©

Take a look at three rings from the Royal Collection that have surprising stories, unusual features or unexpected functions.

 

Look closely at this ornate ring. Can you see anything unusual about the central stone?
Ring made from gold, silver, diamonds, enamel, hair

Ring, 1776 (RCIN 9020) ©

This ring was a gift from Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–51) to John Chardin (d. 1755), son of a Huguenot jeweller and traveller whom the prince created 1st Baronet of the Inner Temple in 1720. Encased beneath the central stone is a lock of the Prince’s hair, a mark of the close friendship shared by the two men. In addition to this surprising feature, the ring also bears an inscription which is further testimony to their friendship. Taken from Virgil’s poem the Aeneid, the inscription reads: Semper Honos Nomenque Tuum Laudesque Manebunt (Your honour, name and praise will endure forever).

 

As well as their magnificent appearance, several rings within the Royal Collection were also designed to perform a specific function. Take, for instance, this ring, which dates from the seventeenth century. Can you guess what function the ring might have once fulfilled?
Signet ring made of gold, enamel, diamond

Francis Walwyn, Signet ring (RCIN 65409) ©

This ring is thought to have been commissioned by Charles I for Henrietta Maria. The design features an engraved diamond (intaglio) bearing a royal coat of arms and HMR cipher, carved by seventeenth-century gemcutter Francis Walwyn. Signet rings engraved with a seal such as this one not only looked impressive, but also could be used to authenticate documents – when the ring was pressed into soft sealing wax it would leave a relief impression of the intaglio design upon the wax.

 
What surprising and rather painful part did this magnificent ring have to play in Victoria’s coronation?
Queen Victoria's Coronation Ring 1838, made of gold, sapphire, rubies, diamonds, silver

Rundell Bridge & Rundell, Queen Victoria's Coronation Ring 1838 (RCIN 31722) ©

This exquisite ring comprising an octagonal step-cut sapphire, open-set in gold, and overlaid with rubies, was designed for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. During the Coronation ceremony, the presentation of the ring forms part of the Investiture and is followed by the crowning.  Traditionally, each new monarch has a new coronation ring commissioned, which will form part of the personal jewellery of the sovereign, rather than that of the Crown.

The Royal goldsmiths commissioned to produce the ring, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, misunderstood the ritual of the coronation ceremony and made the ring to fit Queen Victoria’s little finger not her ring finger!  As a result the Archbishop of Canterbury was obliged to force the ring onto Queen Victoria’s finger and she had to soak her hand in iced water afterwards in order to remove it.

For more information...

Francis Walwyn (active 1628)

Signet ring