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Stirrup ring

This finger ring is a recent find that came in from Tom Burton. Rings like this one are usually catalogued as the stirrup-type; the reason is obvious, for they do look rather like the stirrups used when mounting a horse. They are also known as bishops’ rings, seemingly because they were worn by bishops to indicate their high office in the Church of England.

I’ve seen stirrup rings dated as early as the 13th century and as late as the 15th. However, all the examples I’ve seen have been made of gold and inset with a sapphire, ruby or diamond. Tom’s find is very unusual in that it looks to be made of copper-alloy. It might originally have had something inset into the raised bezel but if so it has long since disappeared.

The whole body of this ring is heavily corroded. Perhaps when it was new it was heavily gilded to make it look like solid gold but if so then it is now a sad reflection of what it once was.


A wealthy collector of stirrup rings might be interested in this find, just to show that not all of the 13th-15th century examples were made of solid gold and set with precious gems. This example proves that at the lower end of the market much cheaper versions were available, which would be affordable by a greater range of people. The ring unearthed by Tom is interesting but as the overall condition isn’t good I’d price it no higher than £20.

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