A very unusual antique ring set with a cabochon blue sapphire collet set to cut-out fleur-de-lis. The tapering hoop has a mitre-shaped bezel which may indicate an Episcopal origin. The ring was originally detailed in niello, but this has sadly been worn away from most of the exterior, although some foliate and floral motifs are still visible. The base of the ‘mitre’ form has an inscribed rope form highlighted by further niello.
Internally, this ring retains all the original niello detail and depicts a nativity scene with the Madonna and Child flanked by a lion and a ram, all exquisitely carved into the 18 carat gold interior and highlighted with black niello. The base of the shank is internally marked XMAS 1912, indicating the date of production of the ring.
The cabochon sapphire shows inclusions consistent with a Sri Lankan origin and shows no indication of heat treatment. It measures approximately 9.5mm by 10.5mm with a depth of 6mm, giving the stone an estimated weight of 6.25 carats. The colour is partially zoned, meaning that there is a slight variation in intensity of colour over the cabochon, but overall, it has a pleasing blue tone.
It is most likely that this was an Ecclesiastical ring originally worn by a Bishop as a symbol of his office, hence the mitre form of the shank and the representations of the nativity. The reference to Christmas 1912 could be the date of his accession to this office, or perhaps a significant date for another reason. The country of origin is also unclear, but the fleur-de-lis are a strong hint that this might have been France.
Although the origin of this ring is a historical mystery, this is a fascinating piece and a very wearable example of its type.
Unmarked, high carat gold (probably 24 carat given the colour and wear). The ring is size N (US 7).