The history of the ring– the Gold Rings of Ancient Egypt

Diamond ring-Rocks & Co

‘Is it not beautiful to know the reason for things?’ My father always had fun telling me why the last button was used on the detached vest, or why the fish knife blade was the shape of a shovel. Today I will tell you some of the ancient origins of the daily use of the ring. Let’s travel in time to the Gold Rings of Ancient Egypt.

In prehistory the ring already had sentimental meaning. More than  just an emblem of wealth, the ring was used by our ancestors to identify the person with whom life was shared; hunting, planting, etc. This person could be a life partner or a partner in the working community. The chosen motives were in close relation with religious beliefs of the time. The materials were intrinsically linked to the prehistoric creeds which in turn were directly related to the activities that allowed the community to sustain itself.

The Sphinx

The role of the well-defined ring comes from ancient Egypt. Egyptian rings have been found dating to about 3000 years before the Christian era. More than 30 centuries before the beginning of our time the ring was used an ornament.

From this era, beautiful, stylised solid gold rings have been found. Often in  their form, we see recurrent symbols: vipers, scorpions and other animals that produce fear or repulsion. This is because rings were used as talismans or amulets – as well as symbols of power and wealth – and were intended to protect its user from any hostile, harmful or mysterious force.

Beetles, cats and hawks were used by the Egyptians as protection against adversaries and various evils, as they represented the heads of the most powerful gods in their religious beliefs.

There were also rings of geometric forms, where symbolic elements were  reproduced with the function of protecting the wearer: the eye of Wedjet (against the evil eye), the symbols of Djed, Sa, Ankl and Tyer (health, prosperity, Long life and luck).

Colours played an important role. Each colour had a precise symbolism and depending on this, the stone was chosen. Green, for example, represented vegetation, black- fertile land, red was  used to symbolise the desert, etc.

 


Ring of Ramses II exhibited at the Louvre

The most representative function of the ring in ancient Egypt was to accompany its user to “the afterlife“, the life after death. According to ancient religious and literary texts, the gods, who could have a human aspect, were incarnated in three substances: their bones in Silver, their  flesh in  Gold and their heads in Lapis Lazuli. The tombs found, abound with rings of silver, gold, iron, enamelled clay or quartz. These rings were worn by both men and women, either in the form of protective ornament, to demonstrate authority or to carry the family seal. The rings of the less wealthy families, as well as those worn by the dead servants who accompanied their patrons on their last voyage, were simple, copper, or pottery. The noble and wealthy wore true gold and silver jewellery. Each ring was a masterpiece of the goldsmith of the time, chiselled and embossed in relief.

Many of these rings had hieroglyphs  engravings with the names and titles of their owners. Beautiful exponents of this type have been found made of Ivory, Amber, and Precious Stones such as Carnelian , Lapis Lazuli or Onyx.

An recurrent image  in all rings of the dead, independent of its material, is the beetle. Said insect was a symbol of good luck and evoked the God Jepri, who was represented as a god with a man’s body and beetle head. Jepri was the god of the morning and the symbol of eternal life. The rings with beetles were considered indispensable as a good omen to confront Osiris, deity who would preside over the tribunal that judges the deceased according to the religious beliefs of ancient Egypt.

Ring seal Egypt


Ring used as a seal in Ancient Egypt

It should also be noted that throughout the ancient times the rings were used as seals, the Egyptians being the precursors of this way. We know that they adopted Mesopotamian cylinders used as seals and then gave them rings: They signed their documents by lightly pressing the seal of clay, gypsum or earth so that their seal would be recognised in judicial cases.

These rings were made of carved metal or carved stones such as Carnelian, Diorite or Agate. Enamelled clay was also used, the base having an  inscription and hieroglyph engraved in the hollow.

 

And the other important use of the rings in ancient Egypt, which has been passed down through the centuries, is its emblematic function: the Egyptian husband places the ring on his wife’s finger in order to entrust him with the custody of the home and Their possessions. Such is the history of the famous “wedding rings”.

 

Well come on over to Rocks & Co and explore on centuries old passion  that is the ring!