On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me...

Today is the fifth day of Christmas and my true love sent to me... 5 Waddesdon gold rings!

Ring, c 200 AD-300 AD; gold and cornelian, 18mm (diam.), acc. no. 8051.1

Ring, c 200 AD-c 300 AD; gold and cornelian, 23mm (diam.), acc. no. 8051.2

Ring, c 200 AD-c 300 AD; gold and cornelian, 25mm (diam.), 8051.3

Ring, 100 AD-300 AD; gold, 21 x 16mm (diam.), acc. no. 8056

Attributed to Loui-Nicolas van Blarenberghe (1716-1794) or Henri-Joseph van Blarenberghe (1741-1826), Ring, c. 1775-1790, French; gold, diamonds and gouache, 22 x 20mm; acc. no. 2656

Five gold rings

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love sent to me five gold rings…. or specifically four ancient treasures, made between 100-300 AD, and one eighteenth-century French ring. The Waddesdon group of classical jewellery is thought to come from the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, and date from either the second or third century AD. In Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s inventory, it states that the group was brought to Paris from Palestine in 1897. The Baron had a life-long interest in archaeology and supported excavations of Raymond Weill in Palestine as well as those of Clermont-Ganneau in Egypt. [1]

To a certain extent, three of the Roman rings have the general characteristics of the ‘typical’ style of the early and middle imperial era. Such features include the thick hoop in which the oval gem is embedded.  The eighteenth-century ring, dated c.1775- 1790, has been attributed to Louis Nicolas van Blarenberghe (1716-1794) or Henri Joseph van Blarenberghe (1741-1826). The plain gold ring contains a miniature surrounded by a faceted silver border simulating diamonds. The painting depicts a group of villagers gathering to see a juggler balancing a sword on his nose.[2]

Despite not knowing much about the origin of the Roman rings, this group testifies to the age-old tradition of adorning the hands with finger rings. Indeed, this accessory has been found in tombs dating back to c.2500BC and still is an item worn both for ornamentation, as well as to show betrothal.


[1] R.A. Higgins, ‘Roman Jewellery, from the Collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild’ in ed., D. Sutton Waddesdon Manor Aspects of the Collection, (1977), p.20

[2] S. Grandjean ; K. A Piacenti ; C. Truman ; A. Blunt, Gold Boxes and Miniature of the Eighteenth Century, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (London, 1975), p.323.


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