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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

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Papal ring

A type of finger ring that is made of a gilded metal and is massive in form, having a wide, heavy hoop and a high, square bezel, being characteristically too large to be worn on any finger, even securely on a thumb; it is often set with an inferior-quality foiled stone or paste. Such rings bear on the bezel the arms of a Pope or Cardinal (and sometimes also the arms of a contemporary temporal ruler) as well as such papal symbols as the triple crown and crossed keys, and sometimes on the hoop the symbols of the four Evangelists.

They have been found in great number, some duplicated in form, all indicating that they were not intended for use by church dignitaries, much less the Pope. Their purpose is uncertain, but it has been surmised that they were worn or carried as a credential by a papal emissary to the indicated ruler or given by the Pope to pilgrims as souvenirs.

Although some are from the 11th and 12th centuries, most are from the 15th and 16th centuries.

From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson

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