Poison rings originated from India and the Far East and were popular in Renaissance Europe. The other names for them are locket or compartment rings implying that their actual use was far from sinister.

They were meant to carry small and precious objects - perhaps a lock of hair from a beloved, a miniature painting, a folded scrap of paper with a prayer or even a lesser relic from a time when religious relics were prized. They could also have contained a tiny pomander - something sweet smelling to counter what must be a terrible stench in the days when people disdained baths and when streets doubled as sewers.

But their practical uses were so boring compared to dark tales of assassins and murder, particularly those of one alleged user, Lucretia Borgia. My daughter therefore bought this modern reproduction garnet and sterling silver poison ring as soon as she saw it for it is a cool novelty jewelry item.

One rare antique French diamond poison ring's hidden compartment is accessed by lifting off the top. Another period piece, a Georgian one has a "trapdoor" on the inner side of the ring which requires the ring to be removed first. There were also hinged versions. As you can see from the photo of this modern ring, hinges are rather obvious. So opening up the secret compartment in any of them, then tipping the poison out without someone noticing would be tricky. I am convinced the name poison doesn't "ring" true!

The History of Poison Rings
Ernle Bradford (1967) Four Centuries of European Jewelry

For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips and Earring Design Ideas

Liked what you read? Don't miss a post!
Subscribe via RSS OR Via Email* It's FREE!
*Click on the link in the confirmation email to activate subscription
The Beading Gem's Journal