Rediscovering the Magical Properties in a £5,000 ‘Toadstone’ Ring

Rediscovering the Magical Properties in a £5,000 ‘Toadstone’ Ring

Found by head of department Catriona Smith in a box of mixed jewellery, a rare 16th or 17th century gold 'toadstone' ring comes for sale at Sworders in November, with expectations of £3,000-5,000.

27 October 2022

Toadstones are now understood to be the button-like palatal teeth of lepidotes, an extinct genus of ray finned fish from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. However, throughout the Middle Ages and into the 18th century they were thought to be found in the heads of living toads and were highly prized for their supposed magical properties. In particular, it was believed they could be used as an antidote to poison and were commonly worn about the personal as amuletic rings and pendants.

Loose toadstones were discovered among other gemstones in the Cheapside Hoard while William Shakespeare referred to them in As You Like It (1599) writing: Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.

A 16th or 17th century high carat gold 'toadstone' ring

A 16th or 17th century high carat gold 'toadstone' ring, £3,000-5,000

This example, set in a high carat gold shank in the Tudor or early Stuart period, was bought in for sale as part of a box of jewellery. While the seller, from the Stansted Montfitchet area, had no idea of its potential worth, it was spotted by Sworders’ jewellery expert Catriona Smith who said: “ I knew straight away what the toadstone was, but recommended a report to the client as the potential buyers would require the certification.”  It was later authenticated as a fossilised fish tooth by the Gemmological Certification Services.

The mount to the ring is pierced to the underside in the expectation that the stone’s protective powers would be increased on contact with the wearer’s skin. At some point in its life the ring had become too small for the owner to wear so instead it was fitted to a chain.


To find out more about this item and our upcoming sale, please contact our Jewellery department jewellery@sworder.co.uk | 01279 817778

 

 


 

Recent News

 

Beyond Illumination | Cameron Peters Fine Lighting

Cameron Peters Fine Lighting was founded on the belief that exposure to a wide array of available lighting options would not only bring joy to consumers but also support the artisans behind these creations. A selection of their lights feature in our upcoming 30 April Design sale.

23 April 2024

Auctioneer's Picks | Design

With 400 lots, our April catalogue offers a great variety and something for everyone. Ahead of the sale next week, our team has chosen their favourites from the selection, which spans the Aesthetic Period to Contemporary Design.

23 April 2024

Picks from Apatchy

Ahead of our 30 April Design sale, we had the pleasure of asking Co-Founder and Director, Sam Tolhurst, of UK handbag and accessory brand ‘Apatchy’ for her top five lots from our remarkable featured Louis Vuitton Collection.

23 April 2024

 


 

Get Sworders News