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c. 1720-40 English Political Ring with Portrait Miniature of Jonathan Trelawny, Bishop of Bristol

A rare c. 1720-40 English political ring, bearing a portrait miniature of Jonathan Trelawny, Bishop of Bristol in a crystal-covered 22k gold setting, and preserved in its original box. This ring would have been worn in allegiance to the parliamentarian cause, and specifically in celebration of the Seven Bishops’ trial. Political jewelry enjoyed unprecedented relevance throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries, as Great Britain grappled with the aftermath of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Royalists and Jacobites who continued to recognize the ousted Stuarts as rightful rulers displayed their loyalty through the wearing of jewelry containing images of Charles I & II, James II, and heirs (James Stuart “the Old Pretender”, and Charles Stuart “Bonnie Prince Charlie”). On the other hand, rings containing the images of Queen Mary II and Queen Anne, as well as the Seven Bishops of 1688, might encircle the fingers of a pro-Parliament supporter. The subject of the present ring, Jonathan Trelawny, was one of the seven bishops arrested, tried, and acquitted for sedition in 1688. This so-called ‘Seven Bishops’ trial’ was an important contributing event to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, through which James II was deposed and replaced by Mary II and William of Orange, thereby ending a century of bloody political struggle between the Parliament and the Crown, and establishing the primacy of the former over the latter. All seven bishops were subsequently celebrated as heroes of the 1688 revolution, their portraits (as a group, or individually) widely distributed in prints and memorabilia, which varied from playing cards to medals and jewelry. A late 17th c ring with an intaglio of the Seven Bishops is in the British Museum, while a slide with the image of Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely, was sold by Bonhams. In terms of construction and form, the present ring is nearly identical to early 18th c political rings containing portraits of Charles II (British Museum AF.1445) and James Stuart (Victoria & Albert Museum 926-1871), as well as Mary II (British Museum 1978,1002.46.a) and Anne (British Museum 1978,1002.46.b).

Date: c. 1720-40, early 18th century

Ring size: USA 8.75, UK Q ½, EU 58.5

Materials: quartz crystal, watercolor on vellum, solid 22k gold (unmarked; tested with electronic gold tester and nitric-muriatic acid)

Weight: 2.5 grams

Workmanship origin: English

Dimension of ring face: 10.9 x 9.6 mm oval

Height of ring face: 4.9 mm

Width of shank: 1.6 – 2.2 mm

Thickness of shank: 1.3 – 1.4 mm

Condition: the ring itself is in startling original condition, with only minimal age-related surface wear. The original ring box is badly deteriorated due to age (in two sections, the leather worn and fraying, metal fixings rusted through).


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