This is an early and exceptionally lavish example of a love or marriage ring on which the bond between husband and wife is symbolised by two different gems, in this case and impressive point-cut diamond and a rounded ruby that may have been taken from an earlier jewel or object. The type is rare but a similar, slightly later ring with scrollwork on the shoulders which was formerly in the Guilhou and Joan Evans collections is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. M.1-1959). The engraved sprigs on the shoulders of the ring are typical 15th-century goldsmith’s work in England. See, for example, an elaborate gold signet ring with springs on its shoulders in the Victoria and Albert Museum or a more modest but fine posey ring with foliate decoration on the exterior of the hoop in the British Museum (inv. nos. M.181-1937 and 1960, 1103.1).
The ring was discovered near Launde Abbey, an Elizabethan manor house situated in the valley of the river Chater. From the 12th century onwards the site was occupied by a large and wealthy Augustinian Priory. Thomas Cromwell was so impressed by the building and the location that he presented it to himself after surveying it as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. His execution in 1540 prevented him from moving in. Instead his son Gregory and his wife Elizabeth Seymour, the sister of Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour, took residence there. The movement of wealthy patrons around a major monastery, the violence with which the rich institution must have been taken for the Crown, and the importance of the subsequent inhabitants are all reasons for a ring of this significance to have been deposited in its vicinity.
A. Somers-Cocks, Princely Magnificence. Court Jewels of the Renaissance, 1500-1630, exh. cat Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, p.46, cat. 3