- Museum number
Finger-ring; gold; hoop comprising seven small medallions; each with a small design incised and some letters; eg. lyre, figure with hands raised, face, table, longboat and seated figure; emblems of the Ionian Islands.
- Production date
- 1815 (before ?)
Diameter: 0.80 inches
- Curator's comments
- Jewellery depicting the symbols of the Ionian Islands, a British Protectorate, was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, lent by Englishmen who had served there (Official Catalogue, 1851, pp. 164–5). This is fully discussed in C. Gere and J. Rudoe, 'Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria', London, British Museum 2010, pp. 254-5, fig. 208 and note 18. The folllowing text is taken from Gere & Rudoe 2010:
The jewellery was highly patriotic, depicting ‘the Lion and Crown of England, the Protecting Nation, on a large medallion, with the seven medallions of the seven islands depending upon it’ (Illustrated London News, 3 May 1851, pp. 374-5). This description relates to a brooch illustrated a few pages earlier (ILN, 3 May 1851, p.363). The seven islands and their symbols as listed by the ILN are: Ithaca with a head of Ulysses, Santa Maura (present-day Lefkada) with a harp, as the death-place of Sappho, Cephalonia with Cephalus, a dart and KΕΦ, in the centre Corfu with arms and emblems, Zante (Zakynthos) with a tripod, Cerigo (Kythira) with Venus emerging from a shell (the island was her supposed birthplace), and Paxos with a trident, as sacred to Neptune.
The Ionian Islands had been under British protection since the Treaty of Paris in 1815, but from around 1830, after Greek independence, they began to press for union with Greece. Insurgencies in 1849–50 had been suppressed with a heavy-handedness that led to lengthy discussions in Parliament as to whether an enquiry into the handling of the affair should take place (see 'The Times', 10 August 1850, p. 4). This may explain the decision of the then Commissioner, Sir Henry Ward, who had dealt with the rebellion, not to participate in 1851. There was subsequently much dispute about the future of the islands until they were ceded to Greece in 1862 on the recommendation of Gladstone. The 1851 display of what could be got together at short notice thus came at a time of fiercely divided opinions and bitter feelings. See letter to 'The Times' of 8 September 1851, p. 7, from the ‘Ionian’ who had been responsible for the 1851 display.
Jewellery with the symbols of the Ionian islands was made in various locations: the V&A purchased a brooch from the 1872 International Exhibition (inventory number: 1454–1873) with the symbols in a filigree frame and Maltese assay marks. See also J. Perry ‘A Problem Solved’, Jewellery History Today, Issue 4, January 2009, pp. 5-6, for a brooch with Corfu silver marks.
For a similar ring to that catalogued here, see Chadour 1994, II, p. 475, no. 1530. Neither ring has the lion and crown of England and so may have been made before the British protectorate. This ring has the same symbols as those on the brooch described in the ILN, but substitutes a symbol of a boat instead of the medallion of Corfu. See also another example in the Ashmolean Museum (in the Fortnum Collection WA1899.CDEF.F571)
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number