A poison ring is a ring that contains an opening compartment inside or under the bezel that can be used for storing poison, perfume, and other similar stuff. It is also commonly known as box ring, socket ring, casket ring, pillbox ring, and locket ring.
Poison rings date back to ancient Greek times. They are believed to have originated in Asia. These rings replaced the common practice of wearing souvenirs as well as other items in amulets or pouches around the arm and neck. Used to carry various items e.g. keepsakes, pictures, messages, devotional relics, and locks of hair, poison rings were thought to be so useful that their custom quickly spread to many other parts of the world, ultimately reaching Western Europe in the Middle Ages.
Deaths Via Poison Ring
It was the sixteenth century when the term poison ring actually became popular when it was generally believed that these rings were used by nobility to facilitate the poison of a bottle of wine or food of an enemy, or even the ring owner’s suicide in order to escape torture or capture.
Some actual documented deaths by these rings exist. The death of a Greek orator and statesman Demosthenes who led a rebellion against Alexander the Great is a prime example. Another example is Hannibal who is said to have worn a poison ring that he ultimately used it for his demise.
700 Years Old Bulgarian Bronze Poison Ring
In 2013, Bulgarian archaeologists excavated a bronze poison ring that is said to have been used for a series of political murders about 700 years ago. The ring was unearthed in Cape Kaliakra at the site of a former medieval fortress. It features a hollow, round cartridge decorated with an artificial hole and granulation. It is said that it was probably worn by a male.
Dating back to the 14th century, this Bulgarian bronze ring is considered unique among all of the various jewelry pieces that the archaeologists unearthed. The head of the dig Bonnie Petrunova stated that the ring is very unique, it was worn on the right hand, and the hole on it is there on purpose as it was made to be concealed by a finger, so that the poison could be quickly dropped in a bottle of wine or food. Petrunova also stated that the ring wasn’t worn all the time and would have been put on whenever required. This 700 years old Bulgarian bronze poison ring adds to over 30 gold earrings, rings, with pearls as well as other pieces of jewelry found at the site since 2011. It has been said that this specific piece of jewelry has no comparison in the entire Bulgaria.
The historical accuracy of poison rings to poison a bottle of wine or food aside, the custom of using a ring to store and use poison is so fascinating that nowadays any ring that features a container inside or under the bezel is called a poison ring, regardless of its intended purpose.