Locks from IRAN

Durham, UK

#1 Feb 18, 2013

This gold finger ring has now been recorded by the British Museum as 15th Century. It has been returned to the owner along with all the necessary documents for authenticity and export etc.

It is to be auctioned on 14th/15th March 2013 (Lot. No: 0898) by Timeline Auctions at their auction rooms in, The Swedenborg Hall, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, LONDON, WC1A 2TH.

Extract from Treasure report
“A medieval finger-ring with a convex hoop set with a bezel in the shape of a padlock, which is soldered on to the hoop of the ring. The shoulders are decorated with irregular panels cross-hatched, probably to receive enamel, with a device that resembles a two-pronged fork with a flame issuing from the centre.
The padlock was used in the Middle Ages to signify steadfastness in love. The significance of the decoration on the shoulders is not clear.
The finger-ring is gold and dates from the fifteenth century.”

There are references in the book ‘Locks from Iran by Parviz Tanavoli and John T Wertime, 1976’ descriptions of locks when used as Talismans, amulets and charms. The authors talk about how they are worn next to the body by girls seeking a suitor.

“ At sunset the girls would go to the nearest street corner and ask the first sayyid (descendant of Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam) who passes to come and open the lock so that their luck will no longer remain thwarted and, in particular, so that they will marry a sayyid.”

Once a suitor has been found the lock is ritually repeatedly opened and closed, and finally and with purpose locked not to be opened until the wedding night.

Another custom when pregnant was for the women to gather in the presence of a mullah. Seven knots are tied in a fine cord, whilst the Ya Sin (chapter 36) is read from the Koran. Each time a knot is tied it is blown upon, and not removed until the ninth month. This it’s said is to give protection during confinement.

This artefact seems to fit all three of these rituals and would have been treasured by the owner for the powerful and symbolic power it represented.
The design and form of this ring appears to be without parallel in England as no similar examples are recorded or published in the standard references. The symbolism of the padlock signifying fidelity and chastity seems obvious and locks used as talismans were worn by Persian and Moslem girls seeking a suitor from at least medieval times (see Tanavoli, P. and Wertime, J. T., Locks From Iran, 1976); possibly suggesting that such a tradition would have been observed by western Crusaders and that this ring, which is undoubtedly custom made, could well have resulted from such observation or from tales of the tradition. The flame design to the shoulders could well represent the 'heat' of love or passion and, linked with the lock, it might be interpreted as signifying the wearer's intention to resist the temptations of the flesh and to stay faithful. Whatever the inspiration for its detailed design, it is a wonderfully evocative ring and the valuation by the often very conservative Treasure Valuation Committee at £4,000 reflects the rarity and its desirability

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