In the Middle Ages, if you wanted to do away with an enemy discreetly it wasn’t that hard to do. All you had to do was poison their drink and let nature take its course. This was how successors took over the throne of kingdoms. The poison was carried around inside of a secret compartment in a ring and could easily be dumped into an enemy’s drink without them noticing. The poison ring today is made more for its beauty and looks than for functionality. This particular style of ring became popular as the wearer of the ring could keep perfume or small mementos inside the ring. It follows the style of the original but without the darker past that it was known for. The original rings had many uses, which is why they were so popular then and remain popular today.
Long ago, perfume was in solid form and could be used as a sachet to compensate for bad odors. A small bit of concentrated perfume was placed inside the ring compartment and could be dabbed on the wrist or could be held up to the nose to cover unpleasant odors. This was before the days of air freshener and the smells of garbage and sewers were quite intense when the temperatures rose.
A Mourner’s Ring
Another use for this style of jewelry was to keep small mementos from a deceased loved one. A small lock of hair could be kept inside the ring while in mourning or as a way to remember them. Before the creation of these rings, people would wear keepsakes on a string around the neck or tied to their waist.
A Ring to Poison Kings
Perhaps the most popular use for this type of ring was to poison an enemy to steal their kingdom. In the days of kings and queens, the threat of being poisoned was real. The king had an official wine taster that would sample every glass of wine that was poured for him to make sure it had not been poisoned. He also had a food taster and if anything happened to either of these subjects it would be an obvious attack on the king. You might think that this idea is more from movies like Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, but an ancient poison ring with a small opening could be used to poison a glass of wine without anybody noticing. It had to do with how the ring was worn and the method of pouring the wine. The ring was worn in such a way that the hole in the ring was covered until just the right moment and the contents would be dumped as the hand was turned over, pouring the wine into the cup. Normally, when pouring wine from a bottle the hand is on top and the back of the hand faces up. So this method is completely backward to the normal way of doing it. Because the back of the hand would face downward, this became a suspicious act and was considered offensive or something a traitor would do.
There were a lot of suspicious deaths in the old days. Around the time of the 17th century, if a king died without a successor (an heir) the throne would be assumed by his immediate family member, usually a brother or another close relative. If a family member decided that they wanted to become king all they had to do was arrange for the king to be killed in battle or consume a poisoned glass of wine. They were guaranteed to be crowned and take over the throne. There were many occasions throughout history where this was suspected to have happened. Such as the death of King William I. He died in a hunting accident and his brother Henry assumed over the throne. Many deaths could be attributed to accidents or poisoning in Medieval times.
Poison tipped darts – Poison has been used for centuries as a hunting tool and for self-protection. Indigenous tribes used a substance made from a plant in South America (curari) that affects the neuromuscular system and produces paralysis of the victim after entering the bloodstream. It was used as a medicine in the early creation of anethesia because it wasn’t lethal unless it was in the blood.
Poisoned Wine or Food – this became a popular method of disposing of one’s enemies because it could be done discretely and without leaving any evidence. It was an efficient way to eliminate rivals or political enemies. Because there was no method of food preservation the deaths were often assumed to be from food that had gone bad or spoiled. Poisoning a glass of wine or bowl of soup at dinnertime became an easy way to get rid of those who opposed you or to get what you wanted (to become the next king). However, because of this, new kings and rulers had to keep a watchful eye out for someone trying to do the same to them.
A Method for Suicide
Old spy novels used to have all kinds of gadgets for protection and there was always a cyanide capsule for use if the spy was caught. They would be expected to commit suicide rather than be caught and tortured for information. Poison rings were also used for this purpose. Although spies were different in ancient times, it was still better to die by your own hand than to be tortured and killed by an enemy. If you were facing death by beheading or torture, it might have been the least painful option.
Poison rings have been popular throughout history for various reasons. They are beautiful and stylish, a wonderful accessory for any wardrobe. Modern rings in this style can be fashioned out of silver or gold with jewels or decorative stones to create a gorgeous piece of wearable art.