RING, a band of circular shape, made of any material and for various purposes, but, particularly, a circular band of gold, silver or other precious or decorative material used as an orna ment, not only for the finger, but also for the ear (see EAR-RING), or even for the nose, as worn by certain races in India and Africa.
Within the limits necessarily imposed by its purpose the finger ring assumed a considerable variety of form, according to its date and place of origin.
In the Cretan and Mycenaean periods a characteristic form of ring had a broad flat bezel, not organically connected with the hoop, and having an incised design in the gold. The use of inset stones hardly occurs, but rings from Enkomi and Aegina of the late Mycenaean period have inset paste decorations.
The Phoenician type of ring was primarily intended to carry a scarab or scarabaeoid, usually in a box setting on a swivel, called for by the fact that the flat base of the scarab would be wanted for sealing purposes, but in wear would be most con veniently turned inwards. Strength being necessary, the hoop
became massive. A similar arrangement of the signet-scarab is found attached to a twisted ring, which, from its shape, must have been meant to be suspended, and which is shown thus worn on some of the Cypriote terra-cottas.
The Greek ring of an early period has a characteristic flattened bezel, for an intaglio design in the gold. An alternative form was a swivel ring for a scarab or scarabaeoid.
Roman Rings.—The Romans appear to have imitated the simplicity of Lacedaemonia. Throughout the republic none but iron rings were worn by the bulk of the citizens, and even these were forbidden to slaves. Ambassadors were the first who were privileged to wear gold rings, and then only while performing some public duty. Next senators, consuls, equites and all the chief officers of state received the ius annuli aurei. In the Augustan age many valuable collections of antique rings were made, and were frequently offered as gifts in the temples of Rome. One of the largest and most valuable of the dactyliothecae was dedicated in the temple of Apollo Palatinus by Augustus's nephew Marcellus (Pliny, H .N xxxvii. 5).