The poison ring has been a part of many stories and books that feature spies, royalty, and intrigue. Yet as fanciful as having a ring with a secret compartment for poison is, the ring itself is a real item that originated centuries ago. Understanding the history of the poison ring is to gain insight into the culture and mindset of those who used them for nefarious purposes.
The exact origins of the poison ring are not fully understood, but it is known that they were first created in the Far East. This type of ring was first seen in China and India many centuries ago. They were considered useful for several reasons, most notably because they could securely carry small quantities conveniently.
In addition to the rings, lockets that were carried around the neck were common as well and are still quite prominent today. However, the rings were not originally known to carry poisons. That didn’t arrive until the rings made their way to Europe somewhere around the 14th century, although they might have arrived even earlier.
Use as Poison Containers
As with their exact origins, the first use of a ring to deliver a lethal amount of poison secretly is not known. What is known is that a poison ring from the 14th century was discovered in Cape Kaliakra inside a medieval fortress. It is believed to have been owned by a powerful noble, royal, or someone in the upper class.
The ring was designed to remove those who stood in the way of the ambitious person who wanted greater political power. The ring itself was rarely worn except for the purpose of delivering a lethal amount of poison to the glass of the victim. The victim was almost always someone in a position of higher authority or stood in the way of the ambitions of the person with the poison ring.
In Bulgaria, much of the political intrigue and history of the 14th century was shaped by the introduction and use of the ring. And many in the local aristocracy who seemingly died of natural causes or sudden, unexpected illness may have succumbed to poison instead.
As with most weapons, the poison ring fell out of favor over time. The increased awareness combined with precautions taken by potential victims made rings with secret compartments impractical. Today, the poison ring is a curiosity from the past, a reminder of how those in the aristocracy made their way ahead in the political realm through the stealthy use of poisoning those who stood in their way.
The history of the poison ring is an intriguing one filled with backstabbing royalty and quiet assassinations. This all from a ring that contained a secret compartment for poison. Their use over the centuries has not been fully realized if only because they have caused more death than has been reported. The only question is how much of an impact did they make on history.