image preview

Creation Date

5th–9th century








Overall: 15/16 × 13/16 × 1/4 in. (2.49 × 2.01 × .72 cm)

Ring head: 1.25 × 0.69 × 0.35 cm

Diameter: 1.9 cm

0.12 oz. (5.3 g)

Credit Line

Gift of Sarah Blick, 2017

Accession Number



Purchased from Nigel Mills, who had a table in the Covent Garden monthly antique flea market in London in 2000.


This key ring appears to be complete, since I cannot see anything that appears to be broken or missing. However, the key appears heavily worn and the ring is quite tarnished (both on the key and on the ring itself). Additionally, the ring is vertically compressed into an oval with the side furthest the key closer to the key than it should be (in a similar manner to how rings are compressed by heavy wear). The band is also slightly thinner on either side of the protrusion.

Olivia Rataezyk (’24), October 2023


This is a ring with a key head protruding from one side of it. The key head is attached to the ring by a small link. It is arranged horizontally so that it runs parallel to the band, and would allow the key head to be inserted while still worn and turned with the wearer’s wrist. The key head is wider than the band, which is flattened vertically and slightly uneven in thickness. When viewed from the top, the key head eclipses the rest of the ring and it appears to float off the band when viewed from the side. This creates a mildly illusionistic appearance that makes the ring seem impossible or magical from specific angles.

The side of the band which faces the palm is corroded and thus slightly thinner in width than the rest of the band. The key head’s grooves are worn down but still visible. Despite the tarnish, the bronze is still shiny in some places and it would likely gleam if cleaned. In comparison to modern keys, this has a much thicker blade and visually it resembles that of a skeleton key. However, in contrast to a skeleton key, this key’s keyway (the overall shape of the blade) is flat and would have been inserted at once instead of a skeleton key’s long, thin keyway which would be gradually inserted. The similarity to a skeleton key means that it may have been created to open a warded lock (a lock which opens for one key with the same shape), similarly to skeleton keys. Its relatively uniform appearance and overall smooth exterior leads me to believe this ring would have been cast.

Olivia Rataezyk (’24)

2017.28.3b.JPG (1481 kB)
Alternate view

2017.28.3c.JPG (1619 kB)
Alternate view

2017.28.3d.JPG (1422 kB)
Alternate view

2017.28.3e.JPG (1573 kB)
Alternate view