Before the development of modern medicine, fevers, cramps and toothache could be painful and dangerous. Childbirth could kill mother or child. Many people believed that the supernatural powers embodied in an amulet could promote fertility and good health and offer protection against malign forces or the ‘evil eye’.
The amulets were made of organic materials thought to have protective powers, such as jet or horn, or were set with propitious symbols. Although the Catholic Church was opposed to the pagan nature of many amulets, it was powerless to prevent their use.
There are three amulets on this ring. The bone fist (Neidfeige), with a thumb protruding between the first and second fingers, is a very old symbol, dating back at least to Roman times. It is found throughout Europe, perhaps most commonly in Italy, and protects against the ‘evil eye’.
The operculum shell in a silver setting (Schneckendeckel) is a generic amulet worn mainly by women to promote fertility.
The small filigree case (Walburgisbüchse) with the letters S, W and B incorporated in the pattern, is a symbol of Walburgis oil. St Walburga was a British missionary to Germany in the 8th century. Her body was eventually buried at Eichstätt, where a liquid (Walburgis oil) was collected from her bones. It was considered highly effective against all kinds of infection and wounds.
Origin: Schwäbisch Gmünd (probably, made)
Materials and Techniques: Silver filigree, operculum shell and bone