1896 'Sun Stag' Signet Ring
The stag, with its great, branching antlers encircling the sun, is a symbol that dates back to our earliest human history, a symbol of life, renewal, and spiritual transcendence. To our ancient ancestors deer would have been central to survival and as such their imagery is deeply ingrained in our psyche, imagination and mythology. Some of our earliest deities were antlered creatures, they have been worshiped for millenia by people from every corner of the earth from Europe and Asia to America.
The Stag, instantly recognisable with his huge majestic antlers, he represents nobility, honour, sexuality and protection of the herd; he is devoted to the care and creation of his offspring. Female deer do not grow antlers and yet we find the image of the ‘antlered doe’ peppered through the mythology of Europe and Asia, so maybe we are looking at a doe and not a stag? The Doe is all gracefulness, gentleness and sensitivity. She has a highly attuned senses and is aware and alert to her environment, she is, therefore, symbol for our intuition and the ability to see clearly through illusions or chaotic situations.
In mythology from the Eurasian Steppe the cosmos and mother of the sun is a large antlered Celestial Doe often shown carrying the sun in her horns. In Hungarian folklore it is her son, the stag, who bears the sun with the doe representing the cosmos and heavenly firmament. The stag steals the sun between his antlers and each winter solstice the Hunter must chase down this mighty beast to bring back the light. In the Hungarian origin myth it is a miraculous hind (doe) with golden antlers and the sun on its breast who leads two hunters to the bountiful land that becomes Hungary.
Huge migrations of hundreds of reindeer for hundreds of miles happen each year on the Finnmarksvidda plateau, a phenomenon that is over 10,000 years old and it's these epic journeys that associate reindeer with spiritual transcendence. The migration is usually led by a mature doe, the only female deer who IS antlered. Male reindeer actually lose their antlers over winter and they don't begin to grow back until February, so if you see an antlered reindeer at Christmas time (ehem, Rudolph) you’re actually looking at a female. Siberian mythology tells of the Deer Mother Goddess who flies across the sky, bringing back the sun on the Winter Solstice and is perhaps the origin of the Santa Claus story.
Stag or mythical doe these majestic animals with antlers like rays of sunlight, evoke the wild mysteries of the forest, the natural cycles of death and rebirth, and, through their great migrations, transcendence. When coupled with the life bringing sun, the symbolism is powerful indeed.
The signet ring dates from the late 19th century, set with a carnelian panel that we've had carved with a sun stag crest in the traditional, heraldic style using traditional tools and techniques. To my knowledge, this is the first time a sun stag has been realised within the glyptic arts. The detail is breathtaking. Crafted in 18ct gold with English hallmarks from the year 1896.
Era: Victorian, 1896
Ring size: 9.25 US or S UK/AUS. Resizable for £35.
Head size: 12.5mm by 11.0mm
Stone: Carnelian agate
Hallmarks: English, Birmingham, 18ct Gold, 1896
Condition: Great antique condition
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