The Rings Of Poison A History Of Murder

When thinking of a fashion piece of jewellery for women, we often think of rings, earrings, and necklaces. Some pendants or rings could hold something in them, like a locket. But these rings weren’t having something close to the heart of the wearer. They were ‘poison rings.’

Why Were Poison Rings Invented

Poison rings date back to ancient times when they used poison to slip into an enemy’s drink or food. Some used the poison as a suicide tactic in case of torture and would contain cyanide capsules.

Suicide rings were crucial in times of war or dangerous missions as suicide would be more gentle than going under torture and putting yourself in horrifying pain and the safety of others.

Roman Wasn’t Built In A Day But Rings Were

The first time poison rings appeared in records was during the Roman Empire in 331 BC. In 331 BC, a plague struck Rome and started killing the males. The belief claims the deaths of over ninety Roman men.

This might have seemed strange to today’s eyes, but plagues were a regular occurrence and were the greatest cover story and alibi back then.

Everything was going well for the members of the patrician. They were matriarchs in power and part of the nobility of the time. The secret organisation was slowly targeting men.

Betrayed By Servants, Not Poison

It only lasted until women servants revealed the organization’s secret. They spoke of the conspiracy against poisoning men, and at the head were matriarchs of high status.

Two arrested members of the organisation admitted to preparing the concoction. However, both women claimed it to be medicinal and drank it before the people present at their arrest. One could guess it was the last attempt to prove their innocence or was it?


The women knew they would die drinking their own poison, but it would appear as if someone switched the medicine for poison. After all, who would commit suicide? Their actions would protect the organisation by having those who arrested them suspect others at play. Back then, suicide wasn’t something popular or a tactic, for that matter.

However, the suicide cover didn’t work for long, and as a result, nearly two hundred matriarchs suffered arrest. The charges comprised mass murder through poison rings containing a mortal concoction.

Other Poison Rings Throughout History

According to historian Titus Livius, 59 BC—17 AD, recalled the actions of the matriarchs as a prodigious act suggesting madness and not portraying simple pedestrian murderous behaviour. The actions of the organisation were precise and under calculation.

Poison Ring
Poison Ring

The poison rings were not just part of Rome’s history. In historical records, the Despotate of Dobruja used a poison ring against the influential family in the Kaliakra Fortress. During the reign of Despotate, 1347—1386, in Bulgaria, something similar happened.

In Italy between 1480 and 1519, a noblewoman named Lucrezia Borgia was Pop Alexander VI’s daughter. Lucrezia’s record shows that she often used her poison ring to eliminate her political opponents.

Meanwhile, in the sixteenth century, Lady Lenora would use her poison ring, preying on people getting in her way. In her poison ring, Lenora had arsenic, which was so common back in the day that it carried the nickname, ‘Widow’s Divorce.’ She carried the poison in her ring because of her husband, Verdi, who had her use it to commit suicide at the opera.

The Gothic Morbid Jewellery

After many years, poison rings became holders of meaningful objects instead of poison, such as arsenic and cyanide tablets. Now we see those rings with locks of hair or other morbid memorabilia of someone’s passing. It is not uncommon to even carry the blood of someone or their tears.

Antique French Enamel Poison Locket Ring c_ 1890
Antique French Enamel Poison Locket Ring c_ 1890

Poison rings once brought death to someone either through suicide or murder. Today, they carry the memory or love of someone for another. We know them now as capsule jewellery and can be rings and pendants. Ashes, blood, tears, and lock of hair are what people use to keep the people they love close to their hearts.

What was once viewed as a dark and murderous object is now an inspirational piece for many jewelry companies. The idea of poison rings and the design behind them have now turned and further developed into what is called capsule jewelry and a way to hold on to memories and keep them close to their hearts, whether it be ashes of a deceased loved one or a lock of your child’s first haircut.

Paula Phillips

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