During archeologic research in 1954 and 1955 of the ruins of the Upper Tower on Krancelj, in the area between the tower and the castle walls at Loka Castle – which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1511 – a ring belonging to an unknown owner was found among the objects from everyday life, such as part of ceramic tableware and cooking pots, glazed tiles, keys, iron tools and weapons, numerous types of nails of various shapes and sizes, ivory and bronze decorative and functional objects.
Caspar, Melchior, Baltasar
On the very well preserved ring, which is formed from a flat 4.5-5mm wide and 0.5-0.7mm thick bronze band with a diameter of 21mm, the names of the three wise men from the East are engraved, who were later named the Three Holy Kings: Caspar, Melchior and Baltasar (in the Slovenian language Gašper, Miha, Boltežar). By comparing the shapes of individual letters on the ring with writing on stamps from various dates from that period, it is possible to approximately date the production of the original of the ring from the last quarter of the 13th century to the mid-14th century.
The magic ring
The usefulness and purpose of rings has long been very diverse; for instance, they can be decorative, a status symbol or used as a stamp. In the past their meaning was also diverse, for example juridical, symbolic or magical, and they were said to protect the wearer from various dangers.
Due to the names of the Three Kings it can be assumed that the ring was made as a kind of ‘magic’ ring. According to folk belief, Caspar, Melchior and Baltasar were the protectors of problems and trouble in everyday life – both of humans and animals alike. People wrote the names of the kings on paper and kept them with them as protection from the plague and accidents, while their images were portrayed on amulets to protect them from danger while travelling, epilepsy, headaches, fevers and chills, dog bites, sudden death and numerous others dangers that they could encounter.
On closer inspection it can be seen that the ring was originally cast as a whole, with no obvious joints. The length of the unfurled band is 72mm. The ring was cast in a mould and, based on its inside diameter, was made for a man’s finger.
On the inside, the band has a full and smooth shape, while on the outside the inscription runs along the entire length and is flanked by a slightly accentuated rim. There are no spaces between the words on the inscription, and no punctuation between them either.
A careless engraver
The master engraver, however, was obviously careless in his work engraving names. An error occurred while making the negative, and the letter L in the name of Melchior had been misspelled. It is placed upside down and slopes to the left. He also had problems due to the lack of space, as the length of the unfurled ring band, which was clearly determined by the circumference of the client’s finger, was not long enough for the intended inscription. The engraver thus omitted the last three letters of the name Balta/sar, while the other names appear in full. The inscription was engraved on negatives with beautiful, intricately decorated letters, the lower parts of which are bold and split or branched as in the letter I.
Source: Zorka Šubic, Srednjeveški prstan iz Loke (A Medieval Ring from Loka), Loški razgledi (Views of Loka), 1988