Poison rings, or pillbox rings were created in the late 1500's and used well into the 1600's to carry poison to either assassinate another person or kill oneself if imminent harm were to come to the wearer. These rings appeared in most ways as an ornamental piece of jewelry, but what other didn't know was that the ring would open and underneath the precious stones and glitz on top of the ring was a secret compartment to store weapons of murder--poison. These were savvy tools used by spies in the Asia and in East and Western Europe. Poison rings slowly became a fashion trend of the aristocracy and those who could afford fine jewelry in the 17th century (The Renaissance).
The original purpose of poison rings shifted to hold items that were dear to the wearer such as: religious icons, locks of hair, and photographs of loved ones. A popular type of poison rings became a trend during the Renaissance. This ring was dubbed the "funeral ring". This ring would be given to grieving loved ones of a person who passed away. Often the ring would hold a photograph or a reminder of this person. These rings generally were made out of onyx and had a gold crucifix inscribed on the ornamental part of the ring. These rings waned in popularity and again became popular in The Victorian Era when people had a huge fixation on "dressing the part" during mourning a death, especially widows. Women dramatically wore all black clothing, jewels, and other accessories to mark themselves as a grieving widow, and to let the opposite sex know they were "in mourning" and certainly off the market for a significant period of time as deemed appropriate by society.
Poison rings remained "around" for several years, but didn't pick up momentum again until the 1960's during the era when hippies were experimenting with LSD and other illicit substances. Poison rings made a great hiding place for tabs of acid and other mind altering substances. This kept the substances hidden from law enforcement, mom and dad, and whoever you wanted to hide your "stash" from. Poison rings went out for a while again during the 1970's and 1980's, and remained an "antique curiosity". In the 1990's, mood and funeral rings again began to pick up momentum with the resurgence of hippy trends as well as Gothic trends that came back well exaggerated. A poison ring was one of my favorite accessories to wear with my vamp lipstick and nail polish. It also accompanied my black crushed velvet dresses and other Gothic attire. It fit the "dark" Gothic look kids were running with. People who sport the Steam Punk style also like to incorporate funeral and pillbox rings into their unique style. Funeral rings are popular among psychobilly kids, because they bear the onyx background and a Gothic cross. Psychobilly is a music genre that fuses Goth horror and rockabilly. It also encompasses a look that reflects both. You might wear a swing dress, but it probably has skulls on it.
Poison rings became less of a high quality jewel in the late 1800's and more of a fun, novelty fashion item. The rings began to be forged out of more affordable metals like silver and pewter. Expensive precious stones were replaced with dark and peculiar semi-precious stones such as the moonstone, bloodstone, garnet, topaz, turquoise, lapis lazuli, amethyst, opal, and others. Many modern pillbox rings are set in marcasite or bear a filigree pattern in the ornamental part of the ring. Generally the compartments are plain and hollowed out for you to keep your valuables in if you choose to do so! Poison rings are a fun style and an interesting addition to anyone's antique jewelery collection, or just your jewelery collection in general.