The Four-Band Puzzle Ring


There are many kinds of puzzle ring some dating back many hundreds of years; however by the beginning of the current century far the most common was the Four-Band linked ring.

It seems very curious that this commercially produced "La Bague Mephisto" or "Devil's Ring" by French maker Watilliaux is the oldest example we have found. It is only just over 100 years old so surely there must be earlier examples somewhere.

Watilliaux presented their ring in a small box with an illustrated solution sheet.

The four bands can be seen to be formed as 2 pairs. In this particular example this is made easier to see as one pair is made of twisted wire.
 

The Solution involves twisting one pair together then rotating the remain two and folding them into their final places.

Where & When was the 4-Band Ring invented?

On 9th August 1887, about the time Watillaux sold their ring, a W.H.A.Davidson was granted US Patent 367,896 for this design of ring. Maybe he was truly the inventor, but at the time many patents were granted for old designs.

In the 1940s Jose Grant first saw one of these rings that had been bought in Cairo from a Belorussian silversmith. By the 1960s they were usually called "Turkish Puzzle Rings" and certainly many were made there before Asia became the source of most cheap productions. The earliest instruction booklet we have is from Turkey and appears to be from the 1950s.
Due to the pattern of the weave of the four bands there is some speculation that the design may have its origins with the Anatolian Celts and have been transmitted via Galatia to modern Turkey. It remains a mystery.


At the Puzzle Museum we hope that some observant historian will give us a definitive answer so that we can update this page.

 

This enquiry is only about the 4-Band Linked Ring and its related 6 and 8 band variants. We have far older examples of Twist or Chain Rings, Fede Rings, 3-Band Medieval puzzle rings, etcetera.

 

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Here are some other 4-band puzzle rings with the same standard configuration linked as two pairs.

  • Gold English c.1890 with snakes and flowers.
  • Gold English c.1900 set with 19 turquoise stones.
  • Gilt metal Turkish c.1940
  • Two Chinese white metal with bat motifs c.1970.
The addition of ornamentation and jewels can greatly complicate the the assembly of these rings.
 
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