This solid bronze ring is composed of an almost circular loop and an elliptical cabochon. It is decorated with an incised figure that can be easily identified by his attributes as the god Hermes, associated with Mercury (Mercurius) by the Romans.
Many anatomical details embellish the body of Hermes, who is represented here as an athletic young man: he is standing upright, his head slightly turned to the right. The left arm is separated from the body (in this hand the god holds a long, narrow object, which is probably his leather pouch rather than a jug), while his right arm, partially hidden by the chlamys (the traveler’s cloak), falls vertically. The right hand holds the caduceus, the staff with two snakes wrapped around it. As is usually the case, the god wears boots and his head is covered with a circular petasus.
This iconographic Hermes type, inspired by several Classical masterpieces, is largely widespread in the minor arts, especially from the Hellenistic period and in Alexandrian sculpture. In the early Imperial period, these images frequently appeared in goldsmithery and glyptics: as here, the god is depicted standing upright, turned to the left or to the right, and holding his “standard” attributes.
Like his Greek counterpart Hermes, Mercury mostly protected the merchants (his name is related to the Latin word merx, which means merchandise) and the travelers; he was also the messenger of the Olympian gods. Like Hermes, his attributes include the caduceus, the winged sandals, the petasus (sometimes with a feather), the chlamys, and the purse that symbolizes his gains from trade. In the Imperial period, especially in Roman Gaul, Mercury was also often considered the patron of craftsmen.