Keith Richards' Skull Ring (and Mine)

There are certain musicians that I have been obsessed with for years, decades even.   Keith Richards is one and this particular obsession has reached new heights (or depths?) after reading his excellent autobiography.   To me rock and roll isn’t just music, it’s a philosophy, a way of life.  That’s probably because I hit my teens in the 60’s and back then there was a very definite division between what was “rock” and what was “pop” and anything pop was something to be disdained and even reviled.   So to me, Keith Richards has always been about music and the love of music.   Unlike Mick, he hasn’t been knighted and is unlikely to ever get that accolade.  The best Stones songs come from him.  “Happy” is a song I almost consider a personal theme song.  And the decline of the Stones as a musical force came at the same time that he sank deeper into drugs.   Well, I’m not gonna write a thousand word essay on Richards and my appreciation of him; let’s just take that as played.  Plus, he was very nice to my mom about 25 years ago.

One of Keith’s symbols is the skull ring that he seems to always wear.   It was one-of-a-kind until, if I’m not mistaken, he had a second one made for his friend Johnny Depp.   Keith’s ring was made by Courts & Hackett in London.

In 1978 the celebrated London goldsmiths David Courts and Bill Hackett were working on a small scale silver sculpture of a human skeleton. Using a real skull for reference they carved a perfect miniature replica which they then moulded. When the hollow wax skull was removed from its mould the inspiration for the ring was born. Further experimentation led to the creation of the original silver skull ring. At the same time an invitation arrived from Keith Richards to his birthday party in New York – so Bill and David decided that the new ring would make a fantastic present. From the moment he put it on his finger, the magic began and he has worn it ever since.

For reasons we can probably guess at, after thirty years, C&H is finally selling a replica of Keith’s ring.

Since Keith put on the original Courts and Hackett skull ring in 1978, David and Bill have received countless requests for a copy but their original decision that the ring should remain unique has meant that there is no replica mould and no duplicates.

Now, for the first time and only available from them is a magnificent new deaths head ring sculpted from the same human skull used for the original.

Using unique techniques developed in their workshop they have created the ultimate skull ring. Exquisite details include an immaculately carved bone structure, individual teeth and finely engraved cranium.

Crafted in solid 925 silver each ring will be stamped with the Courts and Hackett hallmark guaranteeing authenticity, date, materials used and country of origin.

So, fan boy that I am, I decided that I wanted a skull ring.  I took a look at what was available in Hong Kong, at least in the shops I know, and did some scouting around on the net.  I didn’t want something fancied up with jewels or patterns, just a plain, well made skull. Maybe it was just psychological but I didn’t see any ring that compared to this one.   So I bit the bullet and a couple of weeks ago sent my ring size to C&H and ordered one for myself.  (Their web site doesn’t list Hong Kong as a country they’ll ship to.  I emailed them and they replied pretty quickly that it was no problem.)

The ring arrived on Monday and it’s fucking great.  It’s a serious ring.  It’s heavy and it’s also incredibly detailed.   I’d do some of my own photos of it but I don’t have lighting equipment to get proper shots, and the photos on their web site are already pretty good.

Up till now, there’s only been one piece of jewelry that’s “stuck” with me.  It’s a ring I bought 40 years ago at a shop in Greenwich Village (on MacDougal Street in NYC) called C’est Magnifique, sterling silver around a prosthetic eye – not some cheap plastic crap but an actual medical prosthetic.    As I recall, it cost US$25, and that was a shitload of money for me at the time but I had to have it.

(Not the best shot but it’s all I have handy.)   That shop, believe it or not, is still in business.  Every couple of years I’d go back and the woman who owned the shop would always clean the ring for me for free and we’d chat for awhile.   I went back last year and she’s passed away and her son is now running the business.  They don’t do the eyeball ring any more but he told me he could make up more by special order.   That ring has been around the world with me multiple times.  It’s not something I wear every day but it is a part of me.

Anyway, I digress, as I always do.   I love this Courts & Hackett ring and I think it’s something that will be with me for the rest of my life.  Right now it’s new and I’m wearing it every day, but I think I’m going to keep on wearing this every day.   I’m really thrilled to have this.