The Ring of the Fisherman is part of the papal regalia and has been so since at least 1265. As a new pope is invested (this will take place on 19 March), the ring is slipped on his finger. Originally used for signing official correspondence, every ex-pope's ring is destroyed before the cardinals to prevent forgery. All rings have a bas relief of St. Peter fishing in a boat with the pope's Latin name across the top, making each one distinctly individual.
|Credit to Bill Casselman's Words of the World for the photo of Benedict XVI. Benedict's ring was not smashed with a silver hammer, but was defaced on 28 February 2013 with two deep scratches "X-ing" across it's face.|
|A sketch of Pope Leo XIII's ring. While the elements are the same, Benedict's ring was different. The Vatican announced that Pope Francis I's ring will be the same as Benedict XVI's, except the name. Photo from Wikipedia.|
|See how worn it became with daily use and thousands of people kissing it? Libutti Jeweler's Blog|
While there is only one of these rings, they are not really personal. Benedict wore his every day, but most popes didn't. Like most people with heavy, expensive, historically important jewelry, they trotted it out for special occasions. Popes' "daily wear" rings varied according to the style of their times, from simple gold bands (Pope John Paul I) to fancy diamond encrusted cameos (Pope Pius IX). Pope John Paul II's ring was a horizontal gold cross, remarkably edgy and on-trend... if you aren't the pope.
|Bless the man, I've had days like this but without an awesome ring like this. Photo from ABC, although the article incorrectly implies that this ring is The Fisherman's Ring.|
|He's probably annoyed that The Gulf Daily News identified this ring as The Fisherman's Ring too.|
Individual and impersonal, a signet ring for the electronic age that symbolizes princely power for a spiritual leader, the 35 gram gold ring for a pope named for a poor, humble saint is solid reminder of the pageantry of medieval papal power.