“’Engagement’” Rings: Knuckle-Duster Jewellery” (1911)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Wednesday, 18th January 2017

Subtitled “Ingenious Weapons Favoured by Apaches – for ‘Engagements’ with Law-Abiding Citizens”, these pictures were originally published as a photo-feature in The Sketch of Wednesday, 1st March 1911.

Nick-named in honour of the Native American tribes, the Apaches (pronounced “Ah-pahsh”) were members of the criminal underworld of Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many unique aspects of the Apache subculture, including their slang, dress sense, dances and even weapons and mugging techniques became the subject of sensationalistic media interest during their heyday, spawning an international cultural fad that might be called “Apache chic”.

The fashion of criminals using “knuckle-duster jewellery” was also taken up in London by Alice Diamond, known as “Diamond Annie”, who led the infamous shoplifting gang known as the Forty Elephants.

Three examples of knuckleduster jewellery – the devil’s head, the thorn and the rose.
The projecting ear and horn features transformed these heavy rings into devastating close-combat weapons.
A combination knuckle-duster and stiletto; the stabbing blade folded back inside the knuckle-duster when not in use.
Showing how the “thorn punch” was used.
The “rose” ring.
Several rings worn at once transform the fist into a dangerous weapon.
The “rose” and the “goat’s head”.
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