The Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen auction took place on June 24th in Boston, Massachusetts. The auction featured a ring crafted by the notorious American gangster, Clyde Chestnut Barrow. The piece was a gift to his sweetheart, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker, as a promise ring since the couple was never wed or able to do so during their intense two year courtship.
Barrow and his brother Buck were both amateur craftsmen that made jewelry, leather-work, and woodwork during their time in Eastham Farm Prison in Texas. The “Bonnie Ring” was believed to have been made during Barrow’s time there from 1930 to 1932.
The three headed snake ring is most likely silver plated copper, and like most jewelry tells a story. The ring bears the hallmark of an arrow striking a music note, Barrow’s signature. It’s well-known that the gangster had a passion for music, and the arrow is thought to be wordplay on his surname (B)arrow. The serpent is a Victorian symbol used to represent eternal love. The snake ring trend was popularized when Prince Albert gifted Queen Victoria an emerald set snake ring in 1840. We see that this fashion remained strong nearly a century later with the creation of “the Bonnie ring”.
Bonnie Parker lost this ring when the couple’s stolen 1933 Ford Model B was riddled by a hail of police gunfire in Sowers, Tx. The couple fled on foot narrowly escaping arrest, leaving behind personal articles in the abandoned vehicle. “The Bonnie Ring” was claimed by officer Schmid who led the ambush, and the ring remained with the Schmid family until this auction.
The “Bonnie Ring” sold for $25,000; much less than its predicted selling price of $40,000.
Though the ring is not comprised of precious material, it is lofty in its historical clout as a testament to the whirlwind lovestruck romance the two gangsters shared for one another and how they enamored America with their wild escapade that ultimately ended in their very romanticized demise.