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Is there any detail in Tolkien's work indicating what the One Ring was made of?

  • Mithril?

  • Platinum?

  • Gold?

  • Some other magical material?

  • I am specifically interested in The One Ring - I'll post another question related to all the other non-One rings – Jana Mar 12 '12 at 7:56
  • See also scifi.stackexchange.com/q/12950/4918 "What were the other Rings of Power in LOTR made of?" – b_jonas Dec 3 '15 at 17:42
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As far as I'm aware, Tolkien never mentioned what the One Ring's material was.

We only know 2 things about it:

  • It looks like it's made of gold (so platinum/mithril/silver are out).

  • It's not destructible other than in the Orodruin volcano. But this is likely a magical property instead of physical/chemical one, so can't tell us what the material is.


One further circumstantial confirmation that The One was made of gold:

  • Seven Rings given to Dwarves were made of gold:

    It is said that the foundation of each of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-kings of old was a golden ring. (Source: The Silmarillion)

  • And all the rings made by Sauron (including the Seven Dwarven and The One) seemed to have been made using the same technology, as per the consensus of the answers to this SFF question (" Were there any differences between the Rings of power given to the Dwarves and the Men? " )

  • 5
    Yes, that's exactly the problem: We can't infer what the ring is made of, despite knowing how it can be destroyed. Usually that is helpful! Not true in Middle-Earth though... – Ellie Kesselman Mar 12 '12 at 8:09
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    A minor quibble: all that glitters is not gold, literally. Just because the dwarven rings were "golden" doesn't mean they were actually made out of gold, any more than the One Ring's color means that it was. – Tacroy Mar 12 '12 at 15:42
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    @Tacroy The same would be true if even he had written "a gold ring" or "a ring of gold". Both those phrase are ambiguous about whether they refer to the appearance or the material. It would have to be "a ring made of gold" to be sure... – Mark Beadles Mar 12 '12 at 17:12
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+50

It was gold.

It may not be clear from LOTR itself whether it's actually gold (the metal) or just golden (color), but History of Middle-Earth clarifies the matter, and also explains why Sauron chose gold:

Sauron's power was not (for example) in gold as such, but in a particular form or shape made of a particular portion of total gold. Morgoth's power was disseminated throughout Gold, if nowhere absolute (for he did not create Gold) it was nowhere absent. (It was this Morgoth-element in matter, indeed, which was a prerequisite for such 'magic' and other evils as Sauron practised with it and upon it.)

and

For example, all gold (in Middle-earth) seems to have had a specially 'evil' trend - but not silver.

[History of Middle-Earth vol. X, Morgoth's Ring, Myths Transformed - text VII 'Notes on motives in the Silmarillion' (ii); hardcover p. 400]

  • There may not be any point in answering a question this old and with an already accepted answer, but I'm adding the confirmation just for future reference (duplicates, etc.) – cometaryorbit May 28 '17 at 7:21
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    It is perfectly ok to answer questions this old, even if there are accepted answers already. This find is much more specific and perfectly answers the question, therefore +1 – Philip Klöcking May 28 '17 at 7:44
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    Unfortunately a lot of accepted answers are wrong, having the right answer on the page definitely doesn't hurt no matter how old the question is. – Shamshiel May 28 '17 at 15:45
  • I was thinking of the exact same quotes that you have given. +1 (hope you don't mind the edit I made to your answer) – Mat Cauthon Jun 1 '17 at 10:20
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Gold

Gandalf, who probably knows as much about the Rings as anyone, refers several times to the Ring as being made of gold.

Fellowship, p. 53

"'Oh, are you indeed, my love,' said Sméagol; and he caught Déagol by the throat and strangled him, because the gold looked so bright and beautiful."

Fellowship, p. 60

"Your small fire, of course, would not melt even ordinary gold. This Ring has already passed through it unscathed..."

Isildur thought the same, though he had less ring-lore than Gandalf, but in this case Tolkien is using him as an exposition device, so perhaps we can give his words something near to a narrator's weight. Fellowship again, p. 253:

...and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed.

There are also a few places where the narrator defines the material of the ring. For example in the Prologue, Fellowship p. 11:

He possessed a secret treasure that had come to him long ages ago, when he still lived in the light: a ring of gold that made its wearer invisible.

And p. 60 again:

Frodo drew the ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour

There are other mentions of 'gold' in relation to the ring, but these are the clearest that they're referring to its material, not its colour. I think the second Gandalf quote is the closest to a slam-dunk we're going to get without someone casting a Speak with Dead spell on Professor Tolkien himself.

  • +1 for that second quote. It was at least some type of Gold, maybe an alloy, maybe just enhanced magically. – BlackThorn Jun 2 '17 at 16:54

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