Signet Ring thumbnail 1
Signet Ring thumbnail 2
+5
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery

Signet Ring

1450-1550 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Signet, or 'seal' rings, are rings that incorporate a seal matrix used for sealing documents for authentication. From the thirteenth century, the growth in trade and written contracts led to a greater increase in the use of seals by members of the merchant and landowning groups. As these groups were generally not entitled to bear arms, they used instead such personalised motifs, or 'devices', as birds. Merchant's or guild marks were also used, as were the owner's initials.

Religious or magical inscriptions sometimes decorate the hoop. Here, the ring is inscribed 'God help William'.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Silver, engraved
Brief description
Silver signet ring with the initial 'W' between two palms on the bezel, the hoop inscribed in black letter 'god x help x williem', England, 1450-1550
Physical description
Signet ring, silver. The circular bezel engraved with the initial 'W' between two palms, the exterior of the hoop inscribed in black lettering 'god x help x williem'.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 2.7cm
  • Height: 1.30cm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Marks and inscriptions
  • 'god x help x williem' (Inscribed on the exterior of the hoop, in black lettering)
  • W (inscribed in black letter)
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Association
Summary
Signet, or 'seal' rings, are rings that incorporate a seal matrix used for sealing documents for authentication. From the thirteenth century, the growth in trade and written contracts led to a greater increase in the use of seals by members of the merchant and landowning groups. As these groups were generally not entitled to bear arms, they used instead such personalised motifs, or 'devices', as birds. Merchant's or guild marks were also used, as were the owner's initials.



Religious or magical inscriptions sometimes decorate the hoop. Here, the ring is inscribed 'God help William'.
Bibliographic references
  • Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982, 33 F 4 ISBN. 090520929X
  • Campbell, Marian, Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500, London, V&A Publishing, 2009, p.78, fig.83
  • Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, p. 27, fig. 32
Collection
Accession number
M.256-1962

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Record createdNovember 4, 2005
Record URL
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