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  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved brass

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 9, shelf A, box 14

Signet rings, engraved with a coat of arms, owner's initial or the mark used by a merchant to identify his goods are one of the the most common types of surviving medieval and Renaissance rings. The engraved bezel of the ring was pressed into sealing wax and this was then fixed onto a letter or deed. This bronze ring is engraved with an ownership mark, often called a merchant's mark, a geometric sign, frequently based on the number 4 or on a variation of a cross, which was used as a proprietary mark. Merchants marks were a key part of commercial and social life - they were used to seal deeds as a legal signature and when marking bales of goods, to settle disputes over ownership when those goods had gone astray through theft, shipwreck or piracy. Prosperous merchants also had their marks set in their houses, windows and on their gravestones or included them in their personal portraits.

This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.

Physical description

Brass ring, the octagonal bezel engraved with a merchant's mark and 'PW' impaling a double-headed eagle.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)


1600-1700 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Engraved brass

Marks and inscriptions

Merchant's mark.
Engraved on bezel.

'PW' impaling a double-headed eagle.
Engraved on bezel.


Height: 2.4 cm, Width: 2.6 cm, Depth: 1.3 cm

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Descriptive line

Brass ring, the octagonal bezel engraved with a merchant's mark and 'PW' impaling a double-headed eagle, Germany, 1600-1700.


Brass (alloy)


Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted



Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project


Metalwork Collection

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