- Place of origin:
Germany (possibly, made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Dame Joan Evans
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, case 8
The open shears engraved upon the bezel of this signet ring indicate that it belonged to a member of a tailor's guild. The tools of craftsmen were often engraved upon seal matrices and signet rings to indicate membership of the guild and thus to confer status upon the wearer.
A large group of similar rings from Germany and central Europe have been found, most of which are silver or bronze, and which bear the emblems of a number of different trades.
Signet ring, silver, the oval bezel engraved with an open pair of shears, with an inscription, possibly 'g/r/a/c/e', in black lettering around the shears. The shoulders are decorated with three bands of fluting with pearled edges. The back of the hoop is spirally gadrooned into five bands with pearled edges.
Place of Origin
Germany (possibly, made)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
The shears are probably an individual's mark.
Diameter: 2.6 cm, Height: 1.1 cm bezel
Object history note
Historical significance: The open shears engraved upon the bezel of this ring indicate that it may have belonged to a member of a tailor's guild. The tools of craftsmen were often engraved upon seal matrices and rings to indicate membership of the guild and also confer status upon the wearer.
A large group of rings from Germany and central Europe, most of which are silver or bronze and which bear the emblems of a number of trades can be found in the Koch collection (Chadour, cat nos. 1098-1138). The British Museum holds a fifteenth century bronze French ring bearing a mason's hammer and the inscription Guille Macon (William the mason) (Dalton, cat.419., Ward, cat.168). The closest parallel to the V&A ring is catalogue number 1101 in the Koch collection, a Hungarian silver ring engraved with a pair of open shears on the bezel enclosed within a shield above which are the letters NM. Although the V&A ring was originally believed to be English, the parallels in the Koch collection and British Museum make a European or German origin more likely. The English attribution was partly based upon the inscription being read as grace but this cannot be clearly made out and should be reassessed.
A similar device of an enamelled pair of open shears with a small star is found on a shield shaped badge fixed to the pin of a circular ring brooch (Westfallisches Landesmuseum, Mûnster), illustrated in Lightbown 'Mediaeval European Jewellery', pl. 87.
Signet ring, silver, the circular bezel engraved with an open pair of shears, probably Germany, ca. 1475-1525
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982, case 33, board J, number 22
Chadour, Anna Beatriz Rings: the Alice and Louis Koch collection, W.S. Maney and Son Ltd, Leeds, 1994
Ward, Anne et al The Ring from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century, London, Thames and Hudson, 1981, no.171, p78
Dalton, O.M. Catalogue of the Finger Rings: Early Christian, Byzantine, Teutonic, Medieval and Later bequeathed by Sir Augustus Woollastons Franks, K.C.B.), British Museum, London, 1912
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
Labels and date
Silver ring, the circular bezel engraved with a merchant's mark comprising an open pair of shears, with 'g/r/a/c/e' in black letter between, with fluted and beaded shoulders, England, late 15th to early 16th century
Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue 
Shears; Fluting; Beading (edging pattern)
Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project