Signet Ring thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Signet Ring

15th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Rings are the most commonly surviving medieval jewels. They were worn by both sexes, across all levels of society. Some portraits show wearers with multiple rings across all their fingers. Although rings were worn for decoration, they also had important practical functions. Signet rings such as this one were pressed into sealing wax to create a unique, legally recognised signature.

Signets could be engraved with a coat of arms for those entitled to bear them, with a personal device or simply with an initial letter.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved silver
Brief description
Silver signet ring with an octagonal bezel engraved with a coat of arms, Europe, 15th century
Physical description
Silver signet ring with an octagonal bezel engraved with the coat of arms with a fesse embattled with a cross moline in sinister chief and inscribed in Lombardic characters '+ H. IO. DIA. BEIE.',
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.7cm
  • Width: 2.8cm
  • Depth: 1.3cm
Marks and inscriptions
'+ H. IO. DIA. BEIE.' (Inscribed in Lombardic characters)
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
The word 'beie' appears in the Middle English Ancrene Wisse, (Robert Hasenfrantz 'Glossary' to the Ancrene Wisse - beie (v., pres. 3 subj. sing.) (might) bend [OE, related to buhen (v.)]. It relates to the verb 'buhen', meaning to bow, bend; kneel; be submissive; submit to, obey.
Subject depicted
Association
Summary
Rings are the most commonly surviving medieval jewels. They were worn by both sexes, across all levels of society. Some portraits show wearers with multiple rings across all their fingers. Although rings were worn for decoration, they also had important practical functions. Signet rings such as this one were pressed into sealing wax to create a unique, legally recognised signature.



Signets could be engraved with a coat of arms for those entitled to bear them, with a personal device or simply with an initial letter.

Collection
Accession number
M.253-1962

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

Record createdJanuary 31, 2006
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest