Signet Ring thumbnail 1
Signet Ring thumbnail 2
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

A seal or signet ring was used to apply the wearer's personal mark to the sealing wax on a document. The seal then denoted the legality of the document and the identification of the issuing authority or individual. Signet rings could be engraved with a coat of arms or crest, an initial, a merchant's mark (a geometric symbol used to mark goods or personal belongings), as with the dog on this ring, a personal symbol.

The name 'James Grew' which appears to be engraved around the dog on this ring was originally read as a romantic motto ' iame s'geein' (which could be read as J'aimes songeant' or I am dreaming of love') but it seems more likely to be the name of the ring's first owner. The word 'grew' or 'grue' was a Scottish dialect word for greyhound and the dog on the bezel may therefore be an example of canting heraldry, referring to the name James Grew.

Information on the derivation of 'grew' and the re-attribution of the ring was kindly supplied by Malcolm Jones in 2016.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved silver
Brief description
Silver signet ring with an oval bezel engraved with a hound and inscribed James Grew, Great Britain, 15th century
Physical description
Silver signet ring with an oval bezel engraved with a couchant hound and inscribed in black letter James Grew , the hoop engraved with an illegible inscription
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.5cm
  • Width: 2.6cm
  • Depth: 1.6cm
Marks and inscriptions
  • James Grew (inscribed in black letter)
  • engraved with an illegible inscription (the hoop)
Subject depicted
Summary
A seal or signet ring was used to apply the wearer's personal mark to the sealing wax on a document. The seal then denoted the legality of the document and the identification of the issuing authority or individual. Signet rings could be engraved with a coat of arms or crest, an initial, a merchant's mark (a geometric symbol used to mark goods or personal belongings), as with the dog on this ring, a personal symbol.



The name 'James Grew' which appears to be engraved around the dog on this ring was originally read as a romantic motto ' iame s'geein' (which could be read as J'aimes songeant' or I am dreaming of love') but it seems more likely to be the name of the ring's first owner. The word 'grew' or 'grue' was a Scottish dialect word for greyhound and the dog on the bezel may therefore be an example of canting heraldry, referring to the name James Grew.



Information on the derivation of 'grew' and the re-attribution of the ring was kindly supplied by Malcolm Jones in 2016.
Bibliographic reference
Oman, Charles, Catalogue of rings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1930, reprinted Ipswich, 1993, cat. 589
Collection
Accession number
143-1907

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Record createdJanuary 31, 2006
Record URL
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