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. The most valuable signet rings were made of gold, sometimes set with an engraved hardstone. Cheaper versions were made of silver or sometimes bronze.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Silver, engraved and nielloed
Brief description
Nielloed silver signet ring with an octagonal bezel engraved with a coat of arms and inscription in black letter variant, Europe, possibly Hungary, 15th century
Physical description
Nielloed silver signet ring with an octagonal bezel engraved with a coat of arms and inscription in black letter variant. The coat of arms consists of a shield with three cinquefoils above two sprays. The inscription may possibly read 'benedictus deus'.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.2cm
  • Width: 2.4cm
  • Depth: 1.5cm
Marks and inscriptions
Inscribed in black letter variant
Credit line
Given by Dr Egger
Subject depicted
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. The most valuable signet rings were made of gold, sometimes set with an engraved hardstone. Cheaper versions were made of silver or sometimes bronze.
Collection
Accession number
M.471-1936

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Record createdFebruary 13, 2006
Record URL
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