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

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 bezel of this ring is decorated with a coat of arms which may be that of a French family.

The Art Fund presented this ring to the V&A after the auction of the Guilhou collection. Ernest Guilhou (1844-1912) was a collector of snuffboxes, enamels, watches and especially rings. He put together an exceptional collection of 1636 rings, dating from the Etruscan to the 17th century. His heirs sold the collection at auction in November 1937.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved gold
Brief description
Gold signet ring with an octagonal bezel engraved with a coat of arms and inscribed in black letter qant. qe. soit., the shoulders fluted and engraved with sprigs, France, 15th century
Physical description
Gold signet ring with an octagonal bezel possibly engraved with the arms of Jouanniere (Bretagne) and inscribed in black letter qant. qe. soit., the shoulders fluted and engraved with sprigs
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.4cm
  • Width: 2.7cm
  • Depth: 1.4cm
Marks and inscriptions
  • coat of arms of Jouanniere (Bretagne) (engraved)
  • 'qant. qe. soit.' (inscribed in black letter)
Credit line
Presented by Art Fund
Object history
From the Guilhou Collection, sold at auction in 1937.
Subjects 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 bezel of this ring is decorated with a coat of arms which may be that of a French family.



The Art Fund presented this ring to the V&A after the auction of the Guilhou collection. Ernest Guilhou (1844-1912) was a collector of snuffboxes, enamels, watches and especially rings. He put together an exceptional collection of 1636 rings, dating from the Etruscan to the 17th century. His heirs sold the collection at auction in November 1937.

Bibliographic reference
Sotheby and Co, Catalogue of the superb collection of rings, including choice examples of all periods from the Egypt of the Pharaohs to the France of Napoleon I, formed by the late Monsieur E. Guilhou of Paris, November 1937, London, cat. 583
Collection
Accession number
M.181-1937

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Record createdFebruary 13, 2006
Record URL
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