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. Signet rings were made in silver, bronze or as this one, gold.

The coat of arms in the centre of the bezel may be that of the Monticelli family of Crema (Lombardy). The inscription has not yet been deciphered but may refer to the Virgin Mary.

Before being acquired by the Museum in 1936, the ring was in 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 1937.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved gold
Brief description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a crest and inscribed MARIA/ N /VS.MR., the shoulders chased with foliated scrolls, inscribed A.M, Italy, 15th century
Physical description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a crest and inscribed MARIA/ N /VS.MR., the shoulders chased with foliated scrolls, inscribed A.M
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.2cm
  • Width: 2.4cm
  • Depth: 1.4cm
Marks and inscriptions
  • engraved with a coat of arms
  • inscribed MARIA/ N /VS.MR.
  • inscribed A.M (the shoulders)
Credit line
Presented by Art Fund
Object history
From the Guilhou Collection, sold at Sotheby's 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. Signet rings were made in silver, bronze or as this one, gold.



The coat of arms in the centre of the bezel may be that of the Monticelli family of Crema (Lombardy). The inscription has not yet been deciphered but may refer to the Virgin Mary.



Before being acquired by the Museum in 1936, the ring was in 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 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. 575
Collection
Accession number
M.179-1937

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Record createdFebruary 13, 2006
Record URL
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