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

1400-1500 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Rings are the most commonly surviving medieval jewels. Medieval women, men and children all wore rings - gold and silver for the most wealthy, brass and gilt bronze for the less well off. They could be worn on all the fingers, often several at a time.

Although rings were worn for decoration, they also had important practical functions. This ring would have been used as a signet, engraved with a design which could be pressed into hot sealing wax. Personal seals (secreta) provided an essential legal safeguard and were used to witness documents such as wills, deeds of gift, loans and commercial documents, personal letters and land indentures. Signet rings were engraved with coats of arms for those entitled to them, devices reflecting personal or professional interests or most simply an initial letter.

This ring is engraved with the symbol of the Lamb of God or Agnus Dei. Christ was represented as both a shepherd and a sacrificial lamb - when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching him in the Jordan river, he cried out 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'. This ring served both as a personal signet and as a sign of faith.

It forms part of a collection of over 600 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-81). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.



Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved silver
Brief description
Silver signet ring with an octagonal bezel engraved with the Agnus Dei and 'G', Italy, 1400-1500.
Physical description
Silver signet ring with an octagonal bezel engraved with the Agnus Dei and 'G'.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.4cm
  • Width: 2.6cm
  • Depth: 1.4cm
Marks and inscriptions
engraved with G
Object history
ex Waterton Collection
Subjects depicted
Summary
Rings are the most commonly surviving medieval jewels. Medieval women, men and children all wore rings - gold and silver for the most wealthy, brass and gilt bronze for the less well off. They could be worn on all the fingers, often several at a time.



Although rings were worn for decoration, they also had important practical functions. This ring would have been used as a signet, engraved with a design which could be pressed into hot sealing wax. Personal seals (secreta) provided an essential legal safeguard and were used to witness documents such as wills, deeds of gift, loans and commercial documents, personal letters and land indentures. Signet rings were engraved with coats of arms for those entitled to them, devices reflecting personal or professional interests or most simply an initial letter.



This ring is engraved with the symbol of the Lamb of God or Agnus Dei. Christ was represented as both a shepherd and a sacrificial lamb - when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching him in the Jordan river, he cried out 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'. This ring served both as a personal signet and as a sign of faith.



It forms part of a collection of over 600 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-81). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.



Bibliographic reference
Oman, Charles, Catalogue of rings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1930, reprinted Ipswich, 1993, cat. 587
Collection
Accession number
602-1871

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Record createdFebruary 14, 2006
Record URL
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