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

early 14th 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 hot 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 and shoulders of this gold ring are set with a coat of arms in a shield.

Before this ring was acquired by the V&A, it was in the collections of two great rings collectors, Ernest Guilhou and Dame Joan Evans.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved gold
Brief description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a coat of arms and inscribed in lombardic characters + S:MENTO:SASO.. With applied shields on the shoulders, Spain or Italy, early 14th century
Physical description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a coat of arms and inscribed in lombardic characters + S:MENTO:SASO.. With applied shields on the shoulders. The arms are described as 'Barry, on a fesse, three fleurs de lys'. The same arms are shown on the bezel and the shoulders.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.1cm
  • Width: 2.2cm
  • Depth: 1.2cm
Marks and inscriptions
  • engraved with a coat of arms
  • inscribed + S:MENTO:SASO.. S: signifies 'sigillum' or seal. (in lombardic characters)
  • inscribed IHS. E. M. IHS + (Inside the hoop)
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
An Italian ring in the British Museum collection (Dalton, 247) is also set with shields on the shoulders.
Subjects depicted
Association
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 hot 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 and shoulders of this gold ring are set with a coat of arms in a shield.



Before this ring was acquired by the V&A, it was in the collections of two great rings collectors, Ernest Guilhou and Dame Joan Evans.

Bibliographic references
  • 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. 562
  • Taylor, Gerald and Scarisbrick, Diana Finger rings from ancient Egypt to the present day, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum press, 1978, cat. 334
Collection
Accession number
M.277-1962

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Record createdFebruary 14, 2006
Record URL
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