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

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

This ring would have been used as a signet, pressed into hot wax to seal a letter or packet. 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 could be engraved with a coat of arms or crest, an initial, a merchant's mark (a geometric symbol used to mark goods or personal belongings), or a personal symbol. Sixteenth and seventeenth century portraits show signet rings worn on the forefinger or thumb, presumably to make it easy to apply the ring to the wax by turning the hand. They were items of jewellery with a practical function but the use of precious metals and engraved hardstones indicates that they were also signs of status.

The bezel of this ring is engraved with a falcon in a fetterlock, a design which was previously used by Edward IV.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved gold
Brief description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a falcon in a fetterlock, England, 1400-1500.
Physical description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a falcon (?) in a fetterlock.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.5cm
  • Width: 2.5cm
  • Depth: 1.4cm
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Historical context
The badge of falcon and fetterlock is associated with the House of York, but the ring is too late to have a direct connection with Edmund de Langley, Duke of York (1341-1402)
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
This ring would have been used as a signet, pressed into hot wax to seal a letter or packet. 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 could be engraved with a coat of arms or crest, an initial, a merchant's mark (a geometric symbol used to mark goods or personal belongings), or a personal symbol. Sixteenth and seventeenth century portraits show signet rings worn on the forefinger or thumb, presumably to make it easy to apply the ring to the wax by turning the hand. They were items of jewellery with a practical function but the use of precious metals and engraved hardstones indicates that they were also signs of status.



The bezel of this ring is engraved with a falcon in a fetterlock, a design which was previously used by Edward IV.

Collection
Accession number
M.205-1975

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Record createdFebruary 15, 2006
Record URL
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