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Signet ring

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1480-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gold with traces of black enamel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:

    M.215-1975

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 9, shelf A, box 8

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 hand holding a bunch of flowers (perhaps a personal or family device) and the name John Devereux. The shoulders are engraved with Tau crosses, associated with St Anthony and believe to protect against various sicknesses. The ring therefore combines a practical, business function with an amuletic role.

Physical description

Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a hand holding five flowers and inscribed in black letter iohn: devereux The shoulders engraved with Tau crosses and sprigs, with traces of black enamel

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1480-1600 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gold with traces of black enamel

Marks and inscriptions

inscribed iohn: devereux
in black letter

Dimensions

Height: 2.5 cm, Width: 2.4 cm, Depth: 1.7 cm

Historical context note

The Tau cross was associated with St. Anthony, whose intervention was sought to protect against erysipelas and other diseases

Descriptive line

Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a hand holding five flowers and inscribed in black letter iohn: devereux The shoulders engraved with Tau crosses and sprigs, with traces of black enamel, England, 1480-1600.

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted

Tau crosses; Hands; Flowers

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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