Mourning Ring thumbnail 1
Mourning 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

Mourning Ring

ca. 1719 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

From the early seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, testators left money in their wills to have rings with commemorative inscriptions made and distributed to their friends and families. Simple bands enamelled with the name and life dates of the deceased were frequently made, sometimes set with a gemstone or a bezel set with a rock crystal covering a symbol such as a coffin or initials in gold wire. In the later 18th century, rings followed neo-classical designs, their oval bezels often decorated with the same designs as funerary monuments such as urns, broken pillars and mourning figures. Hair from the deceased was incorporated into the designs or set in a compartment at the back of the ring to give each jewel a uniquely personal element. Black or white enamel were favoured though white enamel was often, though not universally used to commemorate children and unmarried adults.

This ring combines the features of an earlier 'memento mori' ring, used to remind the wearer of the inevitability of death and the need to prepare the soul and the memorial ring, made to commemorate a specific person. The hoop of the ring is decorated with a skeleton and crossbones, traditional signifiers of mortality, along with the inscription 'Memento mori' or 'Remember death'. The inscription inside the hoop tells us that it was made for S. Spiller, who died in 1719, aged 39. These rings were made for friends and family and sometimes distributed at the funeral.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Enamelled gold with rock crystal over black fabric
Brief Description
Enamelled gold mourning ring with a rock crystal panel over a piece of black silk. The hoop decorated with a skull and bones. Inscribed outside MEMENTO MORI; and inside S. Spiller ob. 14 May 1719 aet: 39. England, ca.1719.
Physical Description
Enamelled gold mourning ring, the hoop set with an oval facted crystal enclosing a piece of black silk. The Hoop decorated with a skull and bones reserved on black enamel. Inscribed outside MEMENTO MORI; and inside S. Spiller ob. 14 May 1719 aet: 39 Maker's mark T.T.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.2cm
  • Width: 2.1cm
  • Depth: 0.4cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Inscribed MEMENTO MORI (outside)
  • Inscribed S. Spiller ob. 14 May 1719 aet: 39 (Inside)
  • Marked T.T. (Maker's mark)
Object history
S. Spiller has not yet been identified but it is a name found in Devon. It may possibly refer to Simon Spiller who was born in Yarcombe, Devon about 1679 and christened 24 March 1679.
Subjects depicted
Summary
From the early seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, testators left money in their wills to have rings with commemorative inscriptions made and distributed to their friends and families. Simple bands enamelled with the name and life dates of the deceased were frequently made, sometimes set with a gemstone or a bezel set with a rock crystal covering a symbol such as a coffin or initials in gold wire. In the later 18th century, rings followed neo-classical designs, their oval bezels often decorated with the same designs as funerary monuments such as urns, broken pillars and mourning figures. Hair from the deceased was incorporated into the designs or set in a compartment at the back of the ring to give each jewel a uniquely personal element. Black or white enamel were favoured though white enamel was often, though not universally used to commemorate children and unmarried adults.



This ring combines the features of an earlier 'memento mori' ring, used to remind the wearer of the inevitability of death and the need to prepare the soul and the memorial ring, made to commemorate a specific person. The hoop of the ring is decorated with a skeleton and crossbones, traditional signifiers of mortality, along with the inscription 'Memento mori' or 'Remember death'. The inscription inside the hoop tells us that it was made for S. Spiller, who died in 1719, aged 39. These rings were made for friends and family and sometimes distributed at the funeral.
Collection
Accession Number
M.371-1923

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record createdJuly 7, 2006
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