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Ring

Ring

  • Place of origin:

    England

  • Date:

    1780-1800

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gold and ivory under a glass panel

  • Museum number:

    874-1888

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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. By the end of the 19th century, memorial ring designs were becoming more standardised. The hoops were often inscribed with phrases such as 'In memory' whilst a commemorative inscription could be added to the inside of the hoop. The custom of giving rings as memorials gradually declined in the early 20th century, although the Goldsmiths Journal suggests that some were still being sold in the 1930s.

Unlike many memorial rings, this one does not include the name of the deceased, merely the poignant inscription 'Forgive the wish that would have kept thee here' - a sign of the grief of those left behind alongside their hopes for a better life in heaven.

Physical description

Ring of gold with a narrow hoop expanding to a pointed oval bezel enclosing a painting on an ivory panel of a tomb with a covered urn, set under a weeping willow with the motto 'Forgive the wish that would have kept you thee here' around the border. The sepia coloured paint forming the picture appears to have been mixed with chopped hair and the bezel is covered with a glass panel. The outer edge of the bezel is lightly engraved with a pattern of two intertwined ribbons.

Place of Origin

England

Date

1780-1800

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gold and ivory under a glass panel

Marks and inscriptions

Unmarked

Dimensions

Height: 2.8 cm, Width: 2.1 cm, Depth: 2.2 cm

Object history note

Part of a group of memorial and mourning jewels bought from Dr Marco Guastalla, acting on behalf of 'an English lady residing in Italy' (museum numbers 846-1888 to 989-1888)

Descriptive line

Memorial or mourning ring of gold with pointed oval bezel enclosing a painting of a tomb under a weeping willow with the motto 'Forgive the wish that would have kept you thee here' around the border. England, 1780-1800.

Materials

Gold; Ivory; Hair; Glass

Categories

Metalwork; Jewellery; Death

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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