- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
British Galleries, Room 58, case 5
This is an English wedding ring. On the outside is an injunction or appeal to 'Observe wedloke'. The message is reinforced on the inside by the reminder in Latin, 'remember you must die', and therefore live virtuously.
Ownership & Use
At the beginning of the 16th century the normal practice in the marriage ceremony was for the ring to be placed on the third finger of the bride's right hand, but the first book of Common Prayer of Edward VI (1549) specifies the third finger of her left hand. This is probably because a misinterpretation of the ancient author Aulus Gellius (died about 180 AD) had been corrected. It was realised that his description of his belief that a vein flows direct from the third finger to the heart concerns the left hand, and not, as had previously been supposed, the right.
In Roman Catholic Europe in 1614 the Rituale Romanum, an official Catholic book that laid down the services of the church, followed the change of usage to placing the ring on the left hand. English Catholics (known as 'recusants', because they refused to attend Church of England services), however, followed the old practice until about the middle of the 18th century.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
Engraved 'OBSERVE WEDLOKE' and inside 'MEMENTO MORI' (Remember you must die)
Diameter: 2.2 cm estimated
Gold ring, engraved 'OBSERVE WEDLOKE' and inside 'MEMENTO MORI' (Remember you must die). England, c. 1500-1600.
Labels and date
Rings engraved with declarations of love were called posy rings (from 'poesy' meaning poetry). It is frequently not possible to tell which love rings were wedding rings, unless, like two of these rings, they make a direct reference to marriage. Any ring could be a wedding ring, and plain gold bands did not become common until the second half of the 17th century. Interlinking rings are known as gimmel rings (gimmel means twin). They symbolised the joining of two people. [27/03/2003]
Marriage; Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project; Death