Signet Ring thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Signet Ring

1550-1600 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

A seal or signet ring was used to apply the wearer's personal mark to the sealing wax on a document. The seal then demonstrated the legality of the document and the identification of the issuing authority or individual. 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.

If the flower engraved on this ring is truly a sunflower, it would have been a very recent introduction from the New World. Sunflower seeds were brought over from the Americas in the mid-16th century and the flowers were lauded for their great height and brilliant colour. The first record of sunflowers was brought to England in John Frampton's 1577 translation of the Spaniard Nicolas Monardes' "Joyfull Newes out of the Newe Founde World", describing the flower as the 'Hearbe of the Sunne', ' greater than a greate Platter or Dishe' and coming in 'divers coulers' .

The flower set between the letters T and S may be a personal emblem or perhaps part of a rebus for the owner's name?



object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Engraved gold with a pearled border
Brief Description
Gold signet ring, the oval bezel engraved with a hand holding a sunflower, between 'T' and 'S', with a pearled border, West Europe, 1550-1600.
Physical Description
Gold signet ring, the oval bezel engraved with a hand holding a sunflower, between 'T' and 'S', with a pearled border
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.4cm
  • Width: 2.6cm
  • Depth: 1.6cm
Marks and Inscriptions
engraved with a hand holding a sunflower, between 'T' and 'S'
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Subjects depicted
Summary
A seal or signet ring was used to apply the wearer's personal mark to the sealing wax on a document. The seal then demonstrated the legality of the document and the identification of the issuing authority or individual. 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.



If the flower engraved on this ring is truly a sunflower, it would have been a very recent introduction from the New World. Sunflower seeds were brought over from the Americas in the mid-16th century and the flowers were lauded for their great height and brilliant colour. The first record of sunflowers was brought to England in John Frampton's 1577 translation of the Spaniard Nicolas Monardes' "Joyfull Newes out of the Newe Founde World", describing the flower as the 'Hearbe of the Sunne', ' greater than a greate Platter or Dishe' and coming in 'divers coulers' .



The flower set between the letters T and S may be a personal emblem or perhaps part of a rebus for the owner's name?



Collection
Accession Number
M.221-1975

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record createdDecember 15, 2005
Record URL