Signet Ring thumbnail 1
Signet 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

Signet Ring

1500-1550 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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 silver bezel of this ring is engraved with a rebus - a collection of images which can be sounded out to make a word. It includes the letter 'u', a wing and a cross or mast.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Engraved silver
Brief Description
Silver signet ring the circular bezel engraved with a rebus containing the letter 'U', the shoulders fluted with beaded edges, Western Europe, 1500-50.
Physical Description
Silver signet ring, the circular bezel engraved with a rebus containing the letter 'U'. The shoulders are fluted with beaded edges.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.8cm
  • Width: 2.7cm
  • Depth: 1.5cm
Object history
ex Waterton Collection
Subjects depicted
Summary
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 silver bezel of this ring is engraved with a rebus - a collection of images which can be sounded out to make a word. It includes the letter 'u', a wing and a cross or mast.
Collection
Accession Number
754-1871

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record createdFebruary 13, 2006
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