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

A seal or signet ring was used to apply the wearer's personal mark to the sealing wax on a document. The seal then denoted the legality of the document and the identification of the issuing authority or individual. The ring could be engraved with a coat of arms, if the owner was entitled to use one, or with a personal initial, a merchant's mark or as in this ring, a rebus which spelled out the owner's name. The letters 'wy' and 'ot' are engraved either side of a tree, perhaps an elm. The capital letter R is at the base of the tree. This may perhaps be read as R. Wylmot, the person for whom the ring was made.

This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.




object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold, engraved
Brief Description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a rebus (a tree, perhaps an elm) between 'wy' and 'ot' with 'r' below in black lettering, made in England, 1500-50.
Physical Description
Gold signet ring with a circular bezel engraved with a rebus (a tree, perhaps an elm) between 'wy' and 'ot' with 'r' below in black lettering, possibly for R. Wylmot.
Dimensions
  • Height: 3cm
  • Width: 3cm
  • Depth: 1.3cm
Marks and Inscriptions
A rebus (a tree, perhaps an elm), between 'wy' and 'ot' with 'r' below (Inscribed in black lettering, possibly for R. Wylmot.)
Object history
Ex Waterton Collection, from the Coleby Hall Sale, held after the death of Charles Mainwaring, 7 Oct. 1850. Described by Waterton in the Dactyliotheca as "Massive gold signet, device a tree on the foot of which is a capital R: on one side of the tree wy and on the other ot. Supposing the tree to be an elm the rebus resolves itself with the name R. wy-elm-ot or Wylmot. From the Coleby Hall sale, XV cent. "

Results of the sale listed in Lincolnshire Notes & Queries, Volumes 22-24, 1932.
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 denoted the legality of the document and the identification of the issuing authority or individual. The ring could be engraved with a coat of arms, if the owner was entitled to use one, or with a personal initial, a merchant's mark or as in this ring, a rebus which spelled out the owner's name. The letters 'wy' and 'ot' are engraved either side of a tree, perhaps an elm. The capital letter R is at the base of the tree. This may perhaps be read as R. Wylmot, the person for whom the ring was made.



This ring forms part of a collection of 760 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.





Bibliographic References
  • Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982), 33/D/10
  • Oman, Charles, Catalogue of rings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1930, reprinted Ipswich, 1993, p.552
  • Waterton, Edmund Dactyliotheca Watertoniana: a descriptive catalogue of the finger-rings in the collection of Mrs Waterton, (manuscript, 1866, now in National Art Library), p. 245
  • A catalogue of the antiquities and works of art exhibited at Ironmongers Hall in the month of May 1861, edited by George Russell French, London 1869, vol ii, p. 508
Collection
Accession Number
794-1871

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record createdFebruary 15, 2006
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