Ring thumbnail 1
Ring thumbnail 2
Not currently on display at the V&A

Ring

1809
Place Of Origin

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.

The inscription on the back of this ring tells us that it commemorates a child who died aged 9. The child's initials are set over a plaited panel of hair. Mourners often felt that hair was a lasting and personal memorial of the deceased.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold, plaited hair and glass
Brief Description
Memorial or mourning ring with wide gold hoop and circular bezel. The bezel is set with a loop of plaited hair under a glass cover. The initials EWL in gold are set over the central hair panel. England, 1809.
Physical Description
Memorial or mourning ring with wide gold hoop and circular bezel. The bezel is set with a loop of plaited hair under a glass cover. The initials EWL in gold are set over the central hair panel. The back of the bezel has the engraved inscription.' E.W.L. ob 16 May 1809 aet 9 yrs'
Marks and Inscriptions
E.W.L. ob 16 May 1809 aet 9 yrs
Object history
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)
Summary
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.



The inscription on the back of this ring tells us that it commemorates a child who died aged 9. The child's initials are set over a plaited panel of hair. Mourners often felt that hair was a lasting and personal memorial of the deceased.
Bibliographic Reference
Oman, Charles, Catalogue of rings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1930, reprinted Ipswich, 1993, cat. 906
Collection
Accession Number
884-1888

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdJune 24, 2009
Record URL