Our featured items are part of a varied collection of mourning jewellery. Rings or lockets were often worn in memory of a loved one for a specified time after their death. The idea of bequeathing a piece of jewellery dates from the Middle Ages and was common practice by the seventeenth century. Generally the name and dates of the loved one would be engraved on a ground of black enamel with some embellishments. These rings or brooches would have been expensive and the money was traditionally left in a will for the express purpose of having a piece of jewellery made.
There was a massive surge in the amount of mourning rings being made in the 1660's as a direct result of the Black Death.
The motifs remain constant throughout the centuries although the styles change. They would include, primarily, a skull and cross-bones, a skeleton, sometimes an hour-glass to remind people of the short span of life or even a spade in some cases, this was usually coupled with the legend 'Memento Mori' , 'AET' or 'OBT'.
For further examples, please see the funerary collection at the British Museum.