Mourning Rings

Article from Berganza


Post Medieval Tudor gold 'Beholde the ende` skull ring. Hatton Garden
Tudor enameled 'BEHOLD THE ENDE' skull ring, English, circa 17th century AD.
Ref: 26407

Wednesday 10th March 2010

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.

Georgian diamond and enamel memorial ring, circa 1790.
Georgian diamond and enamel memorial ring, circa 1790.
Ref: 25651
front view Antique mourning ring gold berganza hatton garden
Georgian enameled mourning ring, English, circa 1827.
Ref: 22350
Georgian mourning ring, circa 1760. berganza hatton garden
Georgian garnet and diamond mourning ring, English, circa 1760.
Ref: 22033
Amethyst memorial ring for the Right Honourable George Grenville
Amethyst memorial ring for the Right Honourable George Grenville (British Prime Minister, 1763-1765), English, circa 1770.
Ref: 12510
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