Mourning Rings


front view Antique diamond and pearl 'urn' memorial ring, circa 1780.
Antique diamond and pearl 'urn' memorial ring, circa 1780.
Ref: 14282

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.

Amethyst memorial ring for the Right Honourable George Grenville
Amethyst memorial ring for the Right Honourable George Grenville (British Prime Minister, 1763-1765)
Ref: 12510
front view antique Diamond Pearl Mourning diamond ring hatton garden berganza
Antique Rose Diamond and Pearl Mourning Ring, circa 1770.
Ref: 14281
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