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Mourning ring

England

Dated 1782

Gold mourning ring, the bezel set with an amethyst surrounded by seventeen flat-cut diamonds, the hoop with white enamel and bright cut decoration under the bezel; inscribed R Admi Richd Kempenfelt ob 29th Aug 1782 aged 67

14.87 mm internal ring diameter; 4.4 g weight

On loan from Evelyn Lee and Margaret Woodcock; LI1045.13

This ring commemorates the death of Richard Kempenfelt (1718-29-1782), a elebrated British rear-admiral who most notably won against the French at the Battle of Ushant in 1781. Kempenfelt lost his life trapped in his cabin on the /HMS Royal George /when the ship sank off Portsmouth in 1782. The white enamel suggests that Kempenfelt died a bachelor.

Mourning ring: The distribution of mourning rings to the friends and loved ones of the deceased dates back to the fourteenth century. By the seventeenth century, the tradition of bequeathing actual rings once owned by the departed was superseded by the allocation of money in a will for the purchase of new ones for a given list of recipients. The rings were inscribed with the name, date of death and age of the deceased and took on various forms depending on the fashion of the age. Their distribution finally dwindled in the nineteenth century following the invention of the photograph as an alternative keepsake.