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Mourning ring

c. 1820

Gold ring, the rectangular swivel bezel set on one side with a rectangular emerald and ten pearls and on the other a carved gold frame surrounding a hairwork panel, the shoulders set with three emeralds and a pearl

16.6 mm internal ring diameter; 7.6 g weight

On loan from Evelyn Lee and Margaret Woodcock; LI1045.9

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 By the seventeenth century, the tradition of bequeathing actual rings once owned by the departed was superseded by the allocation of money in a will for the purchase of new ones for a given list of recipients.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.

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