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Mourning ring

England

Dated 1713

Gold hoop, enamelled black with hour glass and grave digger's pick and shovel; inscribed within IS OBT 24 JUNE 1713 AET 60

15.29 mm internal ring diameter; 6.29 g weight

Bought in London

Presented by Dr C.D.E. Fortnum in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897; WA1897.CDEF.F646

Scarisbrick and Henig, Finger Rings, 2003, pl. 24.2

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 By the seventeenth century, the tradition of bequeathing actual rings once owned by the departed was superseded by the allocation of money in a will for the purchase of new ones for a given list of recipients.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