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Mourning ring

England

Early 18th century

Gold mourning ring, the bezel chased and enamelled with colour and set with a crystal covering a reversible cypher between crossed palms, beneath coronet, the hoop chased and enamelled at the shoulders

13.67 mm internal ring diameter; 3.76 g weight

Given to Fortnum by the Reverend J.E. Waldy

Presented by Dr C.D.E. Fortnum in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897; WA1897.CDEF.F649

Taylor and Scarisbrick, Finger Rings from Ancient Egypt to the present day, 1978, no. 796

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 By the seventeenth century, the tradition of bequeathing actual rings once owned by the departed was superseded by the allocation of money in a will for the purchase of new ones for a given list of recipients.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