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Mourning ring

England

Dated 1755

Gold mourning ring, the bezel formed as a white enamelled urn, set with eleven diamonds surrounded by fourteen amethysts, all above a hinged cavity with a plait of hair; white hoop inscribed AB OB MAY 19 1755: IF I FORGET THEE

15.9 mm internal ring diameter; 4.47 g weight

Bought in London

Presented by Dr C.D.E. Fortnum in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897; WA1897.CDEF.F655

The white enamel indicates that the deceased was not married.

Scarisbrick and Henig, Finger Rings, 2003, pl. 24.4

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 By the seventeenth century, the tradition of bequeathing actual rings once owned by the departed was superseded by the allocation of money in a will for the purchase of new ones for a given list of recipients.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