ashmolean

Finger Ring Collection

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Mourning ring

Probably England

18th/ 19th century

Gold ring, the oval bezel set with a dark sardonyx with a white band across it, the reverse with a twined lock of hair beneath glass or rock crystal

18.04 mm internal ring diameter; 3.2 g weight

Bequeathed by Miss Elizabeth Suddaby, 2009; WA2009.7

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 By the seventeenth century, the tradition of bequeathing actual rings once owned by the departed was superseded by the allocation of money in a will for the purchase of new ones for a given list of recipients.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