They could be pressed into hot wax to seal letters and act as a legal safeguard to witness wills, loans, commercial, personal and other documents.
Accordingly, they were often engraved with a coat of arms, initials, merchant’s mark or some other personal symbol.
Several 17th century gold examples were offered by TimeLine (30% inc VAT buyer’s premium) in Harwich, Essex, on February 21 from the same London collection formed in the 1980s.
This example is engraved to the bezel with a skull and two flowers separating the reversed initials CL. The name of the original owner has been lost although his choice of subject matter gives us a clue to his thoughts.
Memento mori or ‘remember that you must die’ imagery served as a reminder to Christians of the need to keep the soul in good order for the final judgment.
It was estimated at £5000-7000 but made £15,000.
A similar Stuart period ring from the same collection sold at £10,000 (estimate £3000-4000). The crest engraved to this example comprised an arm and hand holding a floral spray.