Mourning Ring

Collection Type

  • Jewelry

Date

1766

GUSN

GUSN-101420

Description

Mourning ring consisting of two gold bands with black enamel decoration and inscriptions, center features two coffin-shaped bezels set with cut crystals over paper skeletons.

Details

Descriptive Terms

mourning rings
rings (jewelry)
gold (metal)
enamel (fused coating)
crystal (lead glass)
paper (fiber product)
mourning jewelry
mourning
Ring

Label

This unusual double mourning ring commemorates husband and wife Zephaniah and Hannah Leonard, who died on the same day in 1766. Beneath the coffin-shaped crystals lie tiny drawings of skeletons. Family tradition held that the eldest daughter of the eldest son in each generation would inherit the ring.
Mourning rings from this period often included images of skeletons, skulls, and other reminders of death's presence, recalled in the common phrase memento mori or “remember death.” Close family and friends received such rings to commemorate the dead. Mourning rings were often paid for with funds from the estate of the deceased.

Inscription

"Z.LEONARD. OB: 23. APRIL. AC: 1766 AE 63 / H. LEONARD. OB: 23. APRIL. AC: 1766 AE 62" (Enamel)

Additional Identification Number

866

Maker

Unknown

Location of Origin

Boston

Dimensions

1/4 (W), 3/4 (diameter) (inches)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. John Binney and Miss Margaret Bush

Accession Number

1935.646

Exhibition Notes

"Hidden Treasures from Elegant Eras," Historic Jewelry from the Collections of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities presented by Shreve, Crump & Low, September 15 - November 30, 1995. "Jewelry at Historic New England," Online exhibit presented by Historic New England launched September 30, 2007 at www.historicnewengland.org/jewelryhistory/.

Reference Notes

This ring is pictured and discussed in Fales, Martha Gandy, "Jewelry in America, 1600-1900," (1995): plate 6 and Sage, Adrienne, "Wealth, Style and Sentiment," Historic New England (Winter/Spring 2005): 6. For more information on mourning jewelry see Fales, Martha Gandy, "Jewelry in America, 1600-1900," (1995): 25-34.

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