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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst
|Date Made:||1795-1810, with later alterations|
|Materials:||gold; rose gold; polychrome enamels; beveled crystal|
|Place Made:||United Kingdom; England (probably)|
|Measurements:||overall: 1 1/4 x 1 1/8 in.; 3.175 x 2.8575 cm|
|Accession Number: ||HD 53.039|
|Credit Line:||Gift of V. Andrus||
Man's ring, possibly for mourning, but it may have originally been a brooch or locket that was later turned into a ring. The generic mourning scene of a weeping mourner and lack of other information suggests it was not made to commemorate a specific person's death. The custom of distributing gold mourning rings originated in Europe, where it first gained popularity after the execution of Charles I in England in 1649. Most American mourning rings of this period were a variation on the engraved gold band. Symbols that now seem macabre to the modern eye, including coffins, skulls, and crossbones enameled with black or white, were frequently incorporated into mourning rings. These served as a constant reminder of the wearer’s mortality, while the circular band suggested eternity. Scrollwork designs influenced by Rococo motifs were also popular decoration for mourning rings, and were highlighted with enamel or colored stones. Bands were inscribed with personal information of the deceased, usually the name accompanied by the dates of birth and death.
Mourning or funeral rings were made to distribute at the funeral to friends and relatives; the quantity depended on the prominence of the individual. While wealthier colonists commissioned their rings from London jewelers, they were also produced by American goldsmiths. Early goldsmiths and jewelry makers utilized trade cards to establish their business and advertise the variety of their products. The high demand for memorial jewelry was the foundation of the American jewelry industry. This particular example features a gold mourning finger ring with an oval enamel scene of a woman leaning against a plinth with a stylized inscription on the front, done in shades of brown, beige and blue.
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