HESH-E35784: Post Medieval Mourning Ring

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Unique ID: HESH-E35784

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Inscribed gold finger ring with inlaid enamel panels and central semi-precious (possibly rock crystal) or glass stone setting. The ring dates to the late post-medieval or early modern period. It is inscribed with the date 1735 and is therefore not covered by either the Treasure Act 1996 or the Treasure Trove Laws as the ring is not more than 300 years old and that it cannot be proved to be buried with the intention of recovery. The finger ring is oval in plan and D shaped in cross section. The ring measures 22.8mm length and 21.5mm width, it is 3.4mm thick and weighs 3.73 grams.

The exterior face of the hoop of the ring is faceted being divided into five separate panels. Each of these panels is formed from an elongated oval which tapers and expands uniformly. On the outer face of each panel is an inscription. The inscription is formed from golden letters that have a setting of black enamel. This creates a striking contrast. The construction of this design is very well achieved and the craftsmanship of the piece is both well executed and shows much skill. It is likely that the letters were formed by the removing of a panel around them. The enamel has then been polished to form an even black surface. The inscription on the hoop of the ring reads MARY / &: SARAH / LITTLETON / OB 7:JUNE / :1735 :. The five panels are separated from each other by a series three vertical lines which have been recessed. The bezel of the ring has a hexagonal cut semi-precious (rock crystal) or glass setting which is secured by a series of crimps and claws. The front of the gold setting is relatively plain but the reverse is decorated with two scallop shells. The interior of the ring is undecorated and there are no makers or hall marks present.

The ring is in good condition. The interior of the ring is slightly worn and the overall shape has been slightly distorted through wear. There is also some damage from abrasion in the plough soil. This is most evident on several of the enamel panels where the underlying gold setting can be seen. This distorts several of the panels inscriptions, but not to the extent where they cannot be read. This style of ring is known as a 'Mourning Ring.' This style was relatively popular in both the Georgian and Victorian periods. A parallel for a similar mourning ring can be seen in Henig and Scarisbrick 'Finger Rings pages 66-67 example 3. This ring has similar enamel inlay but very different lettering and detail.

The finder has researched the history of the Littleton Family in the parish register of St Leonard, Bridgnorth. He has discovered that the ring commemorates the death of both Mary and her daughter Sarah. It is likely that Mary died giving birth to her daughter who was christened on the 7th June 1735. Unfortunately the baby Sarah died the following day. They were survived by the husband and father Thomas Littleton who is the most likely person to commission the ring.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Regional importance

Class: Mourning
Inscription: MARY / &: SARAH / LITTLETON / OB 7:JUNE / :1735 :

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Subperiod to: Early
Period to: MODERN
Date from: AD 1735

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 22.8 mm
Width: 21.5 mm
Thickness: 3.4 mm
Weight: 3.73 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Monday 30th May 2005

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Peter Reavill
Identified by: Mr Peter Reavill

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Manufacture method: Cast

Surface Treatment: Inlaid with enamel

Spatial metadata

Region: West Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Bridgnorth

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: HESH
Created: Wednesday 18th January 2006
Updated: Monday 28th October 2013

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