Mourning ring

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A mourning ring primarily composed of gold set with jet and hair

A mourning ring is a finger ring worn in memory of someone who has died.[1] It often bears the name and date of death of the person, and possibly an image of them, or a motto. They were usually paid for by the person commemorated, or their heirs, and often specified, along with the list of intended recipients, in wills.[2] Stones mounted on the rings were usually black, where it could be afforded Jet stone was the preferred option.[3] Otherwise cheaper black materials such as black enamel or vulcanite were used.[3] White enamel was used on occasion particularly where the deceased was a child.[4] It also saw some use when the person being mourned hadn't married.[5] In some cases a lock of hair of the deceased person would be incorporated into the ring.[4] The use of hair in morning rings wasn't as widespread as it might have been due to concerns that the hair of the deceased would be substituted with other hair.[6]

The use of mourning rings date back to at least the 14th century[1] although its only in the 17th century that they clearly separated from more general Memento mori rings.[2] By the mid 18th century jewelers had started to advertise the speed with which such rings could be made.[4] The style largely settled upon was a single small stone with the deceased's particulars recorded in enamel on the hoop.[4] In the latter half of the 19th century the style shifted towards mass produced rings featuring a photograph mounted on the bezel before the use of mourning rings largely ceased towards the end of the century.[1]

Use of mourning rings resurfaced in 1930s and 40s in the United States.[7] The rings were made of bakelite and mounted a small picture of the person being mourned.[7]

People who bequeathed mourning rings[edit]

A Mourning ring made in Birmingham in 1825


  1. ^ a b c Tait, Hugh, ed. (2006). 7000 Years of Jewellery. British Museum Press. p. 239. ISBN 9780714150321. 
  2. ^ a b Barton, Caroline (31 October 2013). "Mourning rings: portable and poignant souvenirs". British Museum. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Antique Mourning Jewelry". Collectors weekly. Market Street Media. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Church, Rachel (2014). Rings. V&A Publishing. pp. 67–73. ISBN 9781851777853. 
  5. ^ "Mourning ring". University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  6. ^ Wall, Josie (19 Jan 2015). "Mourning Jewellery:Remembering the Dearly Departed". birmingham museums. birmingham museums. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Byrne, Eugene (30 March 2012). "When did the practice of funeral rings begin/end and how widespread was it?". Historyextra. Immediate Media Company Ltd. Retrieved 11 February 2015.