Medieval Rings

les Enluminures

Skull and Corpse Chic in Mourning Rings: Beauty to Die For

Object of the Month

From the seventeenth century onwards mementoes for friends or family to remember their loved ones were customary at all levels of society. Codicils in wills specified that money be left for rings to be made, distributed, and worn at the funeral, and sometimes even defined the wording of the inscriptions or motifs. They were also tokens of sentiment. The closeness to the deceased determined the choice of materials, size, or embellishment of the rings. Despite their purpose, these rings were often anything but austere in style. Some examples combined skulls with daisy flowers celebrating the vulnerability of life with the promise of a new beginning. Others plaited the hair of the corpse into the gold band of the ring. The colors are striking and stark, black (for married) and white (for unmarried and children). Today such rings are fashion statements.  They reflect popular culture’s fascination with death as evidenced in, for example, the setting of the latest James Bond film Spectre during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or in Keith Richard’s famous skull ring, now a symbol of Rock and Roll.

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