In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the practice of bequeathing rings belonging to the deceased to friends and family was gradually replaced by the custom of leaving a sum of money to buy commemorative and mourning rings. Later in the seventeenth century, rings were distributed at the funeral service to be worn in memory of the deceased. 'Memento mori' (remember you must die) inscriptions and devices such as hourglasses, skulls, crossbones and skeletons became fashionable on many types of jewellery, reminding the wearer of the brevity of life and the necessity of preparing for life in the world to come.
The mark on the other side of the bezel is a merchant's mark, used by a trader to mark his goods and adopted as a signet by those not entitled to a coat of arms. The ring therefore combines a spiritual function with a practical commercial use. This ring was found in Guildford but merchant's marks were used across Northern Europe.