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Ring

Unknown1500/1600

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Object Type
This is an English wedding ring. On the outside is an injunction or appeal to 'Observe wedloke'. The message is reinforced on the inside by the reminder in Latin, 'remember you must die', and therefore live virtuously.

Ownership & Use
At the beginning of the 16th century the normal practice in the marriage ceremony was for the ring to be placed on the third finger of the bride's right hand, but the first book of Common Prayer of Edward VI (1549) specifies the third finger of her left hand. This is probably because a misinterpretation of the ancient author Aulus Gellius (died about 180 AD) had been corrected. It was realised that his description of his belief that a vein flows direct from the third finger to the heart concerns the left hand, and not, as had previously been supposed, the right.

In Roman Catholic Europe in 1614 the Rituale Romanum, an official Catholic book that laid down the services of the church, followed the change of usage to placing the ring on the left hand. English Catholics (known as 'recusants', because they refused to attend Church of England services), however, followed the old practice until about the middle of the 18th century.

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Details

  • Title: Ring
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1500/1600
  • Location: England
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 2.2 cm estimated
  • Medium: Engraved gold

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