Tudor death’s head ring

Death’s head memento mori ring

Exceptionally rare late 16th century ‘Death’s head’ memento mori ring. A category of gold rings featuring the immediately recognisable symbol of life’s brevity, the death’s head or skull, became extremely popular during the 16th century. A death’s head ring was listed amongst the contents of Catherine Parr’s jewel box in 1549 and the 25 rings bequeathed by one Mary Finch in 1557 had ‘the figure of death hed in euerye of them’. This Tudor high carat gold ring is inset with a black and white enamel skull within a border inscribed Behould thy ende, between volute shoulders. The archaic spelling is delightfully irregular and the motif and inscription acknowledge the brevity and vanity of life. The ring is size O [US 7] and in completely original and very wearable condition. It is the best example of this model of ring I have had and I’ve only had three in 40 years. For similar examples see the V and A Museum, British Museum and Ashmolean Museum ring collections and Plate 85 in Oman’s British Rings.