Museum Quality Medieval Gold Seal Ring circa 15th Century

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Medieval gold seal ring. A substantial yellow gold seal ring, the central octagonal plaque engraved with a shield or escutcheon of nine finely engraved partitions, encircled by eight indented pellets and flanked by broad integrated shoulders conforming smoothly to the finger and leading through to a gently tapering twisted solid shank, engraved in serifed capitals to the interior '.W.F.', approximately 32.2g in weight. Tested yellow gold, circa 15th century.

The shape of the shield indicates a Continental coat of arms; the imagery within the shield has been identified as amongst other motifs, the ermine (a member of the stoat family prized for its fur and a symbol of high status and royalty), the martlet (mythological swallow like bird), mascle (repeated lozenge shape) and cinquefoil (five petal flower).

This ring is large in finger size and would have been worn by gentleman over a glove, usually on the thumb or first finger. Rings of this type can be seen in the portraits of the time, worn on the finger or on a cord around the neck. See the National Maritime Museum, London's portrait of Sir John Hawkins, 1581, object number BHC2755.

Seal rings were not only an important symbol of status, but more significantly, an essential device which was used by the nobility to authorise important documents by applying their personal seal in wax. This was the Medieval equivalent of a modern-day signature and dated to a time when only a privileged few could read or write.
Of the Period
Date of Manufacture
Circa 15th century
15th Century and Earlier
Yellow Gold
Dealer Location
London, United Kingdom
Number of Items
Reference Number
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1stdibs seller since 2011
Located in London, GB