Signet rings were first used as early as ancient times, but became especially popular in Medieval Europe, where they typically bore a family crest or coat of arms, and were used to stamp or ‘sign’ a document. The engraved portion of the ring would be pressed into soft wax or clay, leaving an impression that would identify the owner. The wax or clay seal would then be attached to a document to confirm its authenticity. The engraved imagery was not always a crest, but often a single image that personally identified the owner. The social status of the owner was reflected in the size and media of such seal rings, with the combination of motifs engraved on the bezel providing further insight into the owner’s identity, such as their place in a family. Wings were used in Medieval European heraldry as an emblem of protection. The two-headed eagle specifically was associated with empire and was first used as dynastic heraldry in the Byzantine Empire.
Bronze Signet Ring with Two-Headed Eagle
An extremely fine late medieval bronze signet ring with an octagonal bezel. The bezel is surrounded by an incised line and features a striking and finely engraved stylised design that may represent the classic heraldic motif of the two-headed eagle. Two feathered wings with curled ends at the top appear either side of a set of stacked lines, perhaps representing the body. Beneath this, two more feathered appendages extend downward with small lines incised beneath them, resembling legs, talons, and tail. This ensemble is crowned by a star-like shape flanked by two small circles, perhaps representing the two heads. An incised line frames the engraving. A zigzag patterned frieze borders the bezel and extremely fine incised lines decorate the upper part of the ring band. UK ring size: Q.
Provenance: Formerly in the collection of a gentleman from Essex, UK.
Condition: Extremely fine; one small stable crack on band upper; suitable for modern wear with care.