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. Lions were a key symbol in European heraldry and appear more frequently than any other animal. They traditionally symbolise courage and royalty.
Medieval Bronze Ring with Stylised Lion
A fine late medieval bronze signet ring with a circular bezel surrounded by an incised line. The engraved motif at its centre is rendered in fine short strokes, resembling a stylised lion. The animal is shown standing on four legs, with a long tail capped by a tuft of fur stretching upwards. The body extends into a broad neck with an abstract head and shaggy mane. UK ring size: S.
Provenance: Formerly in the collection of a gentleman from Essex, UK.
Condition: Very fine; suitable for modern wear with care.