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Home > Auctions > 3rd September 2014 > Medieval Gold 'Hart' Signet Ring

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LOT 0906

Sold for (Inc. bp): £7,502

1" (16 grams, 26mm overall, 21.39mm internal diameter (approximate size British Y, USA 12, Europe 27.51, Japan 26)).

A substantial finger ring with D-section hoop shoulders decorated with diagonal scrolling bands, the concave portions ornamented with five-petalled pansies and foliage, expanding shoulders; the circular bezel bearing the cut signet seal design of a hart (stag) couchant with large antlers, collared and chained with a three-petalled lily with leaves in the field each side, with black letter 'ht' monogram below being a punning abbreviation of the name Hart.

Property of a gentleman; acquired from an old jewellery collection in the 1980s, thence by descent.

See Victoria & Albert Museum, number M 202 for a 15th century ring showing a hart couchant signet for Edmund Hart; see British Museum, the 'Raglan Ring', dated to 1440-1475 AD; see Dalton, O. M. Franks Bequest Catalogue of the Finger Rings, British Museum, 1912, number 289, for a generally similar ring of the 15th century; see British Museum, accession number 1967-1208.4 for a further example of a similar ring dated to 1400-1464 AD.

The surname Hart (or le Hart, Harte, Hartman, etc.) is of Medieval origin and derives from the frequent use in this period of nicknames that give a punning allusion. The nickname 'hart' comes from the pre-7th century 'heorot' and would suggest that the bearer is fleet of foot. Such gold rings were most likely not worn directly on the flesh of a finger but rather would have habitually been worn over a leather glove by a member of the nobility and probably reserved for wear on important social or ceremonial occasions.