In the centuries leading up to the Victorian era, the rude brevity of human life was accepted—even advertised—in popular culture, as evidenced by this so-called "death's head" ring from 1677. It's a piece of memento mori jewelry, which borrows its name from a Latin phrase meaning "remember your death." It was widely prevalent during the 1600s and 1700s, and usually contained fatalistic symbols like skulls, coffins, or grim reapers. This particular ring was commemorative—the interior is inscribed "In mem of Eliz Emont 10 May 77".
from the archive