RENAISSANCE SIGNET RING WITH HELMETED FISH AND INITIALS “R*S”
Western Europe, late 15th to early 16th century
Weight 13.3 gr.; bezel 16.2 x 12.9 mm.; circumference 62.86 mm.; US size 10 ¼; UK size U
The octagonal bezel with engraved line and punched dot frame surrounds a shield with a fish and crested helmet. Above are the initials “R*S” in reverse. The interior of the hoop is plain, and it is flat on the exterior with beveled edges and increasing in width at the shoulders. As new trade routes encouraged widespread commerce during the Renaissance, the middle classes began to wear signet rings, previously restricted to the nobility as signs of rank and authority. For tradesmen, signet rings served as a utilitarian means of authentication in the exchange of documents, property, or merchandise. Pressed into hot sealing wax, the inverted imagery with initials would print correctly, conferring legal sanctity on a transaction. We have been unable to identify the family crest of this ring; perhaps the fish is meant to evoke symbolically a surname.