17th Century Dutch Merchant Ring of Silver
Merchants rings hold a special place in the intricate and diverse history of the ring. Merchants used rings engraved with images, cyphers (initials), crests and symbols that demarcated their line of business, their personal emblems and the like. Similar to the function of a signature today, documents, contracts and other papers were sealed in wax with impressions often made from the ring from a rich merchant’s hand. Set of silver, this ring probably hales from the Dutch region. Stalks of some flower or plant, long slender reeds, a crown, and a blackamoor are the symbols for this merchant. Trading with the East India Company would be a likely assumption for a merchant trading in such goods as coffee, tea, tobacco, spices and peppers and ginger are all difficult to represent in a seal. The sheaves and flora certainly point to a trader of some such goods. Certainly the plant could be a pepper plant with its long slender leaves.
Merchant rings flourished in the 15th-17th centuries and have all similar characteristics. Usually bold and simple in overall form, their tops are planar and flat, of course to facilitate the sealing in wax. Most are either oval, round or a geometric shape and are substantial enough to bear the wear and tear of use.
This ring is deeply and artfully engraved. Note the detail of the crown, the central profile with the head scarf and beads, and the lyrical use of geometric borders. Tactile patina from use and wear over the centuries renders the metal silken and smooth. In excellent condition with little of note for its extreme age. Notice too the intricate radiating line pattern on the underside, so commonly found in rings of the 17th and early 18th century. Top measures over ¾ of an inch long by 11/16 inches wide and over 1/8 inch deep. The shank, incised with saw-toothed designs in several rows, is approximately ¼ inch wide, widening slightly at each point where it meets the top. Powerful and poetic, a superb collector’s piece that is wearable everyday. Currently a size 9 and is a man’s ring but looks striking on a woman’s hand. Circa 1670 and most likely Dutch in origin.