This gold ring decorated with black enamel, is inscribed ‘Sam Forth obt 9 Aug 1724 æta 36’, using abbreviations of the Latin ‘obiit’, meaning ‘died’, and ‘ætat’, meaning ‘aged’. Samuel Forth was a brewer in Southwark, who made a will a few days before he died, declaring himself ‘at this present time sick and of an infirm Body but of sound and disposing mind and memory’.
Some of his bequests to his family were ‘for mourning’. These would have mainly covered the cost of the black clothing worn for a period after his death, including cloaks and hatbands, but could also have included the cost of a ring, and it is likely that this object was owned by one of the relatives named in the will. Like many early 18th century mourning rings, this includes symbols of mortality: a full skeleton with a crossed pick and shovel, a funerary symbol which represents the tools of the undertaker. This ring would not only have been a memorial to a loved one, but a reminder to the wearer that life is short.