Vanitas translates into 'remember you must die'. Symbols such as coffins, skeletons, skulls and engravings were often used in sixteenth and seventeenth century jewelry as a reminder and a warning that eventually we all must die. These symbols were featured in Memento Mori jewelry and were often wrought in gold and black enamel, accented with gemstones.

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A Memento Mori Ring With A Diamond Flower Top Opening to Reveal an Enameled Skull c.1600s.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.