This memento mori or mourning ring commemorated Alice Christy Colden's death in 1762. As was customary during the time, mourning rings were distributed at funerals to important mourners (such as pall bearers) as keepsakes or mementos of the deceased.
It was typical for American jewelers and goldsmiths to keep a stock of these rings in their shops. Most of these were without elaborate decoration and, owing to their small size and shape, it was unusual for them to be marked.
Alice Christy was the wife of Governor Cadwallader Colden. She married Colden in New York in 1715 and devoted herself to both him and their family. She was considered to be extremely well educated for her time and was often called upon to assist her husband in his financial affairs.(Edwin Ruthven Purple,Genealogical Notes of the Colden Family in America, New York: Privately printed, 1873).RGovernor Colden was born in Ireland and educated at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He emigrated to Philadelphia in 1710. Five years later during a brief trip back to the Isles, he married Alice Christy, daughter of a Scotch clergyman. The couple moved to New York and in 1721 Colden was appointed to the Governor's Council. In 1761 he became the lieutenant governor of the colony, a position he retained until his death in 1776.
Governor Colden's achievements extended beyond the scope of his official duties. A zealous scholar throughout his life, he wrote several treatises on subjects such as mathematics, botany, medicine, and philosophy. His book, The History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New York was published in 1727 and was reprinted several times. Among his associates were men such as Benjamin Franklin, Carl Linnaeus, and Samuel Johnson.
A similar scrolled mourning ring with black enamel is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and is illustrated in American Silver 1655-1825 in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 1972, p. 300, cat. entry 254. A gold mourning ring enamelled in black sold in these Rooms, January 27, 1996, lot 103.