When his father passed away in 2019, Rebus founder Emmet Smith, set about designing an everyday signet ring to wear in his memory.
Emmet, who already owns another signet engraved with the Latin ‘Memento Vivere’ or ‘Remember to Live’, is no stranger to the historic tradition of memento mori jewellery. Wanting to create a personalised version of this style in memory of his dear departed Dad, Philip (a.k.a. Dickie, Detsy, the Captain), he set about bringing his bespoke vision to life.
For those looking for an utterly unique piece outside of our core range of customisable jewellery, the Rebus Bespoke service is the perfect choice. Emmet's vision - in terms of ring size, design, and materials used - required this fully bespoke approach.
Following a visit to the Ancient Egyptian wing of a museum in Berlin, Emmet became fascinated with the civilisation’s use of ear iconography in art and even jewellery. Commonplace in the 18th Dynasty, ‘hearing ears’ were carved into the walls of temples or worn as amulets, so that people might have the sacred ear of their deity and could share a message with gods and goddesses.
Given that ear amulets are thought to symbolise connection with a specific deity or person, Emmet decided to engrave an ear onto one shoulder of the signet ring as a form of communication with his father.
“I occasionally hum a tune or say a few words into ‘his ear’. It is a comfort for me. Not to mention it would appeal to my Dad’s sense of humour and makes me chuckle sometimes.”
Made from 18ct yellow gold, the signet ring is a larger version of the Rebus Marquise. White vitreous enamel was chosen for the surface, in keeping with its traditional use in Victorian memento mori jewellery. Embossed into the enamel are gold letters that read, “Not by words”.
Those familiar with Rebus might recognise this Latin motto - “Non verbis, sed Rebus” or “Not by words, but by ideas” - as the Latin motto from which the company takes its name. It originates from Emmet’s tearaway youth, when his Dad would always be on hand with a hug in times of trouble; no words needed.
The dark green enamel in the centre of the ring is a nod to Philip’s proud Irish heritage. This colour choice offsets the white border, and has inadvertently created the appearance of an eye.
“That was not planned but I’ve always loved beautiful mistakes.”
Upon the green enamel is an engraved door. After his father had passed, Emmet discovered one of his notebooks. Inside, the first and only entry was a sonnet he had copied, alongside a note that it was one of the most beautiful poems he had ever read. One line about an open door struck a particular chord for Emmet. The image of the door is a powerful metaphor, and their two hearts engraved upon that door need no explanation.
Sonnet by Gamel Woolsey
When I am dead and laid at last to rest,
Let them not bury me in holy ground –
To lie the shipwrecked sailor cast ashore –
But give the corpse to fire, to flood, to air,
The elements that may the flesh transform
To soar with birds, to float where fishes are,
To rise in smoke, shine in a leaping flame –
To be in freedom lost in nothingness,
Not garnered in the grave, hoarded by death.
What is remembrance that we crave for it?
Let me be nothing then, not face nor name;
As on the seagull wings where bright seas pour,
As air that quickens at the opened door:
When I am dead, let me be nothing more.
When I am dead and laid at last to rest.
Emmet is not finished with the piece just yet and intends to engrave another shoulder, in addition to a message inside the shank - perhaps a line from Philip’s favourite Neil Young song. Whatever direction the signet ring should take next, for Emmet, it is a daily reminder, a form of enduring communication, and a lasting tribute to their love. Father and son.
Inspired by this beautiful and unique tribute? For those wishing to design a piece outside of the customisable jewellery range, you too can begin your own journey with the Rebus Bespoke Service. Please email email@example.com or book an appointment at our Hatton Garden workshop or via Zoom to find out more.