Monday, March 13, 2017
This gouache rendering of a personalized signet ring comes from a trove of early 20th century jewelry designs left by designing goldsmith Gustav Manz.
The entwined snakes allude to Mercury the messenger, and are often used as a symbol of medicine, though strictly speaking a single snake wrapped around a rod known as the staff of Asclepius was the image ancients associated with healing.
Sticking with a medical theme, the initials 'PRN' on the left shank could be an abbreviation for pro re nata ("use as needed") which was invoked by medicos of yore along with primum non nocere ("first do no harm"). And the initials 'LH' on the right could refer to Lenox Hill hospital, where one of Manz's daughters received her R.N. in 1924. Originally known as the German Hospital, the clinic on Manhattan's Upper East Side was renamed in July 1918, as antipathy toward the city's sizable population of German-born immigrants revved up during WWI.
Of course, the letters may have had nothing to do with doctors and nurses and simply been a token of love, from one set of initials to another. 'JAN' and 'U' tucked into openings between the twining serpents suggest a month that may have had significance to a prospective buyer—another jewelry mystery yet to be solved.