Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Mourning Ring

England, 1820

Gold, seed pearls, enamel, hair

  • 2.200 €
  • £1,900
  • $2,500
  • Mourning Ring

    England, 1820
    Gold, seed pearls, enamel, hair
    Weight 2.1 gr.; circumference 56.6 mm.; US size 6.25; UK size M

    In the nineteenth century love and affection in life and in death was expressed on a miniature scale on delicate rings with hidden symbols and messages. At first glance these rings appear decorative, yet their symbolism is quite intricate. The choice of black enamel alludes to the use of the ring as a sign of mourning for the deceased. Black onyx and Whitby jet were popular alternatives. Cut as a keepsake before burial and then given to the goldsmith, hair inserted in the hoop would have been taken from the deceased. Flowers, such as roses, symbolized enduring love after death. Traditionally pearls were worn by widows, perhaps relating to ancient myths in which pearls were thought to be formed from the tears of gods.               

    Description:
    Wide gold band, plain on the interior, inside hollow and filled with brown hair and on the exterior there are alternate rectangular and quatrefoil openings through which it becomes visible. The borders are engraved with floral motifs, arches and dots. The black enameled bezel has the shape of a rectangular shield with tapered ends (underneath beaded wire along the hoop enforces the structure). Inlaid are three flowers (roses?) with golden petals and pearls in the center. Inside the hoop is the maker’s or retailer’s mark with initials “WGM” and the hallmark for 9 carat gold “9” “375,” the shield with three wheatsheafs for Chester Assay Office and the date letter “c” for 1820-1 (see Pickford (ed.) 2011, pp. 392 and 396.  The hair is missing in parts due to the age of the ring, which is otherwise in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    Such mourning rings were made in production by retail companies and then sold through jewelers; cf. a collection of mourning jewels designed by the London manufacturer Saunders & Sheperd Ltd. See Peter Hinks, Victorian Jewelry, An Illustrated Collection of Exquisite 19th Century Jewelry, New York, 1991, pp. 172f.

    Reference number: 530

  • Pearls

    Organic gems grown within oysters and a few other mollusks, pearls are formed when a foreign object (like a tiny stone) has made its way into the mollusk's shell. The mollusk secretes nacre , a lustrous substance that coats the intruding object. As thousands of layers of nacre coat the intruder, a pearl is formed. This process takes up to seven or eight years (an oyster's useful life span).

    Birthstone

    January-Garnet: Safe travel and a speedy homecoming
    February-Amethyst: Power to overcome difficulties
    March-Jasper: Courage
    April-Diamond: Everlasting love
    May-Emerald: Love and fidelity
    June- Pearl: Purity, Celebrate a birth
    July- Ruby: Prosperity (if worn on the left hand); Everlasting love (if worn on the right)
    August-Peridot and Sardonyx: Strength and growth; Happiness in a relationship
    September-Sapphire: Sincerity and faithfulness
    October-Opal and Tourmaline: Confidence and hope
    November-Citrine and Yellow Topaz: Strength and friendship
    December-Turquoise: Protects against evil and ill health

  • Enamel

    Siliceous substance fusible upon metal, either transparent or opaque and with or without color, but it is usually employed to add decorative color to metal. Enamel can be applied in many different ways, including cloisonné , champlevé , and plique à jour .

    Band

    A ring made from a thin, often flat, ribbon-like strip of material (usually metal). The band can be unadorned or decorated.

    Hoop

    Also called the shank, the rounded part of the ring that encircles the finger and connects to the bezel at the shoulders.

  • Later

    It is virtually impossible to do justice to the evolution of jewelry from the Baroque period (c. 1700) to Modern times in a short synopsis, but these are a few highlights. Many of the functional aspects of finger-rings continued: they served for betrothal and marriage, for signing and family identification, for memorial purposes, as well as for pure ornament. However, some new types of rings emerge during this period: such as puzzle rings, gimmick rings, perfume rings, and rings that celebrated scientific achievements (e.g., watch rings) are but a few of the examples.

    This time span witnesses the emergence of the “archaeological style,” of which the work of Fortunato Pio Castellani in the 1830s to 1860s is a particularly well-known example, one that fits in the Neo-Classical period. We see the flourishing of other styles related to artistic movements in painting, sculpture, and architecture. These include Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement, both beginning around the 1880s, and Art Deco in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. It also covers the emergence of some of the most famous twentieth-century houses of jewelry, such as Cartier, Charmet, Boucheron, Bulgari, Tiffany’s, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Mellerio, to mention only a few. Jewelry historians responsible for exhibitions in major museums have begun to trace the historical contributions and characterize the styles of jewelry, including rings, not only of these different artistic movements, but also of these great houses.

    Two other sometimes-overlapping categories of later jewelry are of significant import. The first category, “artist jewelry,” consists of jewelry by artists mostly known for their work in other media, such as Picasso, Calder, Dali, Robert Indiana, Louise Bourgeois, Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, and many others. The second category, “studio jewelry” includes work by modern and contemporary goldsmiths. Among those practicing today of special mention are Wendy Ramshaw and others belonging to the Goldsmith’s Company in London, dedicated to continuing the craft since it received its first royal charter in 1327. Others of different national origins include the Italian Giovanni Corvaja (handled by Adrian Sassoon in London), the American Joel Arthur Rosenthal or JAR of Paris (whose international exhibition was staged at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2013), Otto Jakob of Germany, and the newcomer Wallace Chan of China. The experienced viewer-collector, as well as the newcomer to the field, can begin to learn about modern jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with its dedicated jewelry gallery and specialized curator, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which houses the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, and the private collection of Alice and Louis Koch.

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Mourning Ring

England, 1820
Gold, seed pearls, enamel, hair
Weight 2.1 gr.; circumference 56.6 mm.; US size 6.25; UK size M

USD $2,500

In the nineteenth century love and affection in life and in death was expressed on a miniature scale on delicate rings with hidden symbols and messages. At first glance these rings appear decorative, yet their symbolism is quite intricate. The choice of black enamel alludes to the use of the ring as a sign of mourning for the deceased. Black onyx and Whitby jet were popular alternatives. Cut as a keepsake before burial and then given to the goldsmith, hair inserted in the hoop would have been taken from the deceased. Flowers, such as roses, symbolized enduring love after death. Traditionally pearls were worn by widows, perhaps relating to ancient myths in which pearls were thought to be formed from the tears of gods.               

Description:
Wide gold band, plain on the interior, inside hollow and filled with brown hair and on the exterior there are alternate rectangular and quatrefoil openings through which it becomes visible. The borders are engraved with floral motifs, arches and dots. The black enameled bezel has the shape of a rectangular shield with tapered ends (underneath beaded wire along the hoop enforces the structure). Inlaid are three flowers (roses?) with golden petals and pearls in the center. Inside the hoop is the maker’s or retailer’s mark with initials “WGM” and the hallmark for 9 carat gold “9” “375,” the shield with three wheatsheafs for Chester Assay Office and the date letter “c” for 1820-1 (see Pickford (ed.) 2011, pp. 392 and 396.  The hair is missing in parts due to the age of the ring, which is otherwise in good wearable condition.

Literature:
Such mourning rings were made in production by retail companies and then sold through jewelers; cf. a collection of mourning jewels designed by the London manufacturer Saunders & Sheperd Ltd. See Peter Hinks, Victorian Jewelry, An Illustrated Collection of Exquisite 19th Century Jewelry, New York, 1991, pp. 172f.

Reference number: 530

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