Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

July 16, 2010

Sepia Ring

A prime example of Neoclassicism and white enamel

If you know me, you know I like my white enamel pieces, often because of their immediate sentimentality and their ability to speak volumes without even the use of a standard memorial motif.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

With the one colour, the life of a person is represented; virginal, pure, often young and innocent. Black has its obvious connotations, but there’s something infinitely touching about the white enamel, as death is a certainty any way you look at it.

Which brings me to this wonderful example of a sepia ring with the white enamel. Let’s have a look at some of the obvious features.

Firstly, there is the white enamel, I’ve written about this subject quite a bit, but at first glance, we can see that the person (in this case, Sarah Jervis) was unmarried. She died at the age of 24, which was no young age for its time, so there the fact that the ring was constructed opens up the possibility for a decidedly well-off, larger sized family. Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777An assumption would be that the ring was commissioned by a member of her family, as there is no personal dedication of the ring to a specific person (often inscribed underneath the bezel), but the ring has been polished quite a bit and such dedication may have been lost (if it was ever there). I would lean towards this not having been there, as several rings for Sarah would quite possibly have been constructed, this is conjecture, however.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777Next we have the year of construction, which would be around 1777. Combined with the white enamel and the connection of the shank to the bezel, we have a lovely look at the evolving style of jewellery from the mid 18th century.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

The curve to the inner shank borrows from the earlier Rococo bands, popular in the 1740s to the 1760s. Its clear connection to the bezel shows no tampering, so it’s in quite honest, solid shape.

Then there is the sepia on top. Painted on ivory and set under convex crystal, this depicts a well defined urn underneath the willow tree. Standard motifs for death and sorrow for a loved one, but this is quite delicately painted.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777Overall, this ring is quite typical for its time, this oval/band combination running parallel to the navette shape. The white enamel makes it particularly special and I would like to thank the ring’s owner, Jim Williams, for opening it up for discussion!

Courtesy: Jim Williams
Dedication: Sarah Jervis / OB: 25 July 1777

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