Once in a while a man comes into your life and things just seem better somehow.

A fine and jolly fellow – Georgian, but which George?

I don’t know his name but this gentleman is one of the very few pieces from my collection I actually wear. Possibly because, not only is he quite sturdy, he seems…jolly.

Unlike most of my collection, this lovely portrait miniature is sentimental in nature. I imagine, because of the light colours, his traditional portrait stance of three-quarter profile, his colourful complexion, his lovely smile, and so on, that this was commissioned during his lifetime.

As we know from our Art of Mourning posts (and Jane Austen), sentimental jewellery in the form of portrait miniatures was a very popular form of art. They could be miniature paintings or in this format where it also doubled as an item of jewellery. Not only were they commissioned for family members, they also acted as love tokens given to your affianced, or other such love interest!

Detail – note how seamless the construction appears.

My jolly fellow bears no inscription, so there is no confirmation of identity, nor date of execution. However, from his clothes and hair one would hazard a guess of around 1780 – 1810 or thereabouts? Perhaps those schooled in fashion history could shed some light on the date – please feel free to comment.

The reverse showing the entwined hair

He is painted on what is likely to be ivory, encased in thick domed glass and framed in a classic oval gold frame. The reverse holds plaited hair. Here is another clue that it is sentimental, two shades of hair entwined together forever – perhaps man and wife. It is also possible that the hair was added later; there is quite a lot of grey in the darker shade (his?) and then lovely lush red hair is his companion.

At any rate, I have worn him dancing, sipping champagne, dressed in my finest and celebrating with friends. From his flushed cheeks, gentle eyes and authentic smile, I think he quite enjoyed it!

– Marielle Soni

You’ve discovered a treasure: unique, beautiful, interesting, an asset to your collection and within your fiscal reach! Buy, buy, buy! Well, that is all very well and good isn’t it? But what of that dilemma when there is a lovely group of options on the market – all comparable, all lovely – of which you can only afford one? Hmmm? That’s where it gets a bit tricky.

Have you read this description: ‘…lustrous pearls surrounding a glazed locket compartment containing woven hair…’. I imagine that you have if are interested in mourning rings. It is a description of the classic Georgian pearl mourning ring, you know the ones, rectangular or possibly square thick glass under which there is woven hair of the deceased surrounded by pearls of varying quality, set in gold, ribbed band, split shoulders, and so on. I knew I wanted one. I felt it was important to have an example of this type of work. However, they were so popular at the time (early 19th C) that many have survived and there are a number of them available on the market. So which one should I get?

Classic Georgian Mourning Ring

I decided on this one and it was really a process of which one ticked the most boxes for my criteria. There you have it – know your criteria. What is it that you really value in the piece, in your collection, and why?

I respond much more strongly to pieces that have inscriptions. It is possibly my strongest criterion (after sheer beauty of course!).  This piece has two dedications making it even more delectable to me. I am also attracted to pieces that are dedicated to the young and/or unmarried. This ring is dedicated to a Miss Tylor 1797 and Miss Jane Tylor 1804. The condition of the ring is very good, most particularly the pearls are very white and lustrous and appear to be untouched. The ring is sound, solid and weighty. The split shoulders and ribbed band is a typical Regency era design. The mille-grain detailing on the bezel represents fine craftsmanship. The woven hair is blonde (rarer), the glazing thick and clean.

Detail of the split shoulders

Do you hear my felt-tip ticking the boxes?

Accurate dating is also a detail that appeals to me in a piece of jewellery because I enjoy researching the history of its time and, if I am very lucky, the subject or owner. This ring comes in its original box. Rundell & Bridge were very popular fine jewelers in the Regency period. Interestingly, Rundell & Bridge were appointed official Royal Jewellers in 1797, the same year Miss Tylor passed away. In the ring box there is printed on the interior silk a royal crown atop the jeweller’s logo. One can be confident therefore that this ring was made in 1797 or later. Possibly due to the placement of the inscriptions we can further assume that it was purchased in 1805 or shortly after, to fit both inscriptions so comfortably. I have a number of clues here so there is opportunity for me in the future to more thoroughly research the Miss Tylors.

The inside of the box lid also provides me with the jeweller's address

Decision making 101? Know thyself…okay, that might prove too difficult, but at least know your collection criteria!

P.S. I am happy with my choice.

– Marielle Soni

One of the joys and perils of knowing a little bit about old jewellery is that people want to know what they have. Though Antiques Roadshow makes it look very easy to spot a piece and be able to wax lyrical about it for hours on end, the truth of the matter is that a lot of research goes into a single viewing. Personally, I like to be certain about a piece and I can often be wrong, so in the interest of opening the door for all us amateur historians, let’s take a quick look at this pendant and try to reach some conclusions.

Stylistically, it lends itself to the first half 18th century, the lack of facets and the curve to the crystal is more common with that era, as opposed to the sharper edges of the earlier times. Then there is the conflict of the cipher inside, which is more common with earlier pieces, but for the period of 1680-1740, that was quite common, so it’s not really a conflict at all.

You’ve got the fleur-de-lis forming together the crown, which is rather nice, though they are a little ill-defined for a piece of high quality, though that could simply be the pictures.

Also, the wire-work to the surrounding gold is rather simply done in that it is uneven and forms heavier at the bottom in the dollop of gold.

With the arrow and quiver, you’ve got the motifs for mortality, so that combined with the initials up front makes it quite likely a mourning piece. The crown may denote either a literal or figurative connection with royalty (to be considered royalty or actual aristocracy) and all in all, I rather like it.

It’s obviously had a bit of a life as well, I think the imperfections make it special, but as far as a ‘Georgian Heart’ goes, I think it fits the category well.

But, is any of that correct? This piece was submitted by Rob Jackson and this is the first time I’ve seen it. I’ve made some rather grand statements and I’d prefer to back a lot of it up with proper evidence. What are your thoughts?

Eye MIniature Portrait Bracelet Georgian

I’ve written quite a bit about eye miniatures and their use in mourning and sentimental jewellery. These are one of those cultural phenomena that seem to radiate with a personal sentiment not seen previously not seen in mainstream jewellery; they’re less formal than the heavy neo-classical pieces found from 1760 to their contemporary period, they come in various qualities from highly detailed to naive and above all else, they’re incredibly personal. For those who need to know a bit more, here’s some of an article I’ve written previously:

“Eye portraits are rare and highly sought after, but there is variation between them. In the portrait shown, the setting conforms to the portrait of the eye, but later examples show a tear-drop setting with a black enamel surround. Some also show a down-turned eye. These are not always to be considered mourning pieces, but certainly sentimental. The tear-drop setting with the black enamel surround is certainly a mourning piece and quite an odd point in the evolution of the style.

Eye portraits are considered to have their genesis in the late 18th Century when the Prince of Wales (to become George IV ) wanted to exchange a token of love with the Catholic widow (of Edward Weld who died 3 months into the marriage) Maria Fitzherbert . The court denounced the romance as unacceptable, though a court miniaturist developed the idea of painting the eye and the surrounding facial region as a way of keeping anonymity. The pair were married on December 15, 1785, but this was considered invalid by the Royal Marriages Act because it had not been approved by George III, but Fitzherbert’s Catholic persuasion would have tainted any chance of approval. Maria’s eye portrait was worn by George under his lapel in a locket as a memento of her love. This was the catalyst that began the popularity of lover’s eyes. From its inception, the very nature of wearing the eye is a personal one and a statement of love by the wearer. Not having marks of identification, the wearer and the piece are intrinsically linked, rather than a jewellery item which can exist without the necessity of the wearer.

Use of materials developed along with the size of the settings of eye miniatures, as pieces were surrounded by precious stones and became larger due to altering fashion. A good reference for the evolving trend of the shape of early 19th century jewellery can be seen in the Rings section, where settings and the shape of the mementos changed quite dramatically from 1790-1830.”

There have been a number of eye portrait forgeries due to their desirability and low production. Collectors should be cautious when purchasing a piece to ensure its authenticity.

Eye MIniature Portrait Bracelet GeorgianAnd now with that, we can look at this piece. The first thing that must be discussed are the seed pearls forming the band of the bracelet. Mourning bracelets are often strung with either hair or pearls in their original state. Much of the time, only the clasps and hinges survive or have been restrung over the years. Judging by the colour, odd sizes and the predilection towards seed pearls during the first quarter 19th century, these look quite original on appearance. When discussing pieces like this, it’s best to not make absolute judgement based upon pictures, but make physical contact with the piece to be sure.

Art of Mourning Niello Brooch GeorgianThe setting of the eye itself is in the style common of c.1815-1830 (often the grooves would be filled with enamel, but not always), with the popular rectangular shape housing the eye itself highlighting its age in this bracket. Note the piece pictured for similarities.

As for the portrait itself, the eye is painted on ivory and moves to the upper levels of fine quality in the attention to detail and the brushwork. One of the aspects of the eye miniature is that they weren’t often painted to the neoclassical ideal, but come back to the nature of them being personally painted. Here, note the colour of the hair in the portrait (chestnut to red) and the fair colouring of the skin, detail has been taken into account to match the subject where possible.

Eye MIniature Portrait Bracelet GeorgianThen there is the dedication on the reverse. This dedication feels awkwardly drawn into the reverse and due to the eye not facing upwards (often denoting post-mortem), one must consider if it were a later inscription to the piece. However, any detail here is supposition, so one must be careful when making such a judgement.

Overall, the bracelet is highly rare and incredibly sought after. These items weren’t in high production and lasted only a short time as a cultural phenomenon, hence their high cost and desirability.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

One of the joys and perils of knowing a little bit about old jewellery is that people want to know what they have. Though Antiques Roadshow makes it look very easy to spot a piece and be able to wax lyrical about it for hours on end, the truth of the matter is that a lot of research goes into a single viewing. Personally, I like to be certain about a piece and I can often be wrong, so in the interest of opening the door for all us amateur historians, let’s take a quick look at this pendant and try to reach some conclusions.

Stylistically, it lends itself to the first half 18th century, the lack of facets and the curve to the crystal is more common with that era, as opposed to the sharper edges of the earlier times. Then there is the conflict of the cipher inside, which is more common with earlier pieces, but for the period of 1680-1740, that was quite common, so it’s not really a conflict at all.

You’ve got the fleur-de-lis forming together the crown, which is rather nice, though they are a little ill-defined for a piece of high quality, though that could simply be the pictures.

Also, the wire-work to the surrounding gold is rather simply done in that it is uneven and forms heavier at the bottom in the dollop of gold.

With the arrow and quiver, you’ve got the motifs for mortality, so that combined with the initials up front makes it quite likely a mourning piece. The crown may denote either a literal or figurative connection with royalty (to be considered royalty or actual aristocracy) and all in all, I rather like it.

It’s obviously had a bit of a life as well, I think the imperfections make it special, but as far as a ‘Georgian Heart’ goes, I think it fits the category well.

But, is any of that correct? This piece was submitted by Rob Jackson and this is the first time I’ve seen it. I’ve made some rather grand statements and I’d prefer to back a lot of it up with proper evidence. What are your thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: