9 July 1810 mouring ring 	J Brougham

Dedication: 9 July 1810 / J Brougham

One of the more fascinating aspects of ring design and motifs in the early 19th century is the increased use of gems and stones. What had previously been relegated to fine jewels was becoming ubiquitous and taking over as a symbolic motif in their own right.

Pearl mourning ring

Pearls are the most popular and common to find in rings (many bracelets were strung with pearls, but surviving pieces are harder to find). Jet and turquoise are two of the other most popular materials and are important for their use in mourning custom and symbolism.

1815 mourning ring

Second and third stage jewels took very well to the enhanced use of colour, as reflective surfaces and colour were permissible, so hairwork jewels flanked with stones were not only an essential part of mourning, but a beautiful way to reflect and respect the loved one.

3rd stage mourning ring

Turquoise and Hairwork

These became prevalent from around 1810 and lasted well into c.1850, where larger, bolder styles and black enamel facilitated the changing fashion.

Experimentation of styles at the end of the Neoclassical movement created some unusual and quite beautiful forms of mainstream design in jewellery that were discontinued by the coming Gothic Revival and seemingly original for their time. Often, designs used in jewellery have some continuity or pedigree for their form, which makes their adaptation of any mainstream artistic flourishes seem quite understandable.

Yet, the early 19th century was a time of discovery and change. Much of the techniques used in traditional jewellery construction were being overtaken with the growing industrial revolution, production was growing to new levels, access to inexpensive materials transcended status to the point of social necessity. Hence, there was more room for experimentation in jewellery fashion, styles could exist for a short period and quickly disappear.

These particular rings show a motif in the shoulders and shank which have some basis in the navette style, but turn this into a design which is much more organic to the contour of the finger. While the style of the open wire/fretwork is a new one, it still honours the symbolism typical of its time.

With this particular ring, the symbolism in the eternity symbol is used to expand the shoulders, enhancing its simple symbolism and the nature of the design itself. What is more striking is that the ring’s memento area is shaped as a diamond, crossing diagonally around the finger. This also reflects upon the changing nature of the sentimental style of the time as well; what could also be a larger, ivory memento with a portrait or mourning/sentimental depiction is now the simple hairwork of the loved one, outwardly displayed for all to see.

Dedication: 2 December 1800 / J.J

Following on with this style, the wire-work open-shank can be seen in many other pieces of the first-quarter 19th century, with more or less elaboration. Often, the bezel is oval shaped with hairwork inside. This was at a time when the ‘Georgian Eye’ portrait was reaching its crescendo, suggesting that the oval and the eye have an intrinsic link in the design motif. Either way, it was phased out to become a more traditional rectangle, but keeping the same hairwork/materials inside.

Further Reading:
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 1, c.1740-c.1850
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 2, c.1850-c.190
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 3, Breaking Perceptions

While we’re working behind the scenes rebuilding Art of Mourning, let’s reflect on this magnificent tale from the crypt:
Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810

Rose and yellow gold with enamel. It appears the hair is laid on card with letters printed on it and research found Alexander Scott was from Lancaster County, PA and held a seat in the Legislature between 1797-1800.

This ‘cigar band’ style of shape is not an American invention; very much the style of US jewellery had a precedence in Europe and just made variations of the theme. Let’s explore the nature of the band itself. One can find its style dating back to the navette shape of the 1780s, where the shank splays out towards the bezel and forms part of the ring itself. The way this conforms to the finger and holds the popular styled shape of the ring is important. The navette style was particularly popular during the 1780-1800 period and the thing to focus on is the shape itself and how the shank holds it.

Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810

As the style over these years began to accommodate the more neo-classical oval shape and materials began to take over the focal point of the navette (being the painted art), the shank accommodated the shape as well. So, this style isn’t related so much to the mourning band of yore, but was more of a way to accommodate shape.

The style as it developed accommodated a cheaper price point. Often one can find these pieces to have a base metal underneath or sometimes have hollow areas underneath the bezel itself. One could surmise that the American adaptation of this style very much satisfied a middle-class market that couldn’t afford the higher price margin for similar shaped bezels with higher detail to the shank.

Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810These are more prolific due to cheaper construction (but not in all cases). That said, the fine pieces with higher gold content and detail are perfect examples of their time, they simply followed a fashion and as with most US forms, found its origins in Europe which subsequently found its origins in earlier pieces that simply evolved to accommodate this fashion.

Look to the more oval, geometric, smaller and quite interesting methods of gold work that were experimented with during the first quarter 19th century (look to the rings first) to see how the style evolved.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Country: United States of America
Year: 1810
Dedication: Alex(R) Scott OB 21 Mar 1810 AE 47

Pearls and hairwork are often two of the most common materials used in stringing a bracelet  from the neoclassical era, much of the time these materials have been replaced since their creation, however, it is quite common to find the bracelet clasp on its own, such as this piece and the one posted recently.

Let’s reflect upon the symbolism for a moment. On direct appearance, we have the angel, the woman, the urn, plinth, cypress and the willow. All of these symbols are the ideal for their time and are the fundamental basis for mourning art, regardless of the quality. In this particular piece, it’s essential to first note the quality of the face to the woman and the angel. There is an inherent simplicity and generic nature to the features, with the simple line/dot work comprising the art. Much of the quality is within the shading of the sepia, with its rich earth-tones. Here, the fall and creases of her dress, as well as the willow framing the piece make up much of the detail.

One could assume that this piece began its life as a pre-produced miniature that was appropriated and customised by the wearer; the ‘To Bliss’ and ‘Affection Weeps / Heaven Rejoices’ sentiment are in different tones than the sepia itself, as well as the awkward contouring of the ‘To Bliss’ sentiment upon the scroll held by the angel. Compare this with this ‘Sacred to the Best of Friends’ piece and you’ll note the wide variation in detail. Certainly, the other piece benefits from being full colour, but fine sepia work with personalised detail was achievable and common.

What does denote high quality with this piece is the frame of pearls; an exotic and popular material for jewellery in the late 19th century (read more about that here) and a material that isn’t necessary to frame such a magnificent piece, but only adds to its aesthetic value.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Dedication: Ann Read died 8th of March 1789 Aged 76

Neoclassical MiniatureExamples such as the one above, provide a rich palette for memorial symbolism and the skill of art itself.

Allegory is the central ideal with the subject of mourning and sentimental miniatures (as with most depictions during this time) . There is an overwhelming amount of variation between pieces from this time, their symbolism (Greek in style or not), but the piece above requires close inspection.

The woman in mourning represents many different things depending on the area the piece was produced and the painter. Commonly, the woman appears in white neoclassical dress, a perfect symbol of devotion in mourning. More unusual pieces transfer the woman from being a romantic ideal into a personal statement. This can be seen in pieces which depict the actual person who commissioned the piece. Depictions range from females in black dress without the neoclassical ideal of portraiture. Examples of this can be seen in Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures. Personal pieces also include the figure of a male mourning next to the central tomb, urn or other motif. Male mourning pieces tend to be more rare, but their sentiment is greatly enforced due to their personal nature. A male mourning ring dating from this time can be found in the Rings section.

The piece above has the tomb as the central focus, with the child breaking free and flying towards the angel, who has outstretched arms, holding a wreath. The wreath depicts redemption, and this is enforced by the ‘Resurgam’ (resurrection) written on the tomb.

Shown in front of the woman is a garden, which had different meaning. The biblical gardens of Eden and Gethsemane, where Christ was arrested, leading to his crucifixion and resurrection, alludes to eternal life. The cypress trees that outline the background (hope of immortality and death) provide a stunning depth to the artwork.

Following the common themes of mourning miniatures, the weeping willow (resurrection through regrowth) is one of the most common.

The reverse of this piece has a cobalt glass surround, set into a bezel, set into a gold over copper rim and a hair compartment in the centre. In a future post, we’ll look at other miniatures and compare styles.

Further Reading
> Symbolism Sunday, The Willow
> Symbolism Sunday, The Cypress
> Symbolism Sunday, The Woman

The aesthetic movement helped carry through a consistency of latter 19th century jewellery, this and high levels of production. It is common to find motifs and designs become equal, with interchangeable materials of use for the jewel. Rings, in particular, are quite commonly created in both silver and gold, with almost identical moulds producing the piece. Gems and other materials used are also at the mercy of customisation, but the outcomes, regardless of the use of a garnet, aquamarine, or any colour of stone produces a ring that may look very different, but upon inspection, the designs are nearly identical.

19th century garnet ring

This piece is c.1890, but there is a good twenty years of production for this style; it lasted well into the early 20th century and its embellishments of the Rococo Revival period, with the acanthus and the forget-me-not are safe, innocuous and sentimental symbols in a time of highly produced, wearable jewellery and a more global outlook to virtue and values.

19th century garnet ring

This particular style was adapted in the Art Nouveau period to reflect the more organic and natural approach to jewellery design (and design in general), you can often find these pieces in silver, rather than gold, however.

19th century garnet ring

Expect to find similar pieces at your local estate jeweller or antique shop, they’re still very wearable and will always remain beautiful!

For those of you who are new here, or who are not familiar with the wonderfully informative article that Hayden wrote about a mourning ring of mine, a ring I call the Ship Ring, please see the post from April 15, 2010. Here you will find the background for this post, in which thanks to a friend’s research, the identity behind the ring is brought to light. Once having learned to whom the ring is dedicated, the careful analysis presented by Hayden from last year’s post, and my own research into the personal history behind this ring can be seen as two separate routes of research that work in tandem with each other, helping us understand this ring in its entirety.

To summarize, Hayden’s analysis of this magnificent ring took into account a number of different aspects of the piece, that we shall see, make complete sense in light of the discovery of the true identity of the person mourned. In a nutshell, I purchased this ring online from an Englishwoman who really knew nothing about it other than it had been in her late husband’s family for over 50 years. The inside of the ring shank has the usual memorial dedication, with the date of death, and the age; however, in this case, rather than a full name, there are only initials (E. W.) with a crown, or coronet, in front of them. What intrigued me quite a lot when I first examined this ring, was a much larger coronet engraved on the underside of the bezel, along with a prominent initial “W” and then the two initials “A+T”. Here were pieces of a puzzle left to me to solve regarding the identity of the deceased: two coronets (inner shank, and under the bezel), initials E. W. on the inner shank along with the date of death (Dec. 1, 1841) and the age (83), plus two joined initials not matching the others (A+T). Where to begin?

Well, I decided to start with the coronet. I really felt that this crown was too large of a design to be a maker’s mark; it must signify something else, and something relating to the “W” below it. Not being familiar with English royalty and peerage, I had to do a bit of online research. I learned that in the peerages of the United Kingdom, the design of a coronet shows the rank of its owner. This is through the motifs of “strawberry leaves” and “pearls”, or “silver balls”, in two dimensional representations. The coronet under the bezel of this ring corresponds exactly to that of an earl. Because the coronet is featured so prominently on top of the initials W and A+T, and again on the inner shank before the letters E. W., I felt quite certain that this person was an earl; namely, the Earl of W___. But who could that be? Since I had the date of death, and the age of the person, I thought I might be able to discover who this was by utilizing these clues. Referring back to the post from April 15th of last year, you can read about how I used these to come to a possible identity, which, as it now turns out, is not correct. However, going with the assumption that this was an earl, I looked at all the possible earls of Ws, whose date of death and age matched the information on my ring. And I did come quite close; John Fane, the 10th Earl of Westmoreland. He had died on Dec. 15, 1841 at the age of 82. Pretty close, but not exact. Now, if you look at the photo of the inner shank of my ring, you’ll see that there was a piece of gold inserted on top of the original shank, and this piece had been engraved with “obit Dec. 15” .Would it be possible, I asked myself, if the ring had been mistakenly engraved- that is, the “5” from Dec. 15th left out, giving the date of death on the ring as Dec. 1? I thought it was possible, yes, but then we come to the mystery of the two initials, A+T. In my research of John Fane, I could find nothing that could relate to those two initials. So, for the time, I left that piece of information aside, and I moved to looking more carefully at the front of the ring. Here we have a ship, beautifully painted in sepia, moving away across the waves of the ocean. Surrounding the ship is a garter with a buckle made of seed pearls and hair. What of this ship? Did it refer to a naval career or one as a shipping merchant? No, I could not find anything like that for John Fane. However, as Hayden pointed out, the ship symbolizes the passage of the soul into the afterlife, and that certainly made sense here, for a mourning ring. And the garter? Well, I did find out that John Fane was made Knight of the Garter in 1793. Was all of this leading me towards the Earl of Westmoreland as the person commemorated here? I still could not be sure, but the use of the earl’s coronet, and the date of death and age on the ring so close but for one digit- these things made me feel I was on the right path. But now, what of some of the aspects of this ring that Hayden asked us to look at and analyzed? In reading his article, these could not be ignored and I felt that they played an important role in making sense of this ring. One of the main things to look at in dating rings is the shank. In the article we’re shown a comparison between this ring and one from 1786, with special attention paid to the sides of the shank and the way they connect to the front of the ring.

The similarity is quite apparent, and we see how the detailing of the shank in the ship ring shows the prototype for the style we see in the 1786 ring. This gives rise to the question of whether the ring was repurposed at the later date of 1841 to mourn a family member, but had been utilized previously in the late 18th century as a sentimental token. As we’ll see in the discovery of the true identity of the deceased, this is quite likely and makes perfect sense.

So finally- who is the ring for?  Thanks to a friend who is an experienced genealogical researcher, who took the information about this ring that I provided (the information contained in the post from last April plus my photos) and researched it based on the death date, I have learned that this ring mourns the death of Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Winterton. Who is she, and how did my friend connect the information with her? Well, he tells me that he looked to see who of import might have died on the date given in the ring, and then looked to see if the age and rank matched. A dowager Countess is the wife of a late earl; in this case, the First Earl of Winterton, Edward Turnour. And what was Elizabeth’s maiden name? Armstrong. And there we have our earl’s coronet, the W, for Winterton, A+T for Armstrong + Turnour, and the date of Countess Elizabeth’s death in London at the age of 83 on Dec. 1, 1841. And now, knowing all of this, the items that were previously analyzed by Hayden fall neatly into place. We have the ring shank, pointing to a date in the late 18th century; that is, earlier than the engraved date of 1841. Certainly the ring could have been a sentimental or marriage token at the time of the marriage of Miss Elizabeth Armstrong to the Earl of Winterton, which was in 1778. At that time, to commemorate the union, the coronet and initials on the underside of the bezel could have been engraved on the ring. And symbolizing never ending love, we have the garter, and buckle motif. That’s certainly fitting for a marriage. At some point, the ring was enlarged- we can see the solder lines of where a small piece of gold was added to the back of the shank to make it bigger. At this point, or perhaps later, for a reason I’m not sure of, a larger piece of gold was added to the inside of the shank. And then, when the Dowager Countess died, the usual mourning dedication, with the addition of the appropriate coronet before her initials was engraved to the inside of the shank. And here we have the solution to the mystery, and a confirmation of both the ring being tied to an Earl of W____, and to one with a history prior to its engraved date, with a purpose more sentimental than mourning when it was first commissioned and presented.

And so we see how diligent and patient research, backed up by facts, as well as an educated stylistic analysis, are both equally important in understanding the personal history behind a piece of antique jewelry and in fully grasping the purpose of the item and its relation to its time and its culture.

*For those who are interested, or may need help with similar research, my friend directed me to this website: http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/  -this is a resource for British Peerage and Baronetage. Here is the page he found for the First Earl of Winterton, Edward Turnour. Reading down, you’ll see the entry for Elizabeth Armstrong, his second wife: www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/online/content/index419.htm

Four Treasure Sentimental Locket 1830

I love lockets, next to rings, they’re one of the most popular items of mourning/sentimental jewellery. Why is this so? They defy fashion, they’re worn over the heart and they can be as obvious as you want them to be. Also, the secretive nature of them denotes that their use is private, unless it’s emblazoned with a large motif, it could be for friendship, mourning or love sentiment.

I found this in London and fell in love with it. There’s another identical one in Kenwood House on display with hairwork in the frames, dating from c.1830:

Four Treasure Sentimental Locket 1830

Four Treasure Sentimental Locket 1830

Amethyst Ring Mary Wooley OB: 8 April 1765 AE: 64

My dear jewellery historians, what is it that strikes you about this ring on first appearance? Look at it carefully and we’ll talk more about it after the jump…

Had a good look? Yes, it’s a beautiful thing and look at those colours…

Read the rest of this entry »

Hold the Shank, Redux

April 22, 2011

One of the easiest ways to spot the age of a ring is from the shank. Don’t believe me? Well, you’re in for a shock. What’s the best way to tell a piece verging on Rococo from Baroque? If you’re excellent with your Stuart Crystals, then you know your stuff, but for the rest of us simple folk, we need a good point of reference.

Read on for a quick guide!

Read the rest of this entry »

Continuing on our little discovery of ephemera and funeralia, let’s focus on another wonderful piece from Queen Victoria’s passing…

For the funeral itself, this funeral programme is one of the most literal pieces of mourning paraphernalia. It shows the procession of the funeral along with a timeline of her life and achievements.

Note the black border once again. The programme itself has a natural photo of the Queen and shows the advancement of the technique at the turn of the century, as printing had advanced to the stage where large photography was a feasible option to produce at an affordable cost.

The memorial pin with black silk attachment represents a memorial card in its style and is quite a delicate piece. Worn publicly as a memorial item for the funeral and the following period, it has a statement of ‘In Memory of our BELOVED QUEEN born May 24 th, 1819 / Died Jan 22 nd, 1901 / Reigned 68 years, 126 Days’. On the front it shows a gentle depiction of Victoria inside a black circle. That pieces like this can survive so well through the years is remarkable and the common and tactile purpose of it shows the level of public mourning that followed Victoria’s death.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Queen Victoria Programme. Memoir / Pin 1901

Pearl Forget Me Not Ring 1862

Year: July 1862
Dedication: G.H (age 63)

The period of 1850 to 1870 saw a very common habit of the hair memento in rings hiding underneath the bezel itself. It is not uncommon to find a small compartment underneath a ring of this era with a twist or weave of hair.

Often, many people since have taken this hair out and had this compartment soldered over or replaced, but many still exist.

This didn’t simply relate to mourning, but also to sentimental rings, the top of the bezel often took the shape of shields or motifs with the sentiment appearing on top, be it a forget-me-not in pearls like this ring, a material such as diamonds or a statement written in enamel (such as ‘In Memory Of’). Fashion was becoming smaller on the fingers and larger around the neck and wrists, with the large navette styles and heavy enamelled bands giving way to this smaller and more functional style. Not to say that these pieces had disappeared entirely, however mourning was a daily ritual and the objects needed to be functional.

Still, the beauty of this ring isn’t obstructed in the least. It has beautiful Neo-Rococo Victorian floral gold work across the shank and the bezel surrounding the forget-me-not motif. Underneath is the obligatory hair compartment and this leans more towards the unique side of what pieces were made for the time.

Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810Rose and yellow gold with enamel. It appears the hair is laid on card with letters printed on it and research found Alexander Scott was from Lancaster County, PA and held a seat in the Legislature between 1797-1800.

This ‘cigar band’ style of shape is not an American invention; very much the style of US jewellery had a precedence in Europe and just made variations of the theme. Let’s explore the nature of the band itself. One can find its style dating back to the navette shape of the 1780s, where the shank splays out towards the bezel and forms part of the ring itself. The way this conforms to the finger and holds the popular styled shape of the ring is important. The navette style was particularly popular during the 1780-1800 period and the thing to focus on is the shape itself and how the shank holds it.

Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810

As the style over these years began to accommodate the more neo-classical oval shape and materials began to take over the focal point of the navette (being the painted art), the shank accommodated the shape as well. So, this style isn’t related so much to the mourning band of yore, but was more of a way to accommodate shape.

The style as it developed accommodated a cheaper price point. Often one can find these pieces to have a base metal underneath or sometimes have hollow areas underneath the bezel itself. One could surmise that the American adaptation of this style very much satisfied a middle-class market that couldn’t afford the higher price margin for similar shaped bezels with higher detail to the shank.

Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810These are more prolific due to cheaper construction (but not in all cases). That said, the fine pieces with higher gold content and detail are perfect examples of their time, they simply followed a fashion and as with most US forms, found its origins in Europe which subsequently found its origins in earlier pieces that simply evolved to accommodate this fashion.

Look to the more oval, geometric, smaller and quite interesting methods of gold work that were experimented with during the first quarter 19th century (look to the rings first) to see how the style evolved.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Country: United States of America
Year: 1810
Dedication: Alex(R) Scott OB 21 Mar 1810 AE 47

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