When it comes to hinges in rings, there are many variations of the kind and it’s only when a style is at its absolute peak does the commonality and perfection of the form match the jewel itself.

And what do I mean by this, I hear you ask? Indeed, there have been unusual forms of hinges in rings dating back to pre-history, but for sentimental and memorial jewels of the late 19th century, you will find the hinged hairwork band to be one of the more common popular jewels produced. This leads into a lot of what was mass produced in the late 19th century in terms of jewellery design.

Jewellery design was at a point where it transcended socio-economic boundaries and found itself trapped within the necessary lexicon of moral standard. This is particularly true of mourning jewels, which had their set factors in time of the dictated mourning periods (1st, 2nd and 3rd) in Protestant-based Western culture, rather than sentimental jewels which were worn with reasons of personal beauty and random affection.

It was also a time where other styles of art, from the popular Arts and Crafts movement and subsequent Art Nouveau movement began to permeate the mainstream society and influence the style of jewellery design that was quite locked into the static social standard that had existed from the 1860s to 1890s. While the society was rebelling against these pre-established concepts, we have to look at what was also influencing it.

Mass production becomes a major factor here; a society locked within its very formal ways was being facilitated by high levels of production and low cost for items that were necessary within society. Look to establishments such as Jay’s Mourning Warehouse; places which tailored the mourning experience (and travelled!) to the individual and basically created a fashionable culture around this social necessity.

Mother Hairwork Hinged Ring

How does this impact this ring? Indeed, this ring comes from a time when this formalisation was becoming set, yet it has a wonderfully individual slant on the style. By the 1870s, society from the UK to America was finding these measures of standardisation in production, with the catalogue being the primary source of purchase and rings in particular (with fob chains, brooches and pins) being the more obvious items of fashion for day to day wear that denoted affection. Note how this ring is detailed within the hinge itself and the curvature to the band. It becomes almost an adaption of the style, which is clearly visible in the ring itself. Hair bands of the 1860s and 70s set the precedent for the mass production of the 90s, with a noticeably heavier weight in gold, thinner styles and greater differentiation with the shield or dedications on the front. In this, we have the formal Empire flourishes to the surrounding shield with ‘mother’ written very elegantly inside. The interior is dedicated ‘T.H. Morris’ and the woven hair is still in excellent condition.

Mother Hairwork Hinged Ring

One can draw inferences about how and why this ring was worn, certainly the dedication speaks for itself, however a good way to begin this form of esoteric analysis is to look at the condition of the piece and then draw some conclusions about its interactivity with day to day life.

I’ll leave that there, I won’t want to muddy the waters of fact with any sort of blind romanticism!

Enjoy the ring, because I know I will – I have a special affection for hinged bands.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Dedication: Mother / T.H. Morris

Envelope Ring 19th Century

Despite the introduction of lower grade alloys in jewellery post Hallmarking Act of 1854, no construction or detail was lost in translation, regardless of the materials used. For today’s wonderful presentation, we have a stunning little envelope ring that shows just how intricate construction can be.

I’ve shown various swivel rings and rings with opening hair compartments (such as this marvellous example from 1881), but this piece shows the double fold and catch set in the envelope/pouch design.

Envelope Ring 19th CenturyMid to late 19th century fashion adopted many classical art forms and created various revivals in art, such as Rococo, Etruscan, Greek, Gothic and Roman, yet one thing remains underlying these various forms of art and that is the heavy symbolism used in motifs. This, along with the envelope itself, shows the detailed vine pattern rising across the shank and over the envelope folds. The envelope itself signifies the shortness of emotional distance between the wearer and the person who has given it, regardless of the physical distance. Hence, the motif can work as both sentimental or memorial love token.

Also note the hair being inside a compartment, a popular style from the late 1860s onwards, as opposed to larger earlier styles.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Strange sized fingers and opening hinges while a jewellery historian binges on a wealth of fabulous examples of this odd construction technique.

modern hinged ring

modern hinge

Based on Monday’s Space Oddity; Understanding a Hinged / Locket Sentimental Ring with Hair, we need to understand that the implication wasn’t that this form of construction was never followed again, as to insinuate that a method of construction isn’t replicated considering that there are only limited ways to fit a ring to a finger is ridiculous, however, to consider this a style that was part of mainstream thought and a catalyst for a popular style is certainly not appropriate.

When pieces with unusual construction methods appear, the fundamental reason for them being unusual and not commonplace (though though produced in areas or by request) is that what the general populace takes for granted as being a ‘style’ doesn’t merge with what the technique that makes the piece ‘unusual’.

For example, these examples show a how the style was not necessarily adapted from the piece earlier in the week, but requested or specifically constructed for their purpose.

1858

This piece separates past the shoulder, allowing the enamelled design to appear uninterrupted and also hide much of the hinge itself, except for where it joins at the bezel.

1870

From this example, another form of the locket construction is quite different, separating and connecting from shoulder to shoulder, leaving the bezel free and completely obscuring the hinge itself.

What can be decided about these items is that they were commissioned for a reason.

This leaves two options, one must ask that in a world where rings were often made for the intended person, why would one construct a ring with a hinge? Consider these points and feel free to discuss!

1. The ring was created this way to overcome a large knuckle. If so, then by implication, a specific finger is required for that ring. Why would one finger be more important than another?

2. The ring was made and altered. Why would the ring be this way? Would you suggest that it may have been produced from the money allocated in the will and made to a generic size?

3. Would jeweller have experimented with this style?

4. Could it be created to preserve the band?

5. Perhaps a cultural phenomenon that was popular for a short while?

Courtesy and thanks: Marielle Soni, Verlaine Davies, rings from ‘Rings 1800… – 1910’, Write Designs, LTD, Ruidoso, NM, 2009 and the modern ring Sarah Nehama

Strange sized fingers and opening hinges while a jewellery historian binges on a wealth of fabulous examples of this odd construction technique.

modern hinged ring

modern hinge

Based on Monday’s Space Oddity; Understanding a Hinged / Locket Sentimental Ring with Hair, we need to understand that the implication wasn’t that this form of construction was never followed again, as to insinuate that a method of construction isn’t replicated considering that there are only limited ways to fit a ring to a finger is ridiculous, however, to consider this a style that was part of mainstream thought and a catalyst for a popular style is certainly not appropriate.

When pieces with unusual construction methods appear, the fundamental reason for them being unusual and not commonplace (though though produced in areas or by request) is that what the general populace takes for granted as being a ‘style’ doesn’t merge with what the technique that makes the piece ‘unusual’.

For example, these examples show a how the style was not necessarily adapted from the piece earlier in the week, but requested or specifically constructed for their purpose.

1858

This piece separates past the shoulder, allowing the enamelled design to appear uninterrupted and also hide much of the hinge itself, except for where it joins at the bezel.

1870

From this example, another form of the locket construction is quite different, separating and connecting from shoulder to shoulder, leaving the bezel free and completely obscuring the hinge itself.

What can be decided about these items is that they were commissioned for a reason.

This leaves two options, one must ask that in a world where rings were often made for the intended person, why would one construct a ring with a hinge? Consider these points and feel free to discuss!

1. The ring was created this way to overcome a large knuckle. If so, then by implication, a specific finger is required for that ring. Why would one finger be more important than another?

2. The ring was made and altered. Why would the ring be this way? Would you suggest that it may have been produced from the money allocated in the will and made to a generic size?

3. Would jeweller have experimented with this style?

4. Could it be created to preserve the band?

5. Perhaps a cultural phenomenon that was popular for a short while?

Courtesy and thanks: Marielle Soni, Verlaine Davies, rings from ‘Rings 1800… – 1910’, Write Designs, LTD, Ruidoso, NM, 2009 and the modern ring Sarah Nehama

Been somewhat of an odd sort myself, it’s when I find the oddities and individuals in sentimental and mourning jewellery design that I get somewhat excited.

Locket Ring, Hinged with Hairwork

Often, it is the oddity that turns into a new and popular movement in mourning and sentimental jewellery, such as how was a popular art integrated into these fashionable tokens of affection that could be displayed on the person or otherwise, how did a method of construction develop from an original idea into something that was adapted? From the collection of Marielle Soni, we have this very unusual locket ring. And what do I mean by locket ring, dear reader? Well, no, it’s not that the hair memento compartment is hinged, but the entire band is hinged and locks into the bezel.

Firstly we must look at the gold content of the ring, which tests to 18ct, on top, we have the latticed hairwork under glass and the shape is rectangular. From the look of the hinge and how it recesses into the bezel, one must consider that the ring was an original, contemporary creation, but we’ll get to that later. Inside the band, we have the sentiment ‘God for me appointed thee.’ Outside the band, there is a somewhat worn design with three lines followed by three circular shapes.

Locket Ring, Hinged with Hairwork

Starting with the bezel, the contour of its underside conforms with the shape of the finger. One thing that would be considered when looking at a piece so unusual is that it may be a marriage of styles. Often, ribbon slides, brooches, pins and bracelet clasps were reappropriated to become rings or other forms of jewellery, this is quite common and there is a remarkable amount of them surviving today. These marriages have no set date, one must consider when the change may have occurred. A 16th or 17th century piece may have been adapted during the 19th century (early 19th century conversions are quite popular), however, in this piece, the bezel conforms and shows the mechanical recess of the hinge. Note how the mechanism splays out from the bezel itself to the undercarriage of the hinge, creating a ring that wouldn’t pinch the skin when clasped. The designer understood form and function by looking at this.

Locket Ring, Hinged with Hairwork

Note etching

Next are the designs on the bezel, note the high relief of its construction and the etched lines that flow with its contour. This is a method reminiscent of the emerging geometric line-work of c.1800 through the Regency Period which complemented the bold form-factors of Neoclassical jewels. Often, there’s a clear distinction between the navette and oval shapes used for housing ivory to the rectangular, square and even diamond shapes with the hair memento placed on top.

This ring falls into this category and along with various other examples of experimental jewellery designs of the time. Also, the high relief of the bezel is considered to be a good method to house both the hair and the hinge in construction, which doesn’t make for high practicality when wearing, but there’s a definite experimental leaning with getting this style right.

Locket Ring, Hinged with Hairwork

Diamond shaped 1800 ring

unusual diamond shape c.1800

The symbolism and motifs on the band are also unusual. They appear to be earlier, commissioned specifically or simply flourishes of the designer of the time. It is because they simply don’t correlate with contemporary jewellery and popular styles that one can ascertain this. There is a definite hint of naivety in the design, but with the wear, it makes it harder to consider. Putting emphasis on the meaning of the design is completely subjective, however, there may be the influence of ‘eternity’ within, but the unbroken circles.

What we can understand is that the ring is sentimental in intent and the anachronistic posy dedication ‘God for me appointed thee’ is a clear indicator of this. Indeed, the nature of the posy was that its intent was private and many were constructed under personal commission by various socio-economic methods. Many range from the poorer end of the scale to the very high end, but that underlines that they were indeed created for the purpose of being a direct love token, rather than a piece chosen from a catalogue post-mortem as mourning jewels often here. Does this piece conform to that, or is it a certain regional style? Is it a marriage or simply experimentation over a period where some of the most elaborate jewellery design experiments were undertaken? Why wasn’t the style adapted? The elaborate construction, the ease of how it may break, difficulty sizing and the general discomfort wearing may have played a part in that, but all we can do right now is wonder.

Locket Ring, Hinged with Hairwork

Despite what we may think of the piece today, someone wore this on their finger at a certain time and felt the love for someone through it and what could be more beautiful than that? Enjoy the images, because I know I am!

Courtesy and Thanks: Marielle Soni
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