Dedication: Jan 14, 1801 / M. Harris (age 28)

Following on from our previous look at the wonderful open-shanks of the early 19th century, we have this ring, with its chalcedony interior and pearl surround.

As mentioned in the previous article, the style of the shank disappeared within a period of twenty years and the bezels became rectangular, but the general style and construction remained the same. Compare that with the ring below:

c.1815

And you can note the similarities. While this ring is more elaborate in its continuation of pearls along the shoulders, the general conceit of the ring is the same. Pearls, central area for hairwork or gem and dedication underneath.

This style remained popular until the mid-19th century and was used until the end of the 19th century in style, due to its ability to adapt and its sentimental simplicity. There was no need to change a style that was geared towards the personal sentiment of love, as the hairwork was placed in the centre and worn proudly outwards.

Do note that the use of other materials than hair in the dedication area of these pieces can often be later amendments. These rings are highly marketable when there is no clear indication of being for mourning or sentimentality (modern sellers often equate hair with death), so the hair and glass are easy to replace with a stone and when the surrounding pearls/turquoise/jet are still there, they are quite beautiful and command a good price.

There are so many ways with which to understand a jewel and place it in its context. Let’s look again at this brooch and see what we can find…

I’ve often made mention that one of the most prolific periods for jewellery experimentation in design came about during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This isn’t to discredit earlier or more modern periods, but there are simply moments in history when socially, culturally, financially and politically, a particular movement flourishes. It is during this time that a confluence of factors caused the outcome of experimentation and styles in jewellery, or at least, a mainstream cultural identity, be it Prussian, British, American or Italian, emerged with styles that started are clearly recognisable. Much of this has to do with higher production levels, greater social access to wealth/cultural mobility and advanced transit and communications, which not only broke down established borders, but upheld cultural uniqueness within different geographic parameters. Such as Continental travel had opened up for a society that now could focus on recreation and through this simple means, culture started to transcend borders that were traditionally drawn politically and culturally.

Blue Pearl Brooch

Forgive the long winded preamble, but now we can look at this wonderful brooch and how its style fits directly into these paradigms. The first thing to note is the excellent use of the variety of pearls, which for this style, as you will see in further examples, simply shows two things has occurred;

  1. There was a greater access to pearls through higher trade routes to the East (China and Japan) for potential use as a material and
  2. Styles has started to embrace material over classical depictions, a shift away from the obvious Neoclassical ideal.

The brooch is set on blue, foil-backed glass, in the same style as contemporary miniature portraits, so the method still remains adapted and not wholly unique to this particular style of brooch. For this manner of construction, often the most common type was to set the pearls on ‘a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover.’

As for the style itself, using pearls on blue glass or enamel to depict Neoclassical scenes and symbolism was quite popular throughout the Continent and England. Particularly, this style can be found in pieces ranging from c.1790-1820 from the northern region of France and what is today Germany. Allegorical scenes, often transcending the ecclesiastical undercurrent of many painted Neoclassical scenes, are quite prevalent, focusing directly on the personal love sentiment instead. This is due to regional style, contemporary culture and religious influence in the art directly.

This style of pearls on blue glass or enamel is used heavily in sentimental jewels and can be seen in these further examples from the British Museum:


“Oval gold brooch with seed-pearls, in the form of a winged cupid with a lamb, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount within a pearl border. Inscribed in French.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of sheep and lambs under a tree, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount with blue and white enamel and a tooled gold border. Compartment on reverse with plaited hair under glass.”


“Gold finger-ring with seed-pearls, in the form of a spray of flowers, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass under a domed glass cover in a gold mounted oval-shaped bezel with a pearl border.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of two birds carrying a knotted ribbon, flowers and wheat-ears, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster, laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a silver mount with a gold backing, with a border of pastes set in silver and a tooled gold inner rim.”

Blue Pearl Brooch

Upon the back of this brooch, we have a magnificent inscription that is quite personal for a dedication:

‘This Brooch was occasionally
worn for more than 40 years by James Saunders Esq who died on the
24th September, 1831 in the 79th year of his Age’

To state that a jewel was worn be a gentleman is firstly unusual (rather than directly dedicated to) and then there is the statement of the brooch being ‘occasionally worn’. From here, we move into supposition about the wearer. Why did he wear it? Was this a dedication for someone else or a personal sentiment? Who received the brooch after his passing to inscribe this upon it? Some wonderful questions that may never be answered, but fascinating ones all the same.

I have a few examples of this style in my collection, so when I finally get them out and properly photographed, I’ll continue the look at the pearl/blue phenomenon!

Courtesy: Penny Rushby-Smith

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

I’ve often made mention that one of the most prolific periods for jewellery experimentation in design came about during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This isn’t to discredit earlier or more modern periods, but there are simply moments in history when socially, culturally, financially and politically, a particular movement flourishes. It is during this time that a confluence of factors caused the outcome of experimentation and styles in jewellery, or at least, a mainstream cultural identity, be it Prussian, British, American or Italian, emerged with styles that started are clearly recognisable. Much of this has to do with higher production levels, greater social access to wealth/cultural mobility and advanced transit and communications, which not only broke down established borders, but upheld cultural uniqueness within different geographic parameters. Such as Continental travel had opened up for a society that now could focus on recreation and through this simple means, culture started to transcend borders that were traditionally drawn politically and culturally.

Blue Pearl Brooch

Forgive the long winded preamble, but now we can look at this wonderful brooch and how its style fits directly into these paradigms. The first thing to note is the excellent use of the variety of pearls, which for this style, as you will see in further examples, simply shows two things has occurred;

  1. There was a greater access to pearls through higher trade routes to the East (China and Japan) for potential use as a material and
  2. Styles has started to embrace material over classical depictions, a shift away from the obvious Neoclassical ideal.

The brooch is set on blue, foil-backed glass, in the same style as contemporary miniature portraits, so the method still remains adapted and not wholly unique to this particular style of brooch. For this manner of construction, often the most common type was to set the pearls on ‘a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover.’

As for the style itself, using pearls on blue glass or enamel to depict Neoclassical scenes and symbolism was quite popular throughout the Continent and England. Particularly, this style can be found in pieces ranging from c.1790-1820 from the northern region of France and what is today Germany. Allegorical scenes, often transcending the ecclesiastical undercurrent of many painted Neoclassical scenes, are quite prevalent, focusing directly on the personal love sentiment instead. This is due to regional style, contemporary culture and religious influence in the art directly.

This style of pearls on blue glass or enamel is used heavily in sentimental jewels and can be seen in these further examples from the British Museum:


“Oval gold brooch with seed-pearls, in the form of a winged cupid with a lamb, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount within a pearl border. Inscribed in French.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of sheep and lambs under a tree, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount with blue and white enamel and a tooled gold border. Compartment on reverse with plaited hair under glass.”


“Gold finger-ring with seed-pearls, in the form of a spray of flowers, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass under a domed glass cover in a gold mounted oval-shaped bezel with a pearl border.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of two birds carrying a knotted ribbon, flowers and wheat-ears, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster, laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a silver mount with a gold backing, with a border of pastes set in silver and a tooled gold inner rim.”

Blue Pearl Brooch

Upon the back of this brooch, we have a magnificent inscription that is quite personal for a dedication:

‘This Brooch was occasionally
worn for more than 40 years by James Saunders Esq who died on the
24th September, 1831 in the 79th year of his Age’

To state that a jewel was worn be a gentleman is firstly unusual (rather than directly dedicated to) and then there is the statement of the brooch being ‘occasionally worn’. From here, we move into supposition about the wearer. Why did he wear it? Was this a dedication for someone else or a personal sentiment? Who received the brooch after his passing to inscribe this upon it? Some wonderful questions that may never be answered, but fascinating ones all the same.

I have a few examples of this style in my collection, so when I finally get them out and properly photographed, I’ll continue the look at the pearl/blue phenomenon!

Courtesy: Penny Rushby-Smith

3 Member Family Mourning Ring, Blue Enamel
Year: Easter Morn, April 5th, 1874 / August 2, 1869 / 1870
Dedication: “Papa” A. Lowe / M.M Lowe / N. Lowe

Matching the previous ring from the 18th Century in its nature, this ring has blue enamel and a diamond in the centre.

These two factors would indicate the wealth of the person it was made for, as diamonds weren’t the most common material for mourning jewels – remember that mourning is at its base a necessary custom and regardless of its height in fashion, presented grief was important for the family or self to display. Diamonds are often maintained for the much higher end of the scale, even when the various manufacturer or culture had greater access to them.

For this, the blue enamel signifies that the person, or persons in this case, were considered royalty and the tears of the pearls surround the heart of the diamond.

While small, its design is strong and bold, with hard, straight lines, rather uncommon for the 1860s and 70s.

But what is more important about this ring are the names written underneath. This has three names in all, even with the sentiments of ‘Papa’ and ‘Easter Morn’. ‘Easter Morn’ is quite uncommon and would almost be considered superfluous for a ring so small, but still, it shows that the ring was re-appropriated for the person who wore it to dedicate to more family members.

Underneath is a sealed compartment for hair, as well, just a charming little time capsule for the family.

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