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.

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

You’ll have to forgive this Jewellery Historian and Halloween fun. You know, when you deal with such a morbid subject 24/7, it makes Halloween quite a difficult subject to tackle, especially when one has to be respectful, so I decided to have a little fun with education.

No doubt, you’re all full from all that sugar, so let’s take a quiet moment to view this tremendous Regard pendant with chatelaine and necklace from Barbara Robbins.

Dating from the mid-19th century, note the symbolism in the design and hairwork. For those who aren’t familiar with the ‘regard’ motif, it’s the first letter from each of the stones present (ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, diamond).

If looking at such a magnificent piece doesn’t make you feel better, I don’t know what will!

After the previous looks at the Gothic Revival period and its affect on subsequent mourning jewellery, one of the things to consider is that while perception may lead to the Gothic Revival creating a period of jewellery design that was rather static, one must note that it only took the elements of the period, which were not unique to the period, but embellished, and used these concepts as a central motif.

Heavy black enamel was one of the most consistent styles that carried through. Black enamel had been considered a mourning motif for the previous 200 years, but when looking at Victorian style, note that the previous Neoclassical period was one of the strongest, unified mainstream styles ever to impact style on a fully Westernised scale. America, France and England adapted it in their own ways and it took over from a period where Rococo, Baroque and the memento mori symbolism had left off. Black enamel bands were popular since the 1500s and remained so throughout the 18th century, yet the adaptation through the Gothic Revival period and beyond produced rings like this to use the enamel as the bold mourning statement.

1850 Mourning Ring

The following ring comes from c.1850 and below, 1864, note the leap of the bold enamel to become prominent and also the change in font styling.

1864 Mourning Ring

Then let’s look at this piece from 1881, note again the enamel in play. This ring has adapted the Rococo Revival style and infused that within the black enamel on the shoulders. In terms of style, much of this can find its origins in the early 19th century, from the pearl-surrounded hair memento to the enamel itself..

1881 Mourning Ring

When it comes to styling, this particular brooch shows the Gothic lettering in full bloom. Yet the acanthus surround shows the 1860s influences, making the lettering a solid 30 years outside the idealised moment of the Gothic Revival. 30 years is a long time for any art style to be all-pervasive, but in mourning jewellery, the style makes the statement that could be understood 30 years before or after this piece was constructed. Its bold enamel, the hair memento leave no dispute as to what it is.

Mourning Brooch Gothic Revival

And then there are pieces like this from the late 19th century. Dating from 1885, this piece shows how the mourning style had become popular within the sentimental and non-death related styles of the same time. The culture had adapted well to the mainstream fashion of death and exploited it in other fashion designs.

late 19th Cenutyr Mourning Ring

When it comes to sentimental jewellery of the latter 19th century, styles had become bigger, alloys were typically in use and much of this was to accommodate fashion and the rise of photography in jewellery. Photography was a cheap means of obtaining a sentimental keepsake of a loved one and the technology was becoming more compact, enough to work perfectly in lockets. The latter 19th century, particularly post 1880, started to use silver as a popular material, yet base metals copied the look and feel of gold well enough, for mourning jewellery, Pinchbeck was quite common. In this, you can see the bold, enamel styles carry through with the statement of the Gothic Revival showing through. ‘In Memory Of’ and the standard statements were rendered in bold black enamel, often using the Gothic fonts and despite the inclusion of many mourning symbols, the adherence to the Christian paradigm in these jewels reflected the change bought about in the 1830s through the Gothic Revival.

So, there we have it. Three weeks of Gothic Revival exploration in culture and jewellery! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it, as you never know what tomorrow will bring.

The Gothic Revival: Culture and Jewellery
Part 1, c.1740-c.1850
Part 2, c.1850-c.1900

John Barry Miniature Portrait 1785

An oval double portrait miniature attributed to British artist John Barry (active 1784-1827); one side has sepia miniature portrait on ivory of a gentleman (the father) wearing a powdered wig with a verre eglomise border.

John Barry Miniature Portrait 1785

Upon the other side a watercolour portrait on ivory of a young girl (the daughter) in a rose gold frame set upon a light brown hairwork base. Note the symbolism in the border and the costume of the subjects.

John Barry Miniature Portrait 1785

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Further Reading
> Symbolism Sunday Memorial
> Property of a Lady: 18th Century Costume, Mourning and Art in a Neoclassical Miniature
> For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
>A Jean Petitot Louis XIV Enamel Pendant?

Often when appraising jewels, it’s easy to lose sight of their fashionable purpose, of promoting an aesthetic that is beautiful and enhances the nature of the wearer. This particular piece is easy to stand back from and simply admire.

Spanish sentimental pendant 1700

This particular piece is said to have its origins in Spain or northern Italy (possibly Milan), however, its composition is consistent with pieces on the Continent and in the UK for its time.

The regal nature of this piece, extenuated by the green and white enamel transcend the latter basis of symbolism and are used for the purpose of being opulent adornments to the hair memento underneath crystal.

Spanish 1700 Pendant Enamel

The fleur-de-lis pattern surrounding gives credence to the Continental flavour of the piece, but certainly the most extraordinary is the size, the use of the green enamel and the pearls which all indicate its source.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Further Reading:
> Revisiting a Pearl and Blue Glass/Enamel Brooch: How Trade Opened Up New Possibilities in the 18th Century
> Louis XVI Royalist Supporter French Ring
> The Further the Distance the Tighter the Knot; Eternity and Romantic Symbolism on a French Sepia Miniature

Poesy rings make up some of the earliest modern sentimental jewellery pieces, as they were cheaper to produce and the sentiments written inside the bands are personal in nature.

With the slowly increasing social movement of the 17th century, methods of outwardly displaying wealth as well as mementoes of loved ones, be they gifts or personal, were needed.

Not attached to any one particular style, the most common theme of poesy rings is the inscription.

This ring is a superb example of a poesy ring from the 17th Century. Look for an in-depth discussion on poesys in the future!

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Country: England
Year: c. 1650
Dedication: Accept my good will

Further Reading
> The Forget-Me-Not in Jewellery Symbolism
> The Daisy in Jewellery Symbolism
> The Rose in Jewellery Symbolism

Necklaces of course weren’t relegated to hair, and the pieces that weren’t display a union between the chain itself and the pendant it is attached to.

This ‘regard’ necklace and pendant from Barbara Robbins is an exquisite example of its form. From the hairwork under glass to the organic design of the gold work. Though clearly of its time, the organic design is shows an almost nouveau prototype in its nature patterns, right down to the gold hearts with flower designs that contain the stones. Much of this has to do with the transient art styles of the mid 19th century. The Neo-Rococo Romantic period is in full bloom with this piece, from the floral decorations of the gold to the basic sentiment of the stones.

The chain and heart design are a perfect union in this piece, delicate and never over balanced in their weight. It should also be noted that on the back of each heart where the stones sit are glass panels with hair inside. There is more than one type of hair on display in this piece, with the table-worked feathered hair on milk glass showing at least two colours and then the magnificent hair behind each of the regard mementoes.

Further Reading

> The Late 19th Century and Buckle Rings

> An 1876 Hair Ring

> A Late 19th Century Hairwork Ring

> 1888 Sentimental Hair Band in Original Heart-Shaped Box

> An Early Hair Ring: 1860 ‘My David’

> 3 Members of a Family Mourning Ring with Diamond and Blue Enamel

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!

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

Because we’re revisiting some fashion this week, let’s take another look at this spectacular miniature:

Let me begin today’s lesson by stating that to some degree, mourning jewels are fundamentally sentimental and quite personal. There is little to no doubt about that. Grief isn’t something that can be measured by price, it’s not an affectation and it’s not something that any layer of pomp can prove justification to.

18th Century Mourning MIniature with Contemporary WomanWhen it comes to jewels, no matter what the quality, they were worn for the ideal of grief, regardless of their quality and when you see a piece that not only defies the mainstream, or tradition, of popular at a certain period, you know you’re looking at something special. Does that make the piece any more sentimental than any other mass produced item from a catalogue? I think not.

This piece rises above the expectations of the time in which is was made, it produces a bold statement about the person who held/wore/commissioned it and it demands an immediacy of emotion that was rarely captured in miniature paintings, an immediacy and proximity to the subject that perhaps only photographs could manage to take.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a most exquisite pendant….

The front of the mourning pendant - note the use of pink. I can't imagine that this would have occurred in an English mourning piece. Travelling from continent to continent it now resides in Australia.

This story is about collecting. I promise there will be another tale about the potent beauty and sentiment of this piece. However, back to the land of far, far away, the land of collectors, it is called – The Internet.

A few years ago I fell in love. It was a complicated love, one born of desire for beauty, but one also springing from a much deeper place of empathy and respect. It was instigated by my sisters, they (under my instruction) went to Gray’s Antiques in London to collect a rather special ring that I had recently purchased. They were also under instruction to have a look at a few other pieces I was interested in. What they recommended was this extraordinary French pendant. They described the size, colour and detail to be something quite unique.

Detail

I looked at this miniature artwork on the internet on a daily basis. I coveted it greatly but just did not have the resources to buy it. I would estimate that I looked at it online at least once a day for quite some time and then – quelle horreur –  it disappeared.

As a collector do you ever realise (after the fact) that you feel more regret at having missed out on a new acquisition as it would have felt to spend the money you didn’t have? I have felt both types, but nothing is quite as bad as feeling regret once something slipped through one’s fingers. That is the double-edged sword of the internet. Being able to see an image of something daily, having it there seemingly available and accessible does encourage one to think that one has until  tomorrow, and tomorrow…..

So, when it disappears it can be quite confronting. Eeek – someone took my pendant!

A combination of sepia painting, macerated hair, pearls, watercolour & 3-d gold

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw the same pendant suddenly appear on the other side of the world courtesy of Ruby Lane! Immediate Wish List addition. I had learnt my lesson but to be honest, it still doesn’t solve the realism of not having the finances. But the original loss made me bolder, and when the dollar became a bit better, and with such generous things like lay-by (and living on rice) become options one can find a way.

A discipline which I try to adhere to (but often fail) is to refrain from purchasing things that I like at a moderate cost and save up for things that I love that are at a price requiring a bit more sacrifice.

What the land of  The Internet has provided to me, as a collector, is reach into a larger market. I have access to dealers in the UK, the US and the rest of the world which would have been unfathomable not that long ago.

The reverse with hair panel and inscription in French.

– Marielle Soni

Late Victorian Hairwork Fob Chain

It’s been a while since I did a good analysis of a piece, life sometimes gets in the way of memorials, but without living, how can there be anything to reflect upon? So, for today’s warm-up session, let’s get intimate with this wonderful hairwork fob chain, a piece that reflects sentimentality and I think are a great place to start your collection. Why is that?

Late Victorian Hairwork Fob Chain

Firstly, they are cheap to buy. Fob chains (those that haven’t been melted down for precious metal or converted into a necklace – a popular thing during WWI) are redundant fashion. In terms of the mainstream, once the wristwatch became cheap and miniaturisation/mass production led to the wrist taking up the real estate for the watch, cumbersome pocket watches seemed dated and obsolete. Necessity of using the wrist for a quick glance to see what the time is and have your hands free was a very handy (excuse the pun) thing to have during wartime as well.

Secondly, we have hairwork as a less than marketable material for audiences today to comprehend and use. Hairwork deteriorates rapidly when worn close to the skin due to oils and temperature change which accelerate rot and bacteria growth. In my youth, I’ve nearly lost two pieces due to this. Also, it’s scratchy and uncomfortable to be adapted to a necklace, though they do exist. Different weaves can be a little softer, but rule #1 still applies.

Late Victorian Hairwork Fob Chain

So, why is it great for the collector? Look at the fittings above. These, often rolled gold or Pinchbeck, show the symbolism-filled Rococo Revival, so popular in the latter 19th century and can be roughly dated due to their mass production and catalogue ordering. Yes, you can buy reproduction jewellery/store catalogues and easily spot the age of a piece due to its fittings. And, as they aren’t precious enough to destroy, melt down or adapt, the fittings often exist today.

Take a look through the Symbolism Sunday series and see if you can spot all the symbolism in the flowers. Often, these are disregarded ads being common Victorian design-work, but the symbolism actually enhances the piece and we have to pay attention to these nuances if we’re going to determine what the piece was worn or used for. The quick answer is ‘mourning’, but look a little closer and let’s think about it for a minute.

Late Victorian Hairwork Fob Chain

The hairwork is a dual-colour weave. Yes, we have two different kinds of hair used. This would have been colour matched professionally from sourced hair, rather than donated by the wearer. So, we have the idea of two kinds of hair entwined. Love, even when two are apart is what we have to consider. Then, it’s how it was used. This was worn attached to the vest or waistcoat, affixed through the buttonhole, with the watch at one end. Usually in the centre-fitting, you will find charms hanging (often the acorn, flowers, etc). This piece wasn’t so lucky, but it makes up for it with the remarkable serpent clasp.

Here is where you can find a more concrete date for the piece, though they were mass produced between the 1880s and 90s both in Europe and the US. Due to higher levels of travel and mass transit with a very mobile social structure, identifying a piece like this to a certain area is much harder. Here, the serpent clasp was seen in several fashion warehouse catalogues and could be interchanged for piece selection and production, so it could ideally be narrowed down to stockist.

Late Victorian Hairwork Fob Chain

Back to the symbolism of the serpent and how it’s coiled back over itself, forming the loop of the entire chain, creating the eternity circle. Once again, the love motif shines through.

So, we have a very sentimental piece and quite a common one that was part of a gentleman’s daily wardrobe. Hairwork was a common and relatively cheap material that was quite ubiquitous in mainstream fashion, so finding a gentleman wearing this as a nod to his loved one would be quite typical.

Late Victorian Hairwork Fob Chain

How was that, burgeoning jewellery historian? Why not track some down (you shouldn’t be paying over $150 for a decent chain) and do an analysis, or go through the Art of Mourning archives and do your own appraisal?

Further Reading
> Spotlight On: Fob Accessories
> A History of Hairwork
> Symbolism Sunday: The Acanthus
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 2, c.1850-c.1900

 

Those of you who know me a bit by now are aware of the pleasure I get from researching the person(s) commemorated on a piece of mourning jewelry. I’m by no means a genealogist, nor an historic researcher, but I suppose I can be persistent and patient when the need arises. When I’ve got a lovely piece of mourning jewelry in my hand, with the hair of a person long dead, and their name inscribed there too, the desire to know something about that individual, to put some shape to their life, is what challenges me to begin seeing what I can find out.

I purchased this gold pendant several years ago from an English dealer. She knew only what you can read here, in gold letters picked out in black enamel around the oval hair compartment: Robt Pouncy OB 27 Nov 1793 AE 37.

I began with a simple Google search. Usually I’ll try a few different approaches until I come up with a good lead. I may try, in this case for example- “Robert Pouncy died 27 Nov 1793”, or I may try to figure out the birth year (which is easy to do within a year or so when you have the age and date of death) and then plug that in as well. Or, I may try one of the genealogical sites that have free, basic information available. If I’m pretty sure the person was English, as I was in this case, I might go onto some archival sites for the UK that have birth, baptismal, death, or burial records. Luckily, church and county records in England are quite good, and go pretty far back. The only question is whether they have been put online. Another avenue to try is to find a genealogy forum for the family name and contact someone from there. I did that in this case, and heard back from a distant relative of Capt. Pouncy who was aware of him and from his own extensive research was able to tell me the names of his parents. If memory serves me though, the first item I found which led me to others, was a guide to documents held at the British Library in the Asia, Pacific, and Africa Collections. This guide had a list of contents of the journals, logbooks, and ledgers from a merchant ship, the Sulivan (var. Sullivan), operating under charter to the British East India Company (known as an East Indiaman) in the late 18th century, and a summary of basic information contained within, including the notation that a Captain Robert Pouncy had commandeered her on 3 voyages to India and China. In fact, this paper gave the dates of those three voyages, from departure from England, the ports of call along the way, the return date, and the return port city. From this I learned that the last voyage Capt. Pouncy made returned him to England in August of 1793. The locket tells us that he died only 3 months later, in November. How did he die? I have yet to find out, but my inclination is, he caught some dread disease on his last voyage, and it did him in. After all, he was only 37 when he died.

Also online, I was able to find two notices in London newspapers regarding court cases between Capt. Pouncy and one or more sailors who were contesting some punishment he had meted out to them while at sea (Capt. Pouncy prevailed).

With the names of his parents from the genealogist, I did more online searches and found that Robert Pouncy was born in Dorchester, Dorset, England. It seems he later moved to London; he was married there in 1785 to Ann Chassereau. They had two daughters- Anne (born 1788), and Sophia (born 17??). Mrs. Pouncy undoubtedly saw little of her husband in their short life together, as he set off on his first voyage only 4 months after their wedding, and didn’t return until July of 1787. Each subsequent trip took him away from home for approximately the same length of time. His daughters probably barely knew him. Finally, I found that his will is in the National Archives of England, and for a reasonable fee, I was able to obtain a copy of it. It was written just one day before he died, and makes mention that he is sick and weak (but of sound mind). Thus, he knew his time was up.

As I mentioned, the logbooks, journals, pay books, and ledgers for the Sulivan are housed in the British Library, and more information pertaining to vessels of the British East India Company are in the National Archives Maritime Collection. The Harry Ransom Center at the U of Texas also has one of Robert Pouncy’s logbooks in its collection. How it ended up there, I have no idea. I could order a digital copy of the logbook, or select pages from it, but it’s rather pricey, and I’d rather go read it and the ones in London in person. I imagine in there I might find a clue to the cause of Capt. Pouncy’s death, information on the goods carried back to England, and details of the voyages. In addition, I’d really like to find a portrait of Captain Pouncy, showing him with his fine dark brown hair. With persistence, and in good time, I hope to accomplish all of these things.

Mourning Locket for Commander Robert Pouncy

Nothing is quite so sad for me as to see an antiques dealer retire or go out of business. In this particular case, it was the former and I had to rescue all the jewellery I could from the Melbourne institution herself, Irene Chapman. Below is a lovely red enamel, pearl, 2 colour hairwork brooch, let’s take a look:

Red Enamel Navette Pearl Brooch

Red Enamel Navette Pearl Brooch

Red Enamel Navette Pearl Brooch

The Victorian appropriation of the Rococo style is something that overtook the mainstream and led to many good pieces of art and jewellery. Influenced by Romanticism, you can see the impact on this particular ring:

Rococo Revival Ring

Rococo Revival Ring

Rococo Revival Ring

Louis XVI Royalist Supporter French Ring
Excuse me while I marvel at this gem – please tell the crowd all about it, Barbara:

“this is Royalist Supporter jewelry, late 18th century, commemorating the deaths of Marie Antoinette, her husband Louis XVI and their son, the Dauphin. This high carat gold ring is set with a sulphide cameo encrustation portrait of the ill-fated Royal family. The portrait is set to a gold frame with the black enamel motto “Iis sont immortels (they are immortal), under crystal.  It is in perfect condition, but I couldn’t get the photo without a very small glare.”

Louis XVI Royalist Supporter French RingLouis XVI Royalist Supporter French Ring

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

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

The serpent! What a wonderful motif, I think I can safely say that I consider it one of my favourite symbols and I think I’m in good company there.

We have a remarkable brooch here, it contains so much rich symbolism that you can’t look at any part of it and not be in awe of its sentimental function. Why is this so?

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

Well, for starters, we have the serpent, a symbol which represents eternity, often to ‘love another for eternity’ (if the piece is dedicated to someone or from someone), also rebirth and immortality. In this context, the serpent is swallowing its tail clearly shows the ‘eternity’, as it forever creates a never ending circuit around the brooch. This is a very poignant thing to note when faced with the miniatures inside.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

Here, we have dual portraits of the same lady painted upon ivory, something which is very rare and quite unusual. We have to be careful here that they are exactly the same woman and not sisters, so without a solid dedication, we can only suggest that it is based on countenance, but it would not stretch the imagination to suggest so.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

What aids the context of the singular in the portrait is the hairwork itself, a single type, we can assume. For when this brooch was produced (c.1850-60), it uses the painting on ivory method that was relegated for those who could afford it and steers the piece into the realm of artistic interpretation, rather than the literal photograph that was becoming more and more ubiquitous for its time and used in jewels for sentimental reasons. Note also the romantic depiction of the subject; this isn’t a portrait that is directly there to capture the bare fact of the subject, but it is a portrait which elevates the subject into the mythic projections of love. This can be seen in the gentle pose of her, the open, supple mouth ruddy cheeks and large, auburn eyes – all of these things are idealistic. The subject is depicted on a dark background and from the costume in the profile, we can see another link to the anachronistic and idealised romantic fashion; this certainly isn’t a portrait meant for literal consumption in a formal society.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

What are we left with, apart from many questions? The same thing we’re always left with when looking at these jewels; love.

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

For a collector of the memorial and sentimental, it’s quite common to find white, black and blue enamels, but when you find a contrasting colour, you have to take notice.

With this very early 19th century pendant, the gorgeous red guilloche enamel surrounds the hair memento and is generously surrounded with paste. In this case, the sentiment is purely love, red meaning passion. If you were to look at the hair inside, notice the elegant ribbon bow entwining the simple palette worked hair, almost as if it had been cropped off the head of the lover and simply placed inside (while obviously there’s a bit more work involved than that).

Due to the use of this for its sentiment and the tight weave of the hairwork in the back, this piece matches closely with other French pieces of the time, so it wouldn’t be difficult to make this assumption.

Sentimental MiniatureThese remarkable miniatures also from the collection of Don Shelton (Artists and Ancestors – Miniature Portrait Art Collection) show an astounding variation in memorial and sentimental symbolism.

The piece by Johann Adamek (1776-1840), who was an Austrian miniaturist, has quite a lovely portrait on the front, but the memorial sentiment on the back is most unique.

Quite Continental in its style (typical of France, Germany and Austria), the memorial scene of the classical woman showing her right breast exposed, weeping in front of a burning pyre on top of a plinth, all set in front of a blue background.

Johann Adamek minature (front)

Johann Adamek minature (front)

One thing that should be noted is the more abstract nature of the European mourning setting which takes more cues from classical art and embellishes it with greater levels of artistic depth and individuality than its British counterpart.

This is not unique to this piece alone, but quite common of more Continental pieces of the neo-classical period, there was less of a ubiquitous standard and more of an abstract nature given to the portrayals of the mourning scene or sentiment. Please view other pieces within Art of Mourning to identify many different forms.

Johann Adamek minature (back)

Johann Adamek minature (back)

It should be noted that the bird in relation to a sentimental image is also important; if the bird is a dove, then it can be further detached from the subject and more inclined towards a neo-classical ideal of peace/hope/heaven, if the bird a sparrow then love (dedication, trust), if the bird is a swallow, there’s motherhood or children involved. There are many neo-classical images of the woman holding the bird with a man looking upon her or involved with her (hand upon shoulder or body) which allude to motherhood, futurity and the prospect of a child. Many of these bird subjects often come back to the nature of the child.

Sepia MiniatureIn classical art, it has been suggested that the bird in the cage was relevant to an ‘awakening’ of the subject, be it in a sexual manner or a path to adulthood, I believe that what the relation of the bird is upon the subject (depending on how it references the bird) can define it being death or a new life. Be aware, though, that the bird as the subject without the human element or any context for the bird (no cage), the bird becomes its own individual symbol and is often the anthropomorphic establishment of its subject or often an ecclesiastical ideal (though this takes us to the Protestant iconography vs Catholic symbolic differences).

Hairwork bracelets are popular forms of sentimental and mourning jewellery, being always fashionable and relatively cheap to produce.

As much as the manufacture of the clasp or gold-work in a bracelet, the hair itself is the focal point of the construction.

As a memento, entire families could have different hair woven into the band, or a loved one could offer their own in a more intimate manner.

Other than the hair itself, the clasp is important to judge the latter 19th century pieces for their age and quality. In future posts, I’ll discuss more about the 18th century Neoclassical pieces, which differ greatly with these pieces (using miniature portraits, pearls and other materials). In this example from 1858, there are seven initials from the family members and with the tableworked hair in three colours constructing the band. A simple weave of hair is also displayed inside the glass compartment and on the reverse, the initials of each individual are represented.

Further Reading

> Bracelet With Miniature

After the previous looks at the Gothic Revival period and its affect on subsequent mourning jewellery, one of the things to consider is that while perception may lead to the Gothic Revival creating a period of jewellery design that was rather static, one must note that it only took the elements of the period, which were not unique to the period, but embellished, and used these concepts as a central motif.

Heavy black enamel was one of the most consistent styles that carried through. Black enamel had been considered a mourning motif for the previous 200 years, but when looking at Victorian style, note that the previous Neoclassical period was one of the strongest, unified mainstream styles ever to impact style on a fully Westernised scale. America, France and England adapted it in their own ways and it took over from a period where Rococo, Baroque and the memento mori symbolism had left off. Black enamel bands were popular since the 1500s and remained so throughout the 18th century, yet the adaptation through the Gothic Revival period and beyond produced rings like this to use the enamel as the bold mourning statement.

1850 Mourning Ring

The following ring comes from c.1850 and below, 1864, note the leap of the bold enamel to become prominent and also the change in font styling.

1864 Mourning Ring

Then let’s look at this piece from 1881, note again the enamel in play. This ring has adapted the Rococo Revival style and infused that within the black enamel on the shoulders. In terms of style, much of this can find its origins in the early 19th century, from the pearl-surrounded hair memento to the enamel itself..

1881 Mourning Ring

When it comes to styling, this particular brooch shows the Gothic lettering in full bloom. Yet the acanthus surround shows the 1860s influences, making the lettering a solid 30 years outside the idealised moment of the Gothic Revival. 30 years is a long time for any art style to be all-pervasive, but in mourning jewellery, the style makes the statement that could be understood 30 years before or after this piece was constructed. Its bold enamel, the hair memento leave no dispute as to what it is.

Mourning Brooch Gothic Revival

And then there are pieces like this from the late 19th century. Dating from 1885, this piece shows how the mourning style had become popular within the sentimental and non-death related styles of the same time. The culture had adapted well to the mainstream fashion of death and exploited it in other fashion designs.

late 19th Cenutyr Mourning Ring

When it comes to sentimental jewellery of the latter 19th century, styles had become bigger, alloys were typically in use and much of this was to accommodate fashion and the rise of photography in jewellery. Photography was a cheap means of obtaining a sentimental keepsake of a loved one and the technology was becoming more compact, enough to work perfectly in lockets. The latter 19th century, particularly post 1880, started to use silver as a popular material, yet base metals copied the look and feel of gold well enough, for mourning jewellery, Pinchbeck was quite common. In this, you can see the bold, enamel styles carry through with the statement of the Gothic Revival showing through. ‘In Memory Of’ and the standard statements were rendered in bold black enamel, often using the Gothic fonts and despite the inclusion of many mourning symbols, the adherence to the Christian paradigm in these jewels reflected the change bought about in the 1830s through the Gothic Revival.

So, there we have it. Three weeks of Gothic Revival exploration in culture and jewellery! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it, as you never know what tomorrow will bring.

The Gothic Revival: Culture and Jewellery
Part 1, c.1740-c.1850
Part 2, c.1850-c.1900

French 1851 Hair Art / MemorialThis sublime and elegant work still has the original maker’s details and appears almost untouched by age. The thick curls of the hairwork blend seamlessly into the hair artwork, creating several sentimental symbols.

Featuring two kinds of table and palette-worked hair, this French piece shows magnificent dimension in the willow, forget-me-nots and the over-arching hair, which is locked together in an eternity knot at the bottom.

This piece is important for several reasons, one being that it’s a prime example of French hairworking, which never reached the popular heights (due to more transient fashion on the Continent) as it did in the UK and US, but was largely popular for a time in the 1850s.

French 1851 Hair Art / MemorialFrench hairwork, and the jewels that encompass the hair, tend to be of a higher quality and more delicate than their English counterparts. Mourning culture, while popular, did not reach the heights of popularity that it did in England and the expense and quality of the jewels were farther removed from the poorer classes. Hairwork weaving is as grand in its construction, as with middle European hairwork, with a higher propensity for matching necklace / bracelet / earring sets.

In 1858, fashion magazine La Belle Assemblè referred to the French hairwork artist Limmonièr in a revolutionary light. La Belle Assemblè expands on the association with hairwork as a sentimental device and identifies it as a jewellery construction material in its own right, not simply “in which some beloved tress or precious curl is entwined”.

“(Old styles) gave the appearance of having been designed from a ‘mortuary tablet’. Have we not all met ladies wearing as a brooch, by way of loving remembrance, a tomb between two willow trees formed of the hair of the individual from whom their crêpe was worn, and which from its very nature must be laid aside with it? But the new hair jewelry made by Limmonièr is an ornament for all times and places. He expands it into a broad ribbon as a bracelet and fastens it with a forget-me-not in turquoise and brilliants; weaves it into chains for the neck, the flacon, or the fan; makes it into a medallion, or leaves and flowers; and of these last the most beautiful specimens I have seen have been formed of the saintly white hair of age. This he converts into orange flowers, white roses, chrysanthemum and most charming of all, clusters of lily-of-the-valley.”

Hair bracelets advertisement

La Belle Assemblè provides a very good advertising spiel for Limmonièr but also provides an insight into how the French perceived hairwork in 1858. By the latter half of the 19th century, hairwork was nearing a phase of unpopularity in France, though this article shows how hairwork was removed, or was attempted to be removed, from mourning and memorials.
Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Dedication: TC 16 Novembre 1851
Year: 1851

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

Dedication: To D.H.R from her affectionate mother.

Often a piece comes along that you feel in your heart is special and was kept untouched and loved for a reason. This brooch is one of those, not only for its pristine condition, but for the glorious sentiment between a mother and daughter.

This piece specifically states that it is a love token, an affectionate gift from the lady’s mother and we can take a lot in just from looking at it.

 

1860 Sentimental Brooch

Dedication and More Hair

 

It is a quite heavy piece and solid, with feathered tableworked hair with three pearls on milk glass on the front, with a simple twist of hair under glass on the reverse. We could assume that the mother’s hair is on top and the daughter’s underneath, but this is merely speculation without any absolute fact. One of the dangers of analysing a piece is becoming emotionally attached to it and making grand statements, when there is no basis for it. In the gold work, we can see subtle heart and clover motifs worked into the Rococo lines, yet nothing overpowers the large hair memento inside.

By the 1860s, brooches worn at the neck were becoming larger in fashion, so this piece is quite obvious and proud for its time. There’s no enamel of which to speak, so the gold design itself does the talking for it. Post 1861, the focus on sentimental jewels had grown far larger than it was even previously (if you’ve been reading this site, they had been quite popular with a large industry for the previous 250 years), however, post Albert’s death and Victoria’s adoption of perpetual mourning, combined with the introduction of the allowance of cheaper alloys in jewellery from 1854, the vales of sentiment focused upon the woman in the Victorian household was not only mandatory, but it was financially possible to buy the paraphernalia.

Let me begin today’s lesson by stating that to some degree, mourning jewels are fundamentally sentimental and quite personal. There is little to no doubt about that. Grief isn’t something that can be measured by price, it’s not an affectation and it’s not something that any layer of pomp can prove justification to.

18th Century Mourning MIniature with Contemporary WomanWhen it comes to jewels, no matter what the quality, they were worn for the ideal of grief, regardless of their quality and when you see a piece that not only defies the mainstream, or tradition, of popular at a certain period, you know you’re looking at something special. Does that make the piece any more sentimental than any other mass produced item from a catalogue? I think not.

This piece rises above the expectations of the time in which is was made, it produces a bold statement about the person who held/wore/commissioned it and it demands an immediacy of emotion that was rarely captured in miniature paintings, an immediacy and proximity to the subject that perhaps only photographs could manage to take.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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