In the nineteenth century love and affection in life and in death was expressed on a miniature scale on delicate rings with hidden symbols and messages. At first glance these rings appear decorative, yet their symbolism is quite intricate. The choice of black enamel alludes to the use of the ring as a sign of mourning for the deceased. Black onyx and Whitby jet were popular alternatives. Cut as a keepsake before burial and then given to the goldsmith, hair inserted in the hoop would have been taken from the deceased. Flowers, such as roses, symbolized enduring love after death. Traditionally pearls were worn by widows, perhaps relating to ancient myths in which pearls were thought to be formed from the tears of gods.               

Wide gold band, plain on the interior, inside hollow and filled with brown hair and on the exterior there are alternate rectangular and quatrefoil openings through which it becomes visible. The borders are engraved with floral motifs, arches and dots. The black enameled bezel has the shape of a rectangular shield with tapered ends (underneath beaded wire along the hoop enforces the structure). Inlaid are three flowers (roses?) with golden petals and pearls in the center. Inside the hoop is the maker's or retailer's mark with initials "WGM" and the hallmark for 9 carat gold "9" "375," the shield with three wheatsheafs for Chester Assay Office and the date letter "c" for 1820-1 (see Pickford (ed.) 2011, pp. 392 and 396.  The hair is missing in parts due to the age of the ring, which is otherwise in good wearable condition.


Such mourning rings were made in production by retail companies and then sold through jewelers; cf. a collection of mourning jewels designed by the London manufacturer Saunders & Sheperd Ltd. See Peter Hinks, Victorian Jewelry, An Illustrated Collection of Exquisite 19th Century Jewelry, New York, 1991, pp. 172f.


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