In my last Blog we looked at mainly Victorian Engagement rings. But rings were not just by lovers, they were also exchanged by friends, and back in the Victorian period both engagement rings and friendship rings were very often symbolic, or contained inscriptions. Many times engagements or unions were symbolized by the wearing of intaglio, engagement or friendship rings, inscribed with date and initials, with an ivy leaf carved in the middle of the ring, as this was symbol of fidelity. I have in stock an intaglio engagement ring, which is set on a swivel, (pictures 1&2), with the husband's family crest carved on one side, with his wife's family crest carved on the other. This is a time when official, documents before they were sent, had a wax seal to close them, and then the intaglio ring was pushed down into the wax while it was still hot, leaving the imprint of the crest for identification purposes.
Later on at the end of the Victorian period intaglio rings, started to be carved with scenes from mythology, with Greek or Roman God's heads, or symbolic rings. In stock at Beverley R at the moment (picture 3), we have a Victorian Carnelian intaglio ring with a cherub on the back of and attacking a satyr. This antique ring with the cherub standing for love, and the satyr for evil, was meant to symbolizes how love conquers evil. On the same theme we have had in our collection carvings of Cherub's riding lions. Again with the Cherub symbolizing love, and with the lion being the king of the beasts, and standing not just for strength and power, but the ultimate power, the symbolism on these antique rings stood for the power of love, and how love can conquer all.
For those facing separation, Inscription rings became very popular, and have become very collectable. The Victorian period was very religious and superstitious, and words like MIZPAH, with the Biblical meaning - the Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from each other, or the Greek word AEI meaning ALWAYS were very popular inscription on antique rings.
Antique Memorial Rings - Death in the Victorian period involved respecting the conventions of mourning, which very often involved the wearing of antique memorial rings, these were mainly large stark and simple; often with black or dark blue enamel (picture 4), and sometimes with an ashes urn, made up from 'old cut' diamonds set in the middle of this type of antique ring. In the Charles Dickens book Great Expectations it describes Mr. Wemmick as having suffered many bereavements for he wore at least four mourning rings.
The inside of an antique mourning ring was very often inscribed with the initials and dates of the deceased, and many times would have on the underside of the ring a locket compartment (picture 5) containing a picture or even a piece of hair of the deceased.
Cameo Rings - Whereas antique Intaglio rings are carved into a stone, Antique cameo rings are carved so the relief of whatever is carved is displayed on the top of the ring. Discussing Parisian fashion in 1861 the magazine Queen observed the strong preference for cameo rings. The wealthy would wear carved agate, or a harder stone ring, which not only was a lot more endurable, but also a lot more difficult to carve.
The carvings could be again of God's head, pictured(picture 6) from Beverley R stock is an agate bloodstone cameo ring of Athena the Goddess of wisdom. Less expensive, and so very popular among the less well off, who wanted to be stylish there were antique shell cameo rings. Shell being a lot softer than Agate was much easier to carve. Pictured (picture7)from our stock is a very interesting shell cameo ring, a 'gryllus' or three headed cameo ring, with the picture of a wild boar, and two wise sage's heads. this particular ring dates back to the 1800's Georgian period.
1) Swivel Intaglio (Husband)
2) Swivel Intaglio (Wife)
3) Cherub, Satyr Intaglio Ring
4) Black Enamel and Garnet Morning Ring
5) Hair Locket
6) Cameo of Athena
7) Gryllus Ring