This 18k gold and enamel Georgian mourning ring is modeled in a cigar band shape with a hair locket at the face. The enameling technique used to make a ring like this is called champlevé
. This method required the jeweler to cut away the gold of the band to form shapes, letters or numbers, fill the recessed space with powdered enamel, fire the ring at a high enough temperature to liquefy the enamel, and then let it cool to the glassy hardened state you see here. This ring is decorated with exquisitely rendered urns on each shoulder and the name and death details of the deceased, "Edwd [Edward] Down Esq Ob 23 June 1806 Ae 63". The title of "Esquire" was pretty much an honorary one at the time this ring was made. It indicates that Mr Down, though not a member of the gentry, was a high status person in his community and probably quite wealthy. This ring is a size 8 and cannot be resized.
GEORGIAN (1714 - 1837)
The Georgian Era was named for the English Kings George I, II, III and IV. Within the powerful nations of France and England, fine gemstone jewelry was worn only by the extremely wealthy, and the styles were regal and ornate. As imperialist war raged in the Americas, Caribbean, Australia, and beyond, the jewelry industry benefited: colored gems from all over the empire became newly available.
A mix of artistic influences from around Europe contributed to the feminine, glittering jewels of the era. Dense, ornate Baroque motifs from Italy showed up in Georgian jewelry, as did French Rococo’s undulating flora and fauna. Neoclassical style made use of Greek and Roman motifs, which were newly popular due to the recently uncovered ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Lapidary methods improved: the dome-shaped rose cut was popular, as was the “old mine cut”, a very early iteration of today’s round brilliant cut. The boat-shaped marquise diamond cut was developed around this time, supposedly to imitate the smile of Louis XV’s mistress, the marquise de Pompadour. Paste—an imitation gemstone made from leaded glass—was newly developed in the 18th century, and set into jewelry with the same creativity and care as its more precious counterparts.
Real and imitation gems were almost always set in closed-backed settings, lined on the underside with thin sheets of foil to enhance the color of the stone and highlight it's sparkle. This makes Georgian rings tough for modern women to wear, especially on an everyday basis: genteel, jewelry-owning ladies of the 18th century were not famous for working with their hands like we are. Nor did they wash their hands as much as we do. Water will virtually ruin a foiled setting, so take special care with your Georgian ring. Very little jewelry from this period is still in circulation, and it's very difficult to repair.