This mourning ring is fashioned in 10k gold with a hair locket under glass. The locket is framed by an ouroboros detailed with crosshatched black enamel scales and a red enameled mouth and eyes. Snakes in general, and ouroboros in particular, are representations of eternal love and were popularly used in mourning jewelry from the late 1700s throughout the 19th century. The style of this ring is distinctly late Georgian or very early Victorian, but interestingly, the dedication is for the year 1877. This could mean any of three things. First, the ring could be a throwback to a previously popular style (which seems unlikely). Second, the ring could have been a jeweler's model that was never used in the time that it was made (somewhat more likely). Or third and most probable, this ring was upcycled with original engraving rubbed out and replaced with the present dedication, "A.H. Obt 11 Sep 1877 Ae 65", as well as the hair.
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.