This exquisite early Victorian mourning ring contains multiple recognizable symbols (to us, at least, and anyone living in the late 1800's would have gotten them, too.) Firstly, black enamel instantly signaled that the jewelry was memorializing a loved one. Secondly, the five-petalled flower that comprises the face of the ring is a pansy, a symbol of remembrance. The name "pansy" is derived from the French word pensée, "thought". It universally meant "think of me," much like the forget-me-not flower meant "don't forget me." This ring pansy is rendered in back enamel with a second diamond pansy at the center. The split shoulders and beautifully detailed with a scrolling design. The underside of the head features a hair locket with the engraved dedication, "Richard Bright Ob 25 Jany 1840 ae 86." This ring is a size 6.5 and resizing is not recommended.
VICTORIAN (1837 - 1901)
The Western world was thoroughly transformed during Queen Victoria’s epically long reign. New technology, urbanization, and industrialization created a middle class flush with disposable income, and for the first time, jewelry was mass-produced to sell to everyone.
The Victorians were avid consumers and novelty-seekers, especially when it came to fashion, and numerous fads came and went throughout the 19th century. In jewelry, whatever fashion choices Queen V. made reverberated throughout the kingdom. The Romantic period reflected the queen’s legendary love for her husband, Albert. Jewelry from this period featured joyful designs like flowers, hearts, and birds, all which often had symbolic meaning. The queen’s betrothal ring was made in the shape of a snake, which stood for love, fidelity, and eternity. The exuberant tone shifted after Prince Albert passed away in 1861, marking the beginning of the Grand Period. Black jewelry became de rigeur as the Queen and her subjects entered “mourning,” which at the time represented not just an emotional state, as we conceive of it today, but a specific manner of conduct and dress. She wore the color black for the remainder of her life, and we see lots of black onyx, enamel, jet, and gutta percha in the jewelry from this time. Finally, during the late Victorian period, which transitioned along with a rapidly changing world into the “Aesthetic Movemement”, there was a return to organic and whimsical motifs: serpents, crescent moons, animals, and Japonaisserie designed for the more liberated “Gibson Girl”.
During the second half of the 19th century, America entered the global jewelry market, with Tiffany and Co. leading the way. Lapidaries continued to perfect their techniques, and the old European cut emerged toward the end of the Victorian period. The discovery of rich diamond mines in South Africa made the colorless stones more accessible than ever before.