Mourning rings are prized by collectors in part because they bear such a wealth of information about when, where, and why they were created. While certain rings have us bent over our loupes for hours, squintily combing the internet for some example of a totally obscure maker's mark, the mourning ring's story unfolds easily. This astonishingly beautiful Regency piece is no exception. With a stunning head adorned with a stylized funeral urn and pearl border, this ring was made in memory of the Right Honourable John Lord Henniker, the 2nd Baron Henniker in the Irish Peerage. He came about the title of the "Right Honourable" (a title given to British officials and government ministers) through his service in the House of Commons representing first New Romney, and later Steyning and Rutland from 1785 until 1812. The ring is engraved: "The R [Right] Hon.ble [Honourable] John Lord Henniker ob 5 Dec 1821 At. 69".
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.