Poesy rings, the first commonly given wedding bands, originated in the Middle Ages. These first matrimonial bands typically feature a "poesy" - a poem, motto, or declaration of love - along the outside of the hoop. The sayings were most often written in French (French being the language of love even way back then) and rendered in Lombardic script. In the late 16th century, the poesy began to appear as a hidden message engraved in English, Latin, French, etc, on the inside of the hoop. These were private, sentimental words not meant to be shared with the rest of the world. For most people, these early wedding bands were made in gilt silver, or perhaps in gold for those a little better off. For the wealthy, a ring set with a precious gem was favored as a wedding band. This spectacular early 17th century poesy ring must have belonged to someone very well to do. The ring is made in high carat yellow gold (tests as at 22k) and is set with a clean, bright approximately .40ct table cut diamond. The poesy engraved in Latin reads: "Erunt Duom Carne Una", which is a quote from the Bible (Mark 10:8) and translates as "They Shall Become One Flesh". Generally speaking, we wouldn't recommend sizing a ring of this age. However, there is a break in the script along one side of the band that could could accommodate a minor size adjustment.
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.