From the 16th century through to the end of the 19th, locks of hair were regularly exchanged between family members and lovers. The art of making hair into jewelry, however, was generally reserved for memorializing a deceased loved one. An allotment of money was often set aside in a will to make mourning rings, lockets, or bracelets to commemorate the deceased, these memorial jewels were then distributed to mourners after the funeral. This unusual Georgian mourning ring features two panels with different styles of hair-work set under glass. The face is decorated in black enamel with a neoclassical foliate motif rendered in gold and a white enamel border. The dedication engraved on the reverse of the head reads: "Ann Hobson Ob July 6th 1810 Ae 7 years". One of the lockets contains the hair of the deceased, and we assume that the hair in the other locket most likely belonged to one of her bereaved parents. The ring features classic to the period tripartite shoulders with a grooved hoop.
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.