All that we know of Socrates is gathered from secondhand sources. The near mythical man is known as the father Western philosophy, the tutor of Plato, and the originator of what came to be the scientific method, yet he wrote nothing himself. He is responsible for memorably profound sound bites such as, "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing", and "To find yourself, think for yourself". Socrates, a famous iconoclast, was sentenced to death in 399 BC for impiety and the corruption of youth, and reputedly committed suicide by drinking a cup of hemlock tea. The bust of the legendary philosopher is rendered in agate on this Regency era cameo. His distinctive snub nose, beard, and bald head make him one of the easily recognizable figures in the world. This massive c. 1820 ring is made in 18k yellow gold. The cameo measures 1 1/8" from north to south and 15/16" wide.
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.