THE GRAND TOUR was an essential undertaking for any English man of means beginning in the 1700's, but it wasn't until the early 1800's with the invention of steam-powered transportation that it became a pursuit open to anyone, including women. The tour typically began in Dover, England and though there was no specified order of countries to visit, most travelers went to France, Germany and Switzerland before the culmination of the trip in Italy. Throughout the tour one was supposed to acquire knowledge of language, politics, sport and art and become a generally more well-rounded aristocrat.
During the same period the cameo (made from a variety of materials including shell, coral, onyx and lava) was experiencing great popularity and many of the most expert makers came from Italy. Lava from Mt. Vesuvius provided Italian cameo carvers a plentiful medium to create these miniature reliefs - this particular ring is a souvenir of somebody's Grand Tour. Measures as a size 5.5.