Mourning rings were made and worn to commemorate the death of a close friend or relative. The use of memorial rings dates back to Ancient Rome, but the height of their production and popularity began in the Georgian era and continued through the Victorian. Mourning rings—and other forms of memorial jewelry—were purchased through the estate of the deceased and given out at the funeral. Jewelers would stock a variety of styles of mourning rings, these rings could then be ordered (sometimes in great quantities) and engraved with a name, age, and date of death. This 18k yellow gold mourning band was a jeweler's stock piece made in the Gothic Revival style popular in the mid 1800s. This particular ring is unusual as it is engraved for three members of the Saunders family. The dedications read: "John L Saunders died 21 Aug 1854 Aged 62/ Jane Suanders died 6 April 1860 Aged 64/ John Saunders died 24 Aug 1854 Aged 16". This very special ring is a size 7 and cannot be resized.
VICTORIAN (1837 - 1901)
The Western world was thoroughly transformed during Queen Victoria’s epically long reign. New technology, urbanization, and industrialization created a middle class flush with disposable income, and for the first time, jewelry was mass-produced to sell to everyone.
The Victorians were avid consumers and novelty-seekers, especially when it came to fashion, and numerous fads came and went throughout the 19th century. In jewelry, whatever fashion choices Queen V. made reverberated throughout the kingdom. The Romantic period reflected the queen’s legendary love for her husband, Albert. Jewelry from this period featured joyful designs like flowers, hearts, and birds, all which often had symbolic meaning. The queen’s betrothal ring was made in the shape of a snake, which stood for love, fidelity, and eternity. The exuberant tone shifted after Prince Albert passed away in 1861, marking the beginning of the Grand Period. Black jewelry became de rigeur as the Queen and her subjects entered “mourning,” which at the time represented not just an emotional state, as we conceive of it today, but a specific manner of conduct and dress. She wore the color black for the remainder of her life, and we see lots of black onyx, enamel, jet, and gutta percha in the jewelry from this time. Finally, during the late Victorian period, which transitioned along with a rapidly changing world into the “Aesthetic Movemement”, there was a return to organic and whimsical motifs: serpents, crescent moons, animals, and Japonaisserie designed for the more liberated “Gibson Girl”.
During the second half of the 19th century, America entered the global jewelry market, with Tiffany and Co. leading the way. Lapidaries continued to perfect their techniques, and the old European cut emerged toward the end of the Victorian period. The discovery of rich diamond mines in South Africa made the colorless stones more accessible than ever before.