Rings 27.05.2011

Hello ‘Mother’! A Hinged Hairwork Band

When it comes to hinges in rings, there are many variations of the kind and it’s only when a style is at its absolute peak does the commonality and perfection of the form match the jewel itself.

And what do I mean by this, I hear you ask? Indeed, there have been unusual forms of hinges in rings dating back to pre-history, but for sentimental and memorial jewels of the late 19th century, you will find the hinged hairwork band to be one of the more common popular jewels produced. This leads into a lot of what was mass produced in the late 19th century in terms of jewellery design.

Jewellery design was at a point where it transcended socio-economic boundaries and found itself trapped within the necessary lexicon of moral standard. This is particularly true of mourning jewels, which had their set factors in time of the dictated mourning periods (1st, 2nd and 3rd) in Protestant-based Western culture, rather than sentimental jewels which were worn with reasons of personal beauty and random affection.

It was also a time where other styles of art, from the popular Arts and Crafts movement and subsequent Art Nouveau movement began to permeate the mainstream society and influence the style of jewellery design that was quite locked into the static social standard that had existed from the 1860s to 1890s. While the society was rebelling against these pre-established concepts, we have to look at what was also influencing it.

Mass production becomes a major factor here; a society locked within its very formal ways was being facilitated by high levels of production and low cost for items that were necessary within society. Look to establishments such as Jay’s Mourning Warehouse; places which tailored the mourning experience (and travelled!) to the individual and basically created a fashionable culture around this social necessity.

Mother Hairwork Hinged Ring

How does this impact this ring? Indeed, this ring comes from a time when this formalisation was becoming set, yet it has a wonderfully individual slant on the style. By the 1870s, society from the UK to America was finding these measures of standardisation in production, with the catalogue being the primary source of purchase and rings in particular (with fob chains, brooches and pins) being the more obvious items of fashion for day to day wear that denoted affection. Note how this ring is detailed within the hinge itself and the curvature to the band. It becomes almost an adaption of the style, which is clearly visible in the ring itself. Hair bands of the 1860s and 70s set the precedent for the mass production of the 90s, with a noticeably heavier weight in gold, thinner styles and greater differentiation with the shield or dedications on the front. In this, we have the formal Empire flourishes to the surrounding shield with ‘mother’ written very elegantly inside. The interior is dedicated ‘T.H. Morris’ and the woven hair is still in excellent condition.

Mother Hairwork Hinged Ring

One can draw inferences about how and why this ring was worn, certainly the dedication speaks for itself, however a good way to begin this form of esoteric analysis is to look at the condition of the piece and then draw some conclusions about its interactivity with day to day life.

I’ll leave that there, I won’t want to muddy the waters of fact with any sort of blind romanticism!

Enjoy the ring, because I know I will – I have a special affection for hinged bands.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Dedication: Mother / T.H. Morris