Enamel became one of the more important symbolic identifiers of the 18th century; its subtle use could denote the amount of love or the depth of mourning for the deceased.
Much of this is due to the focus of the sentiment upon the person. While the 17th century had much to do when involving the sentiment of death upon black enamel, the introduction of white enamel and blue enamel upon jewels as a standard is particularly an 18th century motif.
The blue enamel is to symbolise that the person who is being mourned is considered to be ‘like royalty’ – this can be traced to the French influence that was introduced during the Neoclassical influx of style; a distinct shift away from the English paradigm. With the colonial shift in 1776 and the American Declaration of Independence, a change from the pervasive British paradigm of style moved towards a French leaning that accommodated the Neoclassical movement quite perfectly. This ring exemplifies the tropes of design that would fit the new style of mourning that placed the ‘self’ in the centre of mourning and not the judgement of a particular deity.
What is unusual about this ring is the use of the white enamel, which is to denote virginity and purity, as well as the blue enamel itself. Immediately, one would consider this ring to be devoted to a female or a young child. Yet, here we have a ring that is dedicated to a seventy-three year old man. Robert Richens died in 1784, a year that saw the true peak and standardisation of the Neoclassical era and this ring shows all the elements that make that era popular.
Stylisation to the urn itself, as well as the pearls, depict the outward statement of mourning, but so lushly displayed that the mourning becomes elegant and beautiful. Truly, this ring was commissioned for the reasons of being both honouring the deceased and to reflect the person who wore it.