If ever a jewel was designed for its materials, then this certainly fits the description. There is much to explain with this particular jewel and its relevance to the evolution of style c.1800, so let’s see what we can find.
The use of blue enamel (used for royalty and suggesting that one was considered royalty) contains many mixed histories. Over time, many of the messages surrounding cobalt glass and blue enamel have been crossed, yet it fit very well into the Neoclassical paradigm post c.1765. The main reason for its use in heavier, symbolic terms is that the Neoclassical reliance on sentimental depictions and the allegories of love put the reliance on peripheral representations, rather than clear-cut statements of love and faith. Hence, blue enamel, considered royalty.
There’s Royal Blue and there’s Bleu de France. Bleu de France has been representing France and the French monarchy and the heraldry since c.12th century. This was adapted into jewels and you can see the obvious connection there with the message of royalty, especially considering the French influx into other cultures, as the French were considered the focus of style and fashion.
Royal Blue, is darker, with a hint of purple and red. This was thought to have been invented by millers in Frome, Somerset during a dress making competition for Queen Charlotte post 1761 (after she was queen). There’s the connection here in that her style would dictate a lot of the aristocracy would consider high fashion.
This ring judiciously uses the blue enamel as the basis for its beautifully rendered initial, which is the centrepiece of the ring itself.
This initial has evolved its style from the gold wire cypher that was prevalent in the 17th and early 18th century, but here, its rendered in large, raised gold, which would have been formed from the base of the bezel itself. Notice the twist and dimension of the ‘B’, with the curl rising and dipping in the centre. Quite a lot of thought has really bought that initial to life and the person who wore it certainly would have invested that thought into its commission.
Surrounding this initial are a series of diamonds, which works well in terms of opulence when sitting upon the blue enamel. The diamond, being one of the most important and expensive gems reserved for love.
Finally, the border of the bezel is surrounded by pearls, a loving sentiment of purity and also tears when in a mourning context.
As a ring that shows transition of styles, it’s important to note the contour of the bezel and how the ring contours down across the shoulders to the finger. This style was especially popular during c.1800. Some have labelled this style as being a ‘cigar band’ style, but it certainly is an evolution of the earlier oval ring style, though that has the open shank which connects to the bezel from underneath.
It is quite common to find this style in use with contemporary pieces, but it’s quite another to see one of such fine value and excellent construction with its gems and symbolism.
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