Rings 10.06.2013

French Heart and Crown Ring, 18th Century

French heart and hand ring

Tokens of love and sentimentality, given for betrothal or for the intention of affection are designed to be opulent through their very meaning. The connection of several symbols in a jewel to project the love of another are often interconnected and exaggerated to make the statement of love louder than any other. This ring, dating from the early 18th century, is the epitome of this style; displaying several elements of love in a way that a viewer can observe its statement from every angle.

“Je L’ayme Venant De Vous” is the statement written upon the band of the ring, roughly translating from archaic French as “I love that it came from you”. The ring’s very meaning is the very statement of a love token. A gift given with the intent of love, showing proprietary, fidelity and affection towards a loved one and actually indicating that the ring itself is a factor of their love.

French Heart and Crown Ring, 18th Century

Blue enamel fills the band, with the intent of stating that the wearer was “considered royalty”, for reasons we shall discover below. The reverse of the ring shows the remarkable crown motif behind the bezel and forming the fleur-de-lis on the shoulders.

Similar Louis XIV rosette reverse

This rosette shape is a popular one in French jewels, and those with this influence under the bezel in the 17th century. It developed during the 18th century and evolved during the Rococo period of the 1730-1764 period, until the Neoclassical period that followed.

In the crown, we can see the the use of the rubies (untested), adorning the crystal, pear shaped, heart. While many similar jewels with the heart motif were created as pendants, this ring establishes several popular themes in one single ring. Let’s explore those elements to define what this ring would have meant to the wearer.

Side of French Heart 3

The Early 1700s, France and Fashion

As this ring shows the lack of the Rococo style, introduced by France in the 1730s, it is safe to assume that that the rings origins are earlier. To discover more about this time, let’s look towards the period in which the ring approximates from; 1800. France, at the turn of the century was ruled by Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King”, who had ruled for 67 years. His full reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any European monarch in history.

Louis had a tremendous influence over art during his reign, introducing a militaristic influence over his depiction and presenting dominance in his rule throughout France. From the installation of triumphal arches, to the indoctrination of medals, Louis was influential in popularising his right to rule amongst the population of France.

Industry was growing at a rate where the demand for fashion was defined by the fabric, rather than the cut. Silk collections in France were introduced biannually in Lyon and copied by silk designers across Europe; causing women in high-wealth to only be able to afford seasonal changes in their dress. The high cost of silk led to a silk dress ranging from £10 to £60, which is remarkable when considering an entire house could be purchased for £500. In mourning wear, the silk industries had proprietary of what mourning fashion would be. While many women re-trimmed their dresses, French and English silk industries lobbied their Parliaments declaring that many months of Court mourning were leading to declining sales. By 1716, France had cut mourning by half, with another declaration in 1730 by even more.

What the rise in industry shows is that the accumulation of wealth amongst a growing society was demanding the need of new fashion. A society driven by the wealthy invest money into an industry and create new wealth amongst those who control those industries. Look to the following image of Lousie, Duchess of Bourbon, eldest daughter of Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV in mourning for Louis III de Condé:

Louise Françoise de Bourbon showing 1701 Mourning Fashion

Louise Françoise de Bourbon showing 1701 Mourning Fashion

Louise’s dress is trimmed with fur ‘robings’ and matching cuffs – the ‘robings’ here would likely by miniver. The train is lined with fur and her black belt is overlaying her skirt, in her hand she holds a handkerchief. In all, the opulence of the dress and its relation to many different materials and elements are reflective of the industries that were driving production at the time.

A society dominated by art and industry, which leads to a France of artistic influence in its jewels of love and sentimentality.

side of French heart and crown

The Heart

The heart is crystal in this ring, pear-shaped and reflecting what a similar jewel would be if it were a diamond. Much like many late 17th jewels and those that followed, this ring emulates the style of a wealthier piece, allowing other areas of society to have access to the growing romantic sentimental symbols that higher classes could afford.

When used in this context, the heart and the sentiment are primarily focused upon a union of two people in love that go beyond many of the factors that a heart in an affluent household would denote. The crown, heart, enamel and sentiment are considering the loved one to be “considered royalty”, an elevation in class status that may also lead to a promise of a future of prosperity.

As written about extensively at Art of Mourning, the heart is one of the most important sentimental love symbols in early-modern history. Its obvious symbolism resonates today in tokens of love and affection, moving beyond religious and social values to be the most purely recognised understanding of love. With an anthropomorphic design, the heart symbol became popular in the 17th century with its romantic undertones of giving ‘your’ heart to another. For more on the development of this symbol, please consult “Embellished Georgian Heart Love Pendant” and the following articles:

Georgian Heart with Hairwork Twist in Crystal, 1824
Three-Dimensional Urn Locket, Garnets, Pearls and Ribbon!
Georgian Eye Miniature Inside a Pendant, c.1820
Late Georgian Heart Pendant With Hairwork
Rien Sans Amitie, Cabochon Garnet French Mourning Locket
Merit Claims Esteem/Bow Heart Locket, 18th Century
French Ribbon Pendant, 18th Century
18th Century Ribbon Motif Pendant
An Eternity Knot in a Crystal Heart Pendant
Mourning Crystal “Georgian” Heart
Stuart Crystal Heart Pendant with Angels and Crown
Memento Mori Stuart Crystal Heart
Diamond Navette Ring, Late 18th Century
18th Century Diamond Fede Ring
Late Georgian Heart Pearl Pendant 19th Century
The Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket and the Hairwork Eternity
Is It, Or Isn’t It? Heart Pendant – First Impressions

Blue Enamel

Enamel is one of the most common materials to adorn a jewel of love and sentimentality, with the sentiment in a band being inscribed and then filled with a colour of enamel to uphold that sentiment. In this ring, we have the use of blue enamel, something which leads its meaning towards the loved one ‘being considered as royalty’, which relates heavily to the crown symbolism upon its bezel. Once again, another element of this ring comes together to make it a unified piece; directing the love around the band towards the crown in the use of a single colour. It also relates back to France and the use of the colour.

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.

The introduction of enamel as a popular element in jewels was from the early 17th century, predating this ring quite some time. Jean Toutin (1578-1644) of Chateaudun showed tremendous skills in his painting, that the influence of enamel spread beyond France and influenced Baroque  jewellery. The first layer of enamel was often opaque white, the second a dull blue or black – this was the initialisation of the mourning/sentimental colours that defined memorial and sentimental jewels for the future.

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Consider this when looking at the jewels that have mourning and sentimental connotations. These jewels were created for a sentimental imperative that was Court ordained. Much like the silk industry and people needing to re-trim their dresses to comply with Court imposed mourning, the necessity of the jewels needed to be created for the loss of a loved one.

Rubies

Much as the heart is crystal emulating a diamond, the ruby was often created via-foil backed paste. These rubies surround the entire band, from the two at the shoulders, to the east-west and to the south of the band. Upon the top, we see their use again in the crown of the jewel. In real-terms, the ruby belongs to the gem species corundum (a relation to the sapphire). Burma produces many of the finest rubies in the world, a bright red, also known as ‘pigeon’s blood’. Thai rubies are darker and known as ‘Siam rubies’. Otherwise, rubies can be found across the Indian sub-continent and Sri Lanka. Their magic properties include those of being able to increase the wearer’s divinity, protect from illness and force. Paste allowed sentimental jewellery to be accessible, allowing for people of all strata in society to have the same sentimentality as those in the aristocracy, and allow for those jewels to be given to loved ones.

Together

Several assumptions can be made about a ring with all these symbols and the sentiment of “I love that it came from you”. We can suggest that it was a betrothal for a loved one, given by a man to a woman, and that this was worn as a ring to show piety and fidelity, a theme common with earlier poesie rings and their influence in 18th century jewels.

‘REGARD’ locket showing love sentimentality

There are the rubies and blue enamel, all leading towards a crown and a heart. Two elements of love that show honour towards the crown and another that wishes protection and divinity. All the remaining elements show a high status in fashion for the time, such as the rosette-backed design motif and the fleur-de-lis shoulders. Quite French in every respect, this ring is an individual connection of two people to present themselves in society as a union of love.

 

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins