Rings 11.03.2013

A Pearl and Hairwork Neoclassical Ring

Neoclassical Hair Urn Ring

The early 19th century was greatly influenced by George IV, from his excess to his investment in the arts. This was not an occurrence that happened the the immediate period post 1810, or George III’s Regency Act of 1811 and the subsequent rise of the Prince of Wales to become the Prince Regent on February 5th, 1811. This ring is stuck between two eras, when style was evolving from the Neoclassical period, which had dominated style from c.1765 to c.1810, by displaying the three-dimensional hairwork urn on milk glass, yet with its three-tiered shank and oval bezel reflecting the early 19th century.

Neoclassical Hair Urn Ring

From its existence c.1765-c.1810, the Neoclassical period is a global period that was quite short lived. Its existence in a rapidly changing world of socio-political challenges made it a great visual platform for knowledge and thought for the Age of Enlightenment. Many of the concepts, both in vision and in thought, are many of the concepts that were revived in the early 20th century and what we use for our standards today. Be it the revival of the urn to the weeping willow, while used during the 19th century in various degrees, they are common symbols for our funerary art today.

Neoclassical Hair Urn Ring Neoclassical Hair Urn Ring Neoclassical Hair Urn Ring Neoclassical Hair Urn Ring

This 9 carat gold (tests thereabouts) mourning locket ring; with tapered, ribbed band and set with a row of pearls around a rounded glazed locket compartment containing a tiny classical urn made from finely arranged hair and embellished with gilt/gold wire and orbs. There is old sizing visible to the back of the band and beneath the bezel appears to have originally had a compartment for hair.

Article: The Evolution of the shank & shoulders to identify rings

Link (click image): The Evolution of the shank & shoulders to identify rings

The hairwork compartment to the reverse is one that was emerging from the late 18th century, but used heavily during the 19th century. Taking the hair, or memento of a loved one, and trapping it in a jewel was a key feature to mass-production of mourning and sentimental jewels, while making them highly customisable.

Neoclassical Hair Urn Ring

Look for rings with recessed areas on the reverse to have these specific areas. Mid-19th century pieces often have glass compartments with the hairwork underneath, often in simple twists or weaves. They were not meant to be displayed, but an element, such as the tomb itself, which keeps the remains safe and protected. Furthermore, they are kept close to the body and not for display, so the person wearing the ring has an element of the loved one with them always.

Link (click image): Glass reverse with hairwork

The ring’s dimensions are; head 17 x 15 mm (1 inch = 25.4 mm), its size is M ½ or 6 ¾ US, weighing approx. 4.7 grams. This smaller shape is part of the change in the early 19th century. Many of the jewels that had come before were larger in their construction, or of the navette shape (oval with sharp points to the north and south). Oval and diamond shapes became popular during c.1810 and c.1820, where there was more experimentation with the styles.

Link (click image): Ring Design in the Early 19th Century: Open Shank

Mourning was part of popular fashion, which was a confluence of high mortality rates, Court decree and a culture that was influenced by many elements for fashion. This ring shows a wonderful connection between the old and new for its time.